WILDERNEST in conjunction with MORECAMBE BAY PARTNERSHIPS
Field Recording meets Silent Disco on the beach, in the reeds and the woodland.
3 walks 11am, 1pm, 3pm all fully booked - families mainly and some adults curious to enter a world of hidden sounds on land and under water.
Very wet in the morning, which offered additional acoustics from the tree canopy. Fine and sunny in the afternoon as we heard the minnows in the pool, bubbles from the underwater spring of fresh water, and the extraordinary voice of the water rail fussing out beyond the reeds.
Excellent feedback from our participants. Next July we hope to tie in with World Listening Day and have a series of events and gatherings over a few days around the Beach House - hopefully Wilderness Listening Week.
Our 5 participants stayed in a stunning beach style cottage on the shore overlooking Morecambe Bay. Each day started with a 10 minute walk along the cobbled beach to the Beach House - home of John Fox and Sue Gill, studio and work base for the Wildernest Project.
Dead Good Guides facilitated a new experimental hands on residential course about primary art making called “Learning the Ropes”. Located outside on a liminal beach space on the West shore of Morecambe Bay, 5 participants were encouraged to use basic tools to create simple art works with found materials such as stones, wood, clay and washed up plastic. The teachers John Fox, Sue Gill and Hannah Fox, were experienced all rounder artists, with a guest appearance from 14 year old Reuben Fox Copley who gave a short tutorial on specialised knots.
We created a 58 page photo book 3/WILDERNEST on Photobox, which contains extensive documentation of this 4 day residential workshop. See it as a slideshow: http:www.photobox.co.uk/creation/3896023821
The course focussed mainly on individual needs and responses of the participants although, via exercises of increasing complexity, personal investigation was balanced with collaborative work which included two devised small scale ceremonies, one to open and one to close the event. All 5 participants had some knowledge of the arts although their ages and backgrounds (in visual arts, performance and administration) were extremely varied. Despite, or maybe because of this, the group gelled well and individuals were very supportive of each other. The main work ended with a poetic processional necklace of small but intensive performative jewels enveloped in a mythic song calling to seals. Jewels included an entry curtain crafted from cockle bags, a small ship of pentatonic flutes, a well fashioned willow basket of blessings, a distant wind orchard on the saltmarsh and one person’s encasement in clay before her departure into the reed beds.
One of our original intentions was to use the occasion to generate philosophical debate about the current role of art and its dissemination in UK culture. In fact this aspect was rather sidelined given the urgent need for participants to take time and space to change gear and re- balance themselves therapeutically in a “healing” landscape away from their regular pressured lives.
Thanks to a small Arts Council grant we were able to keep the costs low and also offer one student bursary at a reduced fee. The financial margins were nevertheless very tight and we are now considering how, when we could develop such work in the future.
House of hospitality of fun and curiosity.
Sue, wise, clear, experienced guide, listener, liver and giver of life.
John, wild, warm, wonderful, mischievous rebel, foil, teacher and leader.
Hannah, quiet watchful, teacher and guide.
Went away changed. Lighter by half.
The gifts of insight, openness, trusting our senses, knowing and unknowing.
Exuberant creativity all around and in the house. A transformation from one state to another.
Reconnected with a playful side of myself.
Gained a sense of how I would like to live, making things, celebrating, connecting with each other,
being aware of nature and elements moving around and within us. The bursary provided a very rich
learning experience for me and also a lovely validation for me as an artist.
Every part of my creative armoury has been sharpened. Utterly invaluable to meet 3 generations of Foxes and Gills. Living creatively, making exceptionally thoughtful work so generously without excluding children or your local community. The dynamism of your family as a complete unit is remarkable and inspiring to witness. And finally- ceremonies- I didn't think we'd touch upon that part of your work. I'm so glad we did because I didn't realise I had such a big hang up about them. On the first day when you, Sue, said we'd be doing an opening ceremony my heart sank. On reflection, I think I've been an unwilling spectator in so many weddings and funerals, where I found the doctrine and mechanics of those events so indigestible that I've just totally rejected them from my life. I never got married nor did naming ceremonies/baptisms with my children, I've never even had a birthday party. I loved that our ceremonies on the beach were fettled out of nothing and were held so lightly.
