Wednesday, 31 July 2013

. . relish the rain and sun in equal measure

     In a shady valley not far from here, where the river slides over cool rocks beneath muscular Oaks, the Last Queen visited once. A small courtage followed and everyone barefoot (by decree) till the edge of Paisey Pool. There she stepped lightly into the cool waters and even the birds were hush as she dipped beneath the water, her train billowing in the flow. But when she emerged but a heart beat later age had been purged from her limbs and her body was lithe and supple.

     She turned to the company and addressed the barefoot lords who waited.

'These are the new rules of my reign' and the scribe began to take notes.
'Firstly . . .

     We shall walk barefoot always, mirrors will be banished - our lovers, children and friends will reflect our beauty in all our transformations. 
We will dine on nothing but the finest, freshest fruits and berries. 
Celebrate each season, relish the rain and sun in equal measure. 
Have no need for clocks or time pieces other than the sun and the moon.

     We shall . .

Fragment from story book box at Webbers Post

Continuation of the story above.

Yesterday I ventured out to the Jubilee Hut at Webbers Post with a little intrepidation, the last time I visited I removed a book which was full and replaced it with this one. It was only about two weeks ago, but the journal in question had become a visitor book, not a story book.

The concept of the story box is simple, find the box read the tale so far, add a drawing or paragraph but no more then leave for the next walker. So when it devolves into a guest book I feel a little saddened and hoped this one would not fall foul the same. I wrestled with putting a note inside saying 'This is not a visitor book, story only please' but I rile at that, my mind set is one of enablement, not of impediments. But once someone breaks the thread of a tale it drifts naturally into the visitor book mode. So with all that said, just before I set out I did print some thin book marks to tuck in the active pages to negate the drift.

Also last week I received an email from Katie Bourne who stumbled across this story box with her two year old and loved the project, she also mentioned 'the visitor book syndrome' and I knew she was looking at the newly installed journal which added to my anxiety. She went on to link to a Braunton project which she had managed a while back, similar to my storywalks work with GPS location triggered content, but Katie admits herself that some of the tech is already a little dated, but still worth checking out.

So yesterday I walked through the sun dappled trees at Webbers Post on the way to the Jubilee Hut which is where this box is installed. It is a stunning location, the crunch of pine needles, glimpses of deer (got close enough to pet two!) give me any excuse to go breath in the Exmoor tonic.

Illustration of Dunkery Beacon from this story box location

So I nervously approached the box, pleased it had not disappeared totally, (I am expecting to lose one or two over the summer). But the box looked perfect, with a good scuff on the lid (good, box in use), I opened it and found it well used in a relatively short period, but more to the point it was well used in the intended manner. Yes there are a few additions which wander off into the guest book cul-de-sac, but the meat is of tale, and more than I could have hoped.

Story Box on the bench next to the QR poetry project
at the Jubilee Hut, Webbers Post.

I added a little tale to the tale to gather some of the threads, took lots of pictures of the pages and then left the box once again to the wilds and whims of strangers. But when I checked my photo's at home last night, they were dreadful, so later that evening I drove out again with Davina (Walking Book Club), and not only did we see more deer, but a stunning sunset, and in that short time another visitor had added to the tale.


So thanks to all those who have contributed, for me it recharges my faith in the creativity of strangers, the willingness to engage with the wilds of Exmoor, and add a little cumulative magic to the whole, just for the fun of it. 

I know that in years to come I will meet people who will remember stumbling across the story boxes, anonymously adding their mark or just enjoy seeing the of story grow there in.

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Story Box Story, or the tale and trail so far.

Story box  book at Watery Lane, Nether Stowey.

Nether Stowey, Watery Lane, the first proper stretch of the Coleridge Way, where you leave the tarmac and traffic behind, this is the first act in a 36 mile play of ruts and rises, tunnels and vistas, heath and heather, cutting and combe. What has struck me, having been along pieces of the Coleridge Way regularly over the past few months is how the mood changes and transforms. Whether it's a quick dash in a cool evening to the story boxes, or more of a walk and rest with pencil and patience, the atmosphere is dynamic, never the same, always transforming, evolving, which I suppose this is what a living thing does.


But more recently my main focus has been the Story Boxes which I placed along the trail early June time. So how have they been fairing? and if you are unaware of this project have a look at this link with a map and descriptions of locations.

Well judging by these images I think rather better than expected, there have been drawings, poems, and little ditties, with a very small amount of abuse (I only left pencils in the boxes) The Coleridge Cottage booklet has developed well, though the paints I left inside were useless, and they have just installed an interpretation post in the arbour itself. Which is brilliant but when you need to focus on writing, it's not easy doing so with Coleridge's 'Lime Tree Bower' weaving it's magic across you.

Horner Garden Tea Rooms has a relatively small amount of work in, though we are just on the cusp of holiday season, so that should pick up soon. But even with only a little inside, it has the most beautiful drawing of a campsite in a valley.


The Jubilee Hut, which has Taffy Thomas' story at the beginning, has funnily fared the poorest in my opinion, which is somewhat disappointing. It just devolved into a visitors book, with most inputs by Duke of Edinburgh Awards kids hiking through. The book in question has been visited a lot, as it's now full, but the majority of inputs have no story, or only tiny fragments of a tale which bare no connection to the task set. I have a mind to write a big note - This is not a visitor book - please write story or draw. I'll see how we go now that the D of E are out of the way, but they are by no means the only culprits, but did set the trend.

