I was very pleased to be approached, in December, by Touchstones, Rochdale’s Art Gallery and Museum, asking if I’d agree to be a featured artist in the Gallery shop. After a successful Christmas Market I took a portfolio of images along and agreed the range that would be on sale, and the pricing.
As of today, 13th January, some my work is for sale in the gallery shop for the first time. The Touchstones gallery and museum is well worth a visit and is open from Wednesday to Saturday from 10.00am to 5.00pm and on Sundays from 10.00am to 4.00pm and admission of free of change.
There are handmade linocut prints in two sizes, greeting cards, photographic prints, Rochdale postcards and copies of my poetry book, Thinking TooMuch.
Over the next few weeks I will be adding some recently completed greeting card designs and a number of giclee prints.
Over the next few days I’ll be adding more items including handmade prints, photographic prints and postcards.
Folksy is the online shopping home of British Craft where you can find thousands of pieces created by artists, designers and makers working in studios and at kitchen tables across the UK.
So if you’re looking for that perfect original gift or you want to shop small, shop independent and give handmade, we suggest sitting down with a cuppa and having a look through the amazing creations on Folksy – all made by clever hands crafting away across the British Isles.
Folksy has original art and prints for your wall, hand-knitted scarves and gloves to keep you snug, beautiful designer jewellery, studio pottery and handmade ceramics for your table and your shelves, as well as hand-printed cushions, crochet blankets and original textiles and decor for your home and so much more. What will you discover on Folksy today?
And of course, from today, Folksy has original works from OnePoetsVision too.
This evening Rochdale was damp, varying between drizzle and rain, and it was anything but warm.
The crowds however were out in force for the opening of the Gaia Installation and the switching on of the Christmas lights. We were entertained by street theatre with some very impressive drummers and circus skills.
The highlights included an aerial show by an artist suspended from a balloon floating over Riverside and a couple of spectacular peacock puppets.
The lights were lit, the crowds cheered and applauded and the Gaia exhibit spun slowly as hundreds of people looked on and took their photos and selfies of themselves and their children holding up Planet Earth.
The entertainment reached its conclusion and the coffee shops did a roaring trade as people headed home or to the shops. Once again Rochdale had done itself proud.
Today I delivered the first workshop of the Climate Worx project. With a total of six workshop sessions we will look at writing about the climate, climate change, our environment and the world we live in. We’ll draw on our reactions to the Gaia installation opening this Saturday, 20th November, at Number One Riverside in Rochdale and we’ll share our ideas, tips, techniques and stories.
Todays workshop was hosted by Eileen Earnshaw and Falinge Writers, the new group that itself launched just a week ago, with the meeting room provided by Vintage Worx. The Falinge Writers group will meet weekly on Thursday mornings from 10.00 to 12.00. Next week Eileen will deliver her workshop looking at prose poetry.
The group really has got off to a flying start with new faces and some familiar ones and the atmosphere and creativity has been great. The quality and variety of writing is always inspiring and it seems that if you put a dozen people in a room you’ll get at least a baker’s dozen of ideas and approaches. In several examples of writing today, whilst writing about climate change, a theme of cooperation shone through, and that is perhaps the most important value for any group of creatives, whether in writing, art, music or other genres.
The next workshop in the Climate Worx project will take place at Number One Riverside on 2nd December from 10.00 to 12.00 so that we can explore our reactions to seeing the massive impression of our planet close up. Anyone who would like to be part of the group and this project but who can’t make it on the day can message me and I’ll share the notes and prompts for the session which you can use for your own visit.
The end point of the project, but of course not the ideas, writing, discussion and sharing, will be the launch of our pamphlet scheduled for 17th March (St. Patrick’s Day) 2022. We’ll make sure everyone has submission guidelines for the pamphlet and all members of the group will receive free copies.
This afternoon I’ve been making some prints ready for the first ever Touchstones Christmas Market.
This is an artists and makers market so you’ll have a chance to browse and buy goods from local creators who will be happy to tell you about their work
The market will feature arts, crafts and handmade goods just in time for those last Christmas gifts and cards. The market will take place on Saturday 11th and Sunday 11th December and will be open from 10:00am to 4:00pm on both days.
I’ll be bringing a range of greeting cards, hand-pulled prints, photography and books.
I’m sure there will be a great range of products from local creators and it promises be a great event.
Like most people I had been aware of Vincent van Gogh from secondary school onwards. Only after a visit to the National Gallery in London did I come to appreciate his art. On that day in a room full of stunning paintings by Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Degas and Manet there was one painting that, for me, stole the show. That painting was on of Van Gogh’s series of paintings of sunflowers. I’d seen them in books and projected on screens and they hadn’t really impacted me. But on that day in 2003 this painting glowed almost as if it had been backlit, and I stood and looked closely at it before sitting on the bench to soak it in for a while. From that day I understood why Don MacLean had sung about Vincent and I wanted to know more.
Over the next couple of years I was fortunate to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, twice, where I learned a great deal more about the man, his art, his writing and of course his mental health. If he were a musician or a sportsman then you’d call me a fan. With that in mind when we saw the event in Media City advertised we were really keen to go along.