Excellent food, excellent accommodation.
Content totally bespoke/honed to our needs.
I felt incredibly nurtured.
Thank you for putting a bounce in my step.
SPRING SCHOOL 28-31 MAY 2015 Swarthmoor Hall
with visiting visual artist Hannah Fox and guest speaker John Fox
As this year's Spring School unfolded the unique character of the particular constellation of participants was revealed in lively interrogations of the process and practice of ceremony and ritual, provoking much discussion. The work on storytelling and myth revealed a great deal of creativity that was also manifest in the making session led by artist, Hannah Fox.
She taught papercutting and block printing skills that were used to make artists’ books and imagery of journeying by land and
sea - imagery that was later invoked to great effect. The beautiful grounds of Swarthmoor Hall gave us the opportunity to work in landscape.
We also chose to venture further afield to Morecambe Bay to make a ceremonial lament for the hundreds of refugees drowning in the seas off Lampedusa, a tragedy that resonates with that of the cockle pickers who were taken by the tide in the Bay some years ago. This quiet but powerful ceremony touched everyone who participated in it, becoming the still centre of the days we spent together. So, a time for sharing wisdom and experience, leavened by laughter, and with much food for reflection.
Many thanks again to you and Gilly for a beautifully “held” event. I thought your creativity, flexibility and skill to steer the fragile boat of our collective endeavours safely to shore was inspirational! Stella Hall
AUTUMN SCHOOL 29 Sept - 3 Oct 2014 Halsway Manor, Somerset
Thank you both for sharing your practice and hosting an extraordinary week and for reminding me of the importance of creating time for reflection and ritual in a session. It was joyous, passionate, at times painful but a totally wonderful week of sharing, journeying and being together. Sophie Layton
Writing and making were facilitated with such apparent ease. The experiential learning aspect was very effective; I loved all the creativity & spontaneity. Beautifully structured. Pauline Down
MIDSUMMER SCHOOL 20 - 23 June 2014 Swarthmoor Hall, Cumbria with visual artist Hannah Fox
I took away a feeling of greatly increased confidence and focus about the process of ceremony and some wonderful, inspiring practical aides ... I feel as if my eyes and ears have been opened to a new landscape and a new way of speaking, and I could see the transforming power of it ...... Annie Oulton
I have learnt from the subtlety and genius of your approach. It has been a transitional experience for me. Emma Hughes
AUTUMN SCHOOL 21 - 24 Oct 2013 East Woodlands, Frome, Somerset
MIDSUMMER SCHOOL 21 - 24 June 2013 Swarthmoor Hall, Cumbria
... how heartening to find such different people all recognising the need to restore meaning and depth to private and public ceremony. Mary Napper-White
Space for thought, inspiration and ideas. Time to treasure. Luke Dixon
AUTUMN SCHOOL 22 - 25 Oct 2012 East Woodlands Frome, Somerset
Thank you so much for holding the space and inspiring us and enabling us to step into it in our own way ..... such deep work and with such a light touch and with love and humour. Fern Smith
SPRING SCHOOL 12 - 15 June 2012 Swarthmoor Hall, Cumbria
FIELD of VISION May 2011 Centre for Stewardship, Falkland, Scotland
CEREMONY and CELEBRATION 2010 & 2009 Friends Meeting House, Brighton
Short video, edited by Callie Mathieson - student of Stage and Screen - of work created over a couple of weekends.
We were invited by Clarke Mackey ** as visiting artists to Queens University Kingston Ontario, to create a special workshop for 20 students in 3rd and 4th year Stage and Screen studies. This was levered into their already busy schedules over 3 consecutive weekends, to conclude [after just 24 hours contact time] with RUNGS on the LADDER - a public presentation of work in progress, plus a final day of de-brief and consolidation. The students were remarkable in their commitment and tenaciousness. In an immersive and intense process, they rose to the challenge, were inspired and took considerable artistic risks.
The entire process was filmed by Clarke and will become a half hour documentary in 2015. It will cover practical making tasks, discussions and seminars, slide shows, Q and A, building and rigging, all preparation and the public event.
* Clarke Mackey - Random Acts of Culture - reclaiming vernacular art & community for the 21st century.