So dear reader my challenge is out to you, to gather your tales and head out to the boxes, restrict yourself to just the task in hand of adding a little to the story so far, doing a drawing but no more and then leaving the story box for the next to find and do the same. This blog I will keep short as I think the pictures speak the loudest, and at the end of the summer (September) the books are to be exhibited at Venue 23 in Dulverton for Somerset Art Week, and also Porlock Festival. So you still have plenty of time to hunt out the story boxes and add your little magic, I recommend you do as I have, and return again and again for this is how the Coleridge Way is rejuvenated.

Friday, 12 July 2013


Julien Temple, Martin Hesp, Chris Edwards 

On Saturday, the fabulous grounds of Fyne Court (NT) just north of Taunton, and nestled to the easterly end of the majestic Quantock Hills, played host to it's first 'live screening' event.

Julien Temple
Just around the turn of the millennium Julien Temple (pictured) directed a film about the Samuel Taylor Coleridge called Pandaemonium, so called as a description of hell by Milton and referenced by Coleridge himself.

The film had a brace of great actors, and conveys the stormy tale of Coleridge's early years when he lived in the Quantocks and wrote many of his most celebrated pieces. The film also documents his battle and subsequent demise due to Laudanum - an Opium and Alcohol mixture, which in Coleridge's time was as prevalent and as common as Asprin, and often administered for tooth aches!

However I am getting ahead of myself, for before the film was to be screened, we were treated to a live interview by Martin Hesp, author, journalist and long time Coleridgean fan. Martin, was a great choice as he himself grew up close by and so many of the locations and scenes are of familiar places. But I think this could be said for many of us attending that night including Julien who spent childhood holidays tramping Coleridge country, and in fact the main star of the evening were infact the Quantock Hills themselves.

Music room at Fyne Court

The ambiance and weather was great, most had brought seats and cushions along with a bottle or two, and it was fun looking around at the audience in their eclectic fashion; which I think really pays homage not only to Coleridge's diversity in poetry, but also to Julien's 'rock and roll' film making history. His portfolio is one peppered with the likes of David Bowie and The Rolling Stones, and you would think that period drama would seem more of a wild card in this deck, but I think that's just the way Julien would like it, the last thing he is is predictable.

The punks picnic!
So as the evening drew on it became apparent to me of the history all around us, for the projector wall was that of the Music room, which was the study of the early scientist and electrical pioneer Andrew Crosse. Here Crosse had run wires out from his laboratory and across the lawn where we were sitting, these would capture atmospheric electrical charge which he would then force through materials and fluids to try and replicate the very beginnings of life. This was where he was trying to re animate life itself, and Coleridge and the Wordsworths famously visited him at the time. He is probably best know as the inspiration behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Serving the Kubla Beer (Very nice)
The location had come full circle, not only were parts of the film shot here, replicating events which had happened years ago, but now we were also party to that continuing linage, projecting moving images made possible through these pioneering experiments. I wonder what Andrew Crosse would have thought about the microphones and data projector used for the show, I am sure he would have been in his element.

So as I said the real star of the show was the Quantock Hills themselves, they outshone the actors, and perhaps even the poetry. So when I asked what will be the next screening at Fyne Court, it's a really tricky question, because truly this film and all it's connections to the place and the people (everyone knows someone who was an extra!) is a real hard act to follow.

May I suggest a double bill of Ken Russell's 'Gothic' followed by a classic black and white Frankenstein...

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Watchet Sounds

Testing the sound pools along Watchet Easy Quay
Ralph Hoyte and his team, came down to Watchet on Sunday to road test their new app, iron out glitches, and get some user group feedback. I had my eye's peeled for their approach as I was working on the Contains Art project (Three shipping containers being converted into Artist's studios and exhibition space,  these are due to open on Saturday 6th July! eek)

I was busily fitting timber around the exhibition container door when I spied two lone figures glide into the yard, immersed in some other world, I knew instinctively that Ralph must be about.

Rachel Hill from Halsway Manor
listening in to a GPS triggered
dialogue between Coleridge
and  Dorothy Wordsworth
The concept is simple enough, all you nee to do is walk around Watchet with his app installed in your smart phone, and in specific places Ralph has mapped 'sound pools'. 

But what is a sound pool? 

Smart phones know where you are as they have a Satellite (GPS) chip inside and with this location data it is possible (by those who know how!) to programme your device to deliver audio at a given location. In Watchet Ralph has set out seven sound pools, one on each pier end, with another five strung between.

The audio which triggers are no groovey tunes but highly orchestrated dialogues between William, Dorothy (Wordsworth) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Some of the audio files are the poems, Kubla Khan, Ryme of the Ancient Mariner, but the majority are sophisticated dialogues between the three. They are fiction, but fiction based on solid facts, which Ralph has gone to exorbitant lengths to make as authentic as possible, and what a result. 

The final pieces (of which I got a sneaky peak of just three) are stunning, in a medium which can easily show incompetence since we are so accustomed to high production quality these days. 

On the day there were technical difficulties which Ralph and his team were scratching their heads about, and perhaps the very essence of field tests and user group feed back. Scratch building apps to run code is like entering another realm, but if this taste is anything to go by, then it is defiantly worth the hard work and for us the wait. 

The final work is due to be available to the public in September with multiple sound pools all over 'Coleridge Country'. There is a link on the right for Ralph's blog which is perhaps the best place to touch base right now, but soon the app will be available for both Android and Apple device's, and then you will catch glimpses of people, lost to the audio of another time and rooted to the very places it all happened, some 200 years ago.