Last Wednesday saw the first of two pilot workshops led by Andrew and Emily at the Unitarian Church in Shrewsbury. What a wonderful afternoon we spent with inspiring, creative people!
Twelve intrepid explorers joined us to venture out into crisp, bright Autumnal sunshine and walk a short route through the town centre, down St Mary’s Water Lane to the river and back.
Empowered by the group’s steady, meditative progress through busy streets, everyone immediately became absorbed in looking, sensing, recording, and thinking about their experiences.
“The sensory experience was quite overwhelming. It’s so rare to have this opportunity to stop or slow down in the town, with no particular purpose or destination to worry about. In the group, I didn’t feel self conscious, so I could record things and take it all in“
Its a simple idea, yet it is indeed a rare indulgence stop long enough to notice and question what is really happening in our surroundings. Discussions back in the workshop room covered many interesting themes of land ownership, natural river phenomena, layers of history, triggered memories, changing uses of buildings, transformation of the Dana prison to children’s play zone, CCTV surveillance and much more.
During the walk, we gathered materials (sketches, writings, tracings/rubbings, found objects) for later use in writing exercises and in next week’s mapping and collage workshop.
There were three short writing exercises culminating in individual pieces of creative writing or poetry, and a collaborative acrostic poem.
Everyone very generously shared their work by reading to the group. Such diverse responses to the walk we had all taken together! There were some beautiful reflections on the experience, and poignant reminiscences inspired by observations along the route.
Here’s a poem written by Jan Wilkins, one of our participants:
On the Shrewsbury river path
although my eyes could take
everything in. I focused
‘I thoroughly enjoyed it’ said
squeaky shoes’ passing by.
Blackbird alarm pierced the
still air amongst the trees,
Mum to questioning child
‘it’s a ring you throw in, if
someone falls in the river’ .
Conversation, back and
forth, walking on with
Station speaker bing-bong’s –
pay attention on peopled
platforms. Train destinations
and arrivals; indistinguishable.
Passengers invisible to me,
I don’t know them, or where
they are going or coming from.
Resting pigeons coo under
riveted railway bridge.
Cloaked rumble heard.
Cycle wheels swishing on
wet leaves; one smiling lady
dings her bell; how sensible she is.
We were excited by the profusion of work created in such a short space of time, and we’re really looking forward to Part 2: Creative Mapping and Collage. Still a few places spare if anyone wants to join us … we will be reviewing experiences from the walk at the start, so everyone can catch up.
I was only today reading this relevant passage:
“The making of a place and the ideas associated with it is always in the being there, the doing there, the feeling there. It is only when these makings escape into representation that the separation begins…”
Oak, Cecile (aka Smith, Phil aka Mytho aka Crabman) “Anywhere” (2017), published by Triarchy Press