Salford is the latest of 75 cities world-wide to show this Van Gogh Alive multisensory experience that includes projected pictures, quotes and information and lots of moving images and video, all supported by a soundtrack of classical music.
With such a track record we hoped to be impressed. Before entering the main multimedia, exhibit there is a chance to see, and have a photo taken, in a replica of the Bedroom at Arles, made famous by his series of three paintings, where Van Gogh stayed 14 months, including two months when Paul Gaugin stayed and worked alongside him.
Stepping into the large exhibition space the first impression is of being surrounded by the colour palette and brush strokes of Vincent Van Gogh. Seeing the works magnified on the large screens gives a strong feel for his bold brushwork and revolutionary use of colour.
The experience charts his career as a painter which lasted just 9 years until his tragic death, aged 37 in 1890 at Auvers-Sur-Oise. Van Gogh was incredibly prolific, producing over 900 paintings, as well as almost 1300 drawings and sketches on paper. The experience showed a wide range of his work from the very famous self-portraits, his Japanese inspired works, and his works from Belgium, The Netherlands and France.
With projections on the multiple screens, and even on the floor, often simultaneously showing different images, videos and quotations at the same time it pays to move around to view the experience from different positions. A very clever touch is the projection of paintings with some elements animated, e.g. crows flying over the cornfields or petals falling from the blossoming almond tree. A smaller room is filled with artificial sunflowers and with mirrors all around, including the ceiling, creating a powerful impression of being surrounded by the flowers that Van Gogh famously painted.
When leaving the exhibit visitors are invited to have a go at drawing versions Starry Night (in 5 minutes) and Bedroom in Arles (in ten minutes) guided by video demonstrations. Standing drawing in front of lots of people isn’t for everyone but I had one of my favourite fountain pens with me so joined in, drawing so fast is a challenge but it was also fun and there was
Whether you have little or a lot of knowledge of the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh, perhaps one of the most influential modern artists, this experience is at once informative, entertaining, educational and powerfully moving.
Looking at art is good for the human spirit and as Vincent himself wrote “I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”
This weekend my review of a special event by Touchstones Rochdale, hosted at Faling Park High school, appeared in the Rochdale Observer. You can read the slightly longer version of the review here:
Touchstones, Rochdale has been hosting the wonderful “Vanity of small differences” exhibition of tapestries by Grayson Perry.
A virtual audience with Grayson Perry, hosted at Falinge Park High School gave local people an opportunity to listen to the artist a virtual audience was held at Falinge Park High School hosted by students Isra and Aliah who introduced the artist with great confidence.
During the periods of Covid-19 lockdown, Perry, winner of the 2003 Turner prize for his exquisite ceramics, has become well know to television viewers through his Art Club Series. His 2012 Channel 4 television series, “All in the best possible taste with Grayson Perry”, was an examination of taste and class around the country and The Vanity of small differences is a set of six very large tapestries developed from that.
Grayson Perry, on a large screen courtesy of modern technology, spoke about how this series of artworks about class and taste came about. In the 19th century art was largely the preserve of gentleman painters and very much an upper-middle class intellectual pursuit and Perry has spent his career trying to correct that and democratise art; “In art everybody’s opinion is valid”. Influences for the work come from The Rakes Progress by Hogarth and lots of references to Renaissance religious paintings.
Having heard the stories behind each of the tapestries, and how the images were developed through sketches, collage and final designs in Photoshop before the physical tapestries were machine woven by a specialist company in Flanders, audience members asked questions:
Does art still have the power to change the way people think?“Yes, especially TV and things with really big audiences, less so for ceramics and tapestries. I set out to make art because I liked making it, I never set out to make art to influence people”.
How does he feel about the exclusion of arts from the school curriculum? “It is a tragedy; the arts help you to live a good life”. As chancellor of the University of the Arts this is really important to him.
Would it be worth living in a world or society without art? “The short answer is No!”. The longer answer spoke of the primal importance of art, how that even in the most primitive societies people were allowed to spend valuable time making art; that’s a measure of its importance. Art is all about telling our stories and that is essential.
How can we get more young people interested in art? “By having some empathy for the audience, including young people, but certainly not by dumbing it down to the point where people get bored”.
His final comment on art; “You don’t have to like it all”.
Grayson Perry had certainly displayed an empathy of this remote Rochdale audience and we left filled with inspiration and enthusiasm, and if we pass that on to others then the event was a great success.
I’m delighted to receive confirmation that my funding bid for an exciting new creative writing project in Rochdale has been approved.
The project, ClimateWorx, with a newly formed creative writing group with Vintage Worx will look at issues around climate change and take inspiration from the upcoming Gaia Installation at Number One Riverside in Rochdale.