Using the old trilogy of ‘head, hands and heart’, working fast - ready or not - we built a shared language from the 1st hour, noticing individual stories that emerged, working from the image to create individual mythic stories, islands in wheelbarrows, newspaper costumes, shadow theatre, short silent movies made on a phone or laptop and projected. Personal content informed the songs that were written, the films, the stories and images. We used journey as both metaphor and as the physical shape of the presentation, holding in mind the question ‘when/how does our audience become a congregation?’
Set in the astonishing new Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts - “The Isabel” –with uninterrupted infinity views of Lake Ontario, the sky and Wolfe Island with its wind farm on the horizon, this elemental made it a great setting for site specific work.
SPOKEN WORD CHORUS
BROOMSTICK ICONS - our cast of characters
NO ACCESS TO THIS LAND
After a wheelbarrow ballet and an installation of broomstick icons, we followed a primitive band along the lake shore to encounter a twisted black willow tree enclosing a procession of small clay pilgrims embedded with electronic detritus.
all photos TIM FORT
Our endeavours to light a fire by the lakeshore or to design and build ,with discarded pallets and plastic signs from a recent election, an entrance to ‘Cinema Last’ – the last cinema in the universe, or to offer simple refreshments to our guests afterwards in the foyer, collided with Kafka-esque levels of bureaucracy from the building’s new managers. Dead Good Guides had unwittingly become guinea pigs [or maybe provocateurs?] in the commissioning of a swanky new building. One unforeseen legacy of our visit is that it strengthens the arms of the creative lecturers who will now revisit, with those appointed to manage this Centre for the Performing Arts, their behind the scenes protocols, rules and systems which stifle creativity in the devising and presenting of the Performing Arts. “Twas ever thus!!” It has to be admitted that some of our lateral solutions ended up being stronger and more provocative than our first thoughts. Excellent technical support from Lib Spry and superb troubleshooting and facilitation from Clarke Mackey.
With reflection, RUNGS on the LADDER was a validation and endorsement of Dead Good Guides’ workshop devising practice which has been honed over the years. It turned upside down the traditional working methods in their Drama Studies: take a script off the shelf, set up a hierarchy from director to wardrobe assistant, audition, rehearse for 8 weeks .....
A trust had been built up, through values of non-competition, collaboration, and playful co-operation and we felt all the students fully embraced our workshop, although some were more critical than others, and some hungered for more.
During our 3 and a half weeks visit to Canada, we also:
Gave a public talk in Kingston which was recorded for a half hour radio programme.
Visited an MA class studying Risky Stories with Julie Salverson for a seminar on WSI’s Raising the Titanic.
Drove to Vermont USA to visit Bread and Puppet founders Peter and Elka Schumann. who are asking questions about ageing and their theatrical futures.
Spent 3 days on Ward’s Island off Toronto’s Harbourfront for a joyous feast and re-union with artists who got involved 33 years ago with WSI’s Tempest on Snake Island, making an impromptu Memory Walk film as we traced out the route of the processional performance. ‘I am on old lady now but I will never forget being the right leg of that giant spider’. Hosted throughout by Ruth Howard, artistic director of Jumblies theatre, we visited The Ground Floor, their community arts project and met the team, before giving a public talk to an illustrious gathering ‘Celebratory Art for the Next Generation’.
In our lovely heritage cottage in Kingston we hosted Joan Oliver, widow of Peter Oliver, who together ran Oval House in London, a radical arts centre. At 85 she had travelled from Nova Scotia to visit us, and John facilitated a 2 hour interview for Unfinished Histories, the archive being compiled by Prof Susan Croft in UK of Alternative Theatre in the 60’s and 70’s. The interview was filmed and will be added to this archive.
Much warmth, generosity and reconnecting with friends and colleagues from our previous work in Canada, and new acquaintances already emailing about when they plan to turn up on the doorstep at the Beach House.
John Fox and Hannah Fox made a two hour lecture about the history of Welfare State International covering many community events especially in Barrow in Furness and then using Wotan Suski's film focussed on "Longline, the Carnival Opera", March 2006). After talking through images from " Barebones", the miniaturised precursor to Longline, (performed in the Barn of Lanternhouse in 2005 in a specially designed 80 seater cockpit theatre) we realised that this was our equivalent of Laboratory Theatre. We concluded with our recent work. Hannah covering 'CART' her ground breaking peripatetic puppet show which drew together primary school pupils from the Cartmel Peninsula and John referring to Rites of Passage and ' WILDERNEST '.
..... how heartening to find such different people all recognising the need to restore meaning and depth to private and public ceremony. Mary Napper-White
...... space for thought, inspiration and ideas. Time to treasure. Luke Dixon
The presentation received prolonged applause and ended with a brief if energetic social dance with Hannah on fiddle and John on melodeon. The whole gathering was very rich and exceptionally well organised by Odin Theatret with radical practitioners from around the world particularly Miguel Rubio from Peru and Bond Street Theatre from New York who work in Afghanistan. It made us realise just how tame street theatre has become in the UK. Now you can get a degree in it but here the political edge has evaporated.
Every year this is a profound and deeply pleasureable experience which all recall as one of the stand-out events of their time with me. Going to the Beach House allows students to see how John and Sue's work is not separate from, but deeply imbricated in, the fabric of their lives. Perched right over the beach it links ecology, art and humanity in an organic manner which demonstrates and embodies the philosophy of its owners and immediately makes sense of the day's workshop.
At the centre of our encounter is always a making task ..... but this is only one aspect of the day which also includes song and music making, foraging on the beach, the making of rituals and the sharing of delicious home-made food over conversations about our different cultural backgrounds and artistic and ecological philosophies.
This is a day of creative community that never fails to inspire and challenge, while everyone always comes back strangely revived by an encounter like no other I know of.
PROFESSOR of THEATRE
UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS
7 students met on a shingle beach to acknowledge the weather, the tides, the sun and the moon - one day before full moon. Morning high tide was 8.94m and evening high tide was 9.36m. We shared food and stories from their different continents, made lanterns, fires, small figures and a reed boat.
..... astonishing us with the stories of your work. What impressed me most with both the work you've done and the space you have created was the careful detail and deep love that could be felt in every corner. It will be a day that I remember for a long time. Adrienne USA
The whole experience of being at the beach and blending nature with creativity was really refreshing.... thank you for the lovely meals we shared. This was truly an added bonus.
Evette Hunkins-Hutchinson, British Caribbean
We had a great turn out at midday on Sunday in the wonderful Fumbally Cafe for our Masterclass in Rites of Passage, starting with an Opening Ceremony for the whole of Trailblazery. Our theme for the day was CONNECTIONS so we did our version of the Irish dance at the crossroads, with a spiral dance around the massive central pillar as John played the melodeon.
Settling down to work, we covered large scale public commemorative events before moving on to looking at the creation of new ceremony to mark personal transitions in our lives.
Everything Sue Gill@deadgoodguides is saying is compelling and amazing, we are finding it tough to capture in a tweet!
6pm at 'Pepper Canister' Church John gave his Cultural Commentary in 9 minutes flat to open the programme of 10 other contributors, challenging current narratives on an individual, a national and a global level.
Our latest journey was to Co Mayo where we were invited back to explore possiblities of creating wonders in the Ballycroy National Park. A bit remote and boggy there but but a great opportunity to take over our dream team and make new work with many of the brilliant Irish artists we met a few years ago.
Project title: I Could Read the Sky - a walk round symphony in landscape.
Reconnaissance 15th-20th February. Residency 23rd March -16th April
Saturday 13th April 12 noon til 6pm
Sunday 14th April 1pm til 6pm
A good day out. A walk round symphony in landscape. Flying colours.
Wind powered sculptures. Visual inventions. Sounds amazing.
A celebration of Ballycroy......... and here's to succesful weather!
Everyone welcome. Admission free.
A month of easterly gales and gorse fires raging across the landscapes. Helicopters scooping up water from the rivers to quench the flames. Despite all that we had a great residency and loads of people flocked miles to the event.
I Could Read Read the Sky see artists, gallery and blog showing the work of the 18 Irish artists we were working with. A huge team!