“Climate Worx” will consist of a series of free creative writing workshops, themed around the Climate emergency and inspired by the Gaia installation. The workshops delivered to the creative writing group currently being established by Vintage Worx will include; introduction to creative writing techniques, development of new writing, editing and investigating climate change and actions communities can take to mitigate its effects
VintageWorx is based in Falinge Park, a stunning Victorian park in Rochdale, and are working to transform the Park, the local area and the lives of local people. The organisation offers a range of workshops, classes, events and activities including arts, crafts, up-cycling, health walks, volunteering opportunities and a job club. For more details CLICK HERE for the VintageWorx website.
The Gaia Installation features a huge 3-dimensional globe of the earth measuring 7 metres in diameter with imagery from NASA’s photography. In Greek mythology Gaia in the personification of the Earth.
The artwork is 1.8 million times smaller than the real Earth with each centimetre of the internally lit sculpture describing 18km of the Earth’s surface. By standing 211m away from the artwork, the public will be able to see the Earth as it appears from the moon.
The installation aims to create a sense of the Overview Effect, which was first described by author Frank White in 1987. Common features of the experience for astronauts are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.
Luke Jerram, the creator of the artwork has said “I hope visitors to Gaia get to see the Earth as if from space; an incredibly beautiful and precious place. An ecosystem we urgently need to look after – our only home.”
The Gaia exhibition runs from 20th November to 24th December and I would be pleased to discuss additional workshops with schools or community groups relating to Gaia and to the issue of climate change. Please email for further information to: email@example.com
Details of my most recent creative writing workshops have been added to the “Workshops” page on this site. Clicking the tab will take you to a full list of workshops along with details for bookings and prices.
Workshops that are particularly suitable for schools include:
Superheroes and mini-beasts (Key Stages 1/2/3)
Dinobirds (Dinosaurs and birds) (Key Stages 1/2/3)
Endangered (Key Stages 2/3/4)
Fun with words and poems (Key Stages 2/3/4)
Pyramid poetry (Key Stages 2/3)
Workshops suitable for adults as well as young people include:
The worlds inside my head
I’m not supposed to be here
The power of poetry
Bespoke workshops are always available. Bespoke workshops can be designed and themed to fit with current projects, areas of study, art installations and exhibitions etc. Please allow 4 weeks from booking for development and planning before delivery of bespoke workshops.
I’m delighted to be back to running face to face writing workshops. This afternoon I will be delivering a creative writing workshop inspired by the current exhibition in Touchstones, The Vanity of Small Differences, by Grayson Perry
In this session we’ll be talking about and taking cues from Perry’s work which focuses on taste, class and consumerism and was also influenced by The Rakes Progress by Hogarth. Most of all expect to enjoy some lively discussion and some brand new writing from everyone.
There are many works following similar patterns and we will discuss some to those including Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and the tale of Icarus.
A couple of quotes from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations where Pip, the main character and narrator, says early on to Biddy, “I have particular reasons for wanting to become a gentleman” (that reason being to be considered suitable by Estella) and then later on, as narration, he says, “In trying to become a gentleman I had succeeded in becoming a snob”
Workshops for KS1, KS2 and KS3 (time 1 to 2 hours per group)
Following the success of the “Insect and Mini-Beast Superhero” and “Dinosaurs and Birds” workshops for #HAF2021 Summer Schools I have also created and delivered another new workshop for children aged 5 to 12. The new “Endangered” workshop encourages children to look at a variety of creatures that are at risk of extinction. The “Endangered” workshop is now available for bookings from September onwards – please email firstname.lastname@example.org for availability.
In this fun and informative workshop children will hear some poetry and stories along with plenty of discussion about those at risk creatures. Using eight well know creatures as examples they will discuss what they are like, where they live, what they do for the environment and why they are endangered. Rather than being too prescriptive the young people are encouraged to ask lots of questions. Props including photos and some life size drawings of footprints for some of the creatures really help young people to understand the size and nature of these creatures
To develop skills in imaginative story telling the children are asked to choose one endangered animal and imagine what it is like to be that creature. Through a simple set of questions they are encouraged to be creative and think beyond the usual constraints they might sometimes have in a classroom setting.
After completing their stories or poems the children have the opportunity to make audio recordings of then and to draw or colour images using the range of source material provided.
After the workshops delivered for the Health Activity and Food sessions by YourTrust, Rochdale, young people have said;
“I enjoyed learning how to be an tiger”
“I’ve enjoyed learning about how big animals are and learning about African elephants”
“I’ve learned that people kill elephants to get their tusks”
“I’ve enjoyed writing”
For young people the opportunity to write creatively, without being tied by specific rules, or being limited by their ability to spell or use perfect grammar, helps to develop creative thought and imagination. Working in this way helps with problem solving skills and logic whilst still allowing them to explore the familiar alongside the unknown. Telling stories and writing poems is a highly valuableal set of skills and children benefit from exploring their own opinions and their own creative voices.
Whilst these workshops can be linked to the curriculum to write creatively without being judged, marked or graded, brings a freedom that can rarely exist in the school curriculum. That freedom makes it fun to write, read and in some cases to record of perform their work. Such enjoyment of reading, writing and literature can continue to bring benefits throughout our lives.