Hannah Fox made architectural papercuts in the Visitor Centre
Naomi Edwards made sets of silk flags to be installed in the landscape
Jamie Proud made whirlygigs - corncrakes, oystercatchers and golden plover
Reuben painted them magnificently - sweated labour from a 12 year old
Dan Fox made wind driven sound sculptures 30 foot high
Martin Brockman made woven animals from willow and hazel
John Fox made weathervanes to be mounted on poles along the boardwalk
The hare leaping from the flames was a strange premonition of what was about to happen with the fires across the landscape.
The grandchildren were busy and creative: Reuben made a woven fox, Rosa made dragonfly papercuts and Rowan made mud puddings.
..a big thank you for your willingness to work in a remote and challenging landscape - it has meant a great deal to all involved artistically and to the local community - it seems to have re-ignited creativity and energy. Anne McCarthy, Arts Officer, Mayo Co Co
...we are still buzzing from the project - everybody here enjoyed it immensely
Weary crew on the de-rig day sharing a welcome pot of tea and sandwiches in Clearey's - the village shop. Can't have changed in 50 years except for the addition of the fridge. They will also serve a pint of Guinness from the pub next door.
Tempting, but we still had to pack the van .....
Falkland Estate Scotland. A sculptural requiem and elegy in response to the thousands of their trees which fell
in the storms of January 2012. Five associate artists of Dead Good Guides, working in residence for 10 days, created the pilot of an 'arboreal cloister'; an armature for visitors to connect with 'storm stories'.
Article from the Centre for Stewardship website (http://www.centreforstewardship.org.uk/woodlandlearning.htm)
by Ninian Stuart. Photos Sue Gill
"If you go down to the woods today ....
particularly if the woods happen to be along the woodland path that leads from Pillars of Hercules Farm shop to Falkland village - where a team of artists, craftsmen, local volunteers and passers-by have been busy creating some spectacular work. Wood carver Martin Brockman, builder Jamie Proud and colleagues, directed by John Fox, co-director of Dead Good Guides and former director of Welfare State International, have created a temporary sculptural trail which John refers to, with a touch of self-mocking humour and pathos, as "an arboreal cloister with twelve stations of the forest". Created by recycling fallen wood left by the storm with a minimal budget (fuelled by local generosity including a family who wanted to support a project in memory of their daughter who loved these woods and had been killed in a recent tragedy) the work involved over two dozen volunteers.
The twelve stations take you from a view over a storm-blown ravine past a crucified blood-coloured beech tree which then turns ghostly white. Following the marks of destruction, you come across a procession of refugees by Hannah Fox. They are emerging from the tangled roots of an upturned tree – not sure who is leading them or where they are going. Finally you arrive at the heart of the site where you are welcomed by the return of the light, a place to rest for a short time and a sound installation by Dan Fox (from a solar source) that offers storm stories for reflection. Finally on your way back, you have an opportunity to leave your own reflections on a beautifully crafted clootie tree by Duncan Copley before returning to the starting point, perhaps with a different perspective.
A temporary installation delivered in partnership with the Centre for Stewardship, and situated in Compartment 50 by the Pillars of Hercules on Falkland Estate. Subject to benign elemental and human forces, it will remain in the woods till 3rd January, the anniversary of the storm that blew down many thousands of trees in the landscape and millions of trees in central Scotland."
..... it was such an unexpected find. The trail is both visually stunning and incredibly moving - a wonderful place for reflection and just 'being'. The music is quite mesmerising.
I'll definately go back with my kids - I know that they will love the carvings.
..... The passing place has become an extra charged up space. A second home for all kinds of feelings. It is wonderful and has been embraced as such by so many.... And yet.... we feel a bit sad -the absence of the busy enchantment of an encampment of fox-gills and friends in our woods. I've been meaning to write since you left, to say 'thank you' again for hosting such a happy hive. Tara O'Leary
.... delighted to have them here to celebrate the passage of coming through the storm [and storms] of 2012. The work is deeply powerful and is attracting people to engage with it in ways that I have not come across before. Ninian Stuart After the Storm
http://www.pillars.co.uk /Contact.htm www.deadgoodguides.com
an easy one and a half hour family walk
starts and finishes at The Olde Mill, Bardsea on the A5087 Coast Road.
Using your smartphone's GPS it highlights 11 points on the 3 mile circuit, which includes the sea shore, ancient woodland, green lanes, Birkriggg Common and stone circle. Spectacular views of the vast expanse of Morecambe Bay.
Go to the App Store and download the free app GeoTour: GPS Tour Guide
Open the app on the iPhone, search for Baycliff and download the Baycliff Circuit data (14.1Mb).
The app should work without a mobile signal but needs GPS turned on. Wear an earbud headphone to hear the audio. Media should trigger automatically when you get near a location on the app's map. If it doesn't you can play it manually.
On the Android App store search for GeoTour
Versions are also available for MP3 player, Windows mobile, Tom Tom POI and Garmin Tour Guide.
These can be downloaded from here.
Click on the download tab
Enjoy and please let us know if you use it, we'd love some feedback - Dan Fox and Sue Gill
an exhibition lasting 5 weeks at Brantwood, Coniston of 3 years research in collaboration with scientist, artists and secular celebrants. Paintings, etchings, short films, enamels, whirlygigs, biodegradable funeral urns, documentary photography, poetry for occasions. Closed 16th October. Three linked Thursday evening events took place at Brantwood – 29 Sept live music, 6 Oct poetry, 13 Oct art/science discussion.
is John Fox and Sue Gill's 3 year project at the Beach House. An artist/ scientist collaboration looking at what is on and under their doorstep and trying to reconcile the paradoxes of the local and the global through paintings and etchings, poetry, music, short films of microscopic sea life, photographic documentation of plants, beetles, birds, stories, artist books, recipes, flotsam and jetsam - where the material meets the spiritual .....
Punch Oystercatcher 1 Ballroom in the Sky Ladder Ark
FRAGMENTS from the WEATHER STATION exhibition
in the stately home of BRANTWOOD on the east shore of Coniston Water
in the Lake District - home of John Ruskin
The characteristic most often remarked-upon about John Ruskin is the sheer variety of his interests. Visitors to John Fox’s exhibition will readily observe the same phenomenon: an artist whose reach spreads in all directions, connecting social, spiritual and scientific dimensions – or as Ruskin would have it, ‘poetry, prophecy and religion – all in one’.
In the 1960’s John Fox and his partner Sue Gill embarked on an experiment in a new form of socio-political expression. Drawing on the ancient arts of travelling players, itinerant poets, troubadours and the like, they pioneered a dramatic new language of community arts, edgy and celebratory in the same breath. With Welfare State International, as their company in Ulverston was called, John and Sue’s engineers of the imagination achieved international recognition. Now in his seventies, John is discovering a whole new creative territory after an already long and distinguished career in the arts.
John’s art, like his career, very much pursues its own path, with no interest in relating to any given trends in style or approach. You will find everything from paintings and prints to film and poetry; sculpture and model-making to microscopy and specimens. John is also an instinctively collaborative artist, as many of the works in this show and their associated events, attest.
But what is the Weather Station? Literally, it is John and Sue’s eco-house, built on stilts on the shores of Morecambe Bay. From here, in the creative crucible of his studio, John records the ‘climate’ of the world, measured in everything from the heaviness or lightness of his heart, to the delicate balance of life among the critters in the sands of the bay. The Weather Station is more than the sum of its parts; it is at once a diagnostic tool for gauging the health of the world and a sort of metaphor for the state of mankind.
Brantwood was Ruskin’s ‘weather station’, a creative laboratory through which he held up a mirror to society. From here he looked at nature afresh, recapturing our ancient mythic knowledge, wrestling with our growing scientific understanding. In works like Storm Cloud of the Nineteenth Century he uttered words of ringing prophecy about pollution, climate change and injustice. I am delighted to welcome John Fox to show his fragments of the same difficult journey. It is a journey that cannot be made with the benefits of foresight or hindsight alone, but must be made, in Ruskin’s wonderful word, with “heartsight”.
Howard Hull Director
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY
'Fox oils amazing' J.Martin Guelph Ontario Canada
......' charming and inspirational'. Hilary and Jon Joule, educators
'After 10 years of visits to Brantwood, I cannot quite believe the lowering of the tone with the present artwork'. Anne Robinson Cumbria