Posts Tagged West Town

Clay and Cows!

Interesting project starting at the farm creating 1000 cows for Devon Open Studios in September. It should be quite a sight! Of course any connection to Gormley’s A Field for the British Isles is purely deliberate.

I am looking at a mix of cow folk tales and myths from around the world, along with digging up clay from the fields, observing cows closely and modelling cow forms. The pictures come from a session with Newtown Primary’s Year 1s. Such a good sense of concentration! They were a pleasure to work with.


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tree creatures and the permeability of clay

Withycombe Raleigh Primary came to West Town to explore soils and clay on the farm. We tracked our journey using a satellite image, waded through the stream, crossed muddy fields and ended up at Tree Henge.

There is a really good link to be made with Science and Art! Along the journey we stopped to observe first hand, in the hand and a very muddy hand it was by the end! Particles, organic matter, rock, pebble and permeability all emerged as a working vocabulary. Tea strainers allowed us to test permeability out in the field and answer the question “Why was the water staying in the Tree Henge’s moat?” Then clay became a resource for creation as we mixed different colours, added gathered materials and finally our Tree Creatures guarding the trees. I hope that, by the end, the children had a far deeper understanding of what clay is.
This is part of a developing series of stories about the resources we have on the farm. Wood, Water, Pumpkins, Pigs and more all have their story to tell of change and use through direct experience. Certainly this process is a good learning opportunity for me!

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Badger Tales!

A chance conversation with a teacher about a farm visit led to this project! Set in the red earth of the old railway cutting at West Town a mix of storytelling, drama, word play and environmental explorations and artworks will lead groups into the nocturnal world of Brock the Badger. Gill. the teacher, mentioned that her 7 year olds were writing about nocturnal creatures as part of their Literacy SATs. I am wondering whether any other schools would like to explore Badger Tales. More sessions make it easier to justify a longer preparation time.Time to go calling again!

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Magic Shadows

It had been a long time since I had worked with shadow puppets. West Town Farm’s Winter Fayre seemed a good time to return. There is something so simple but so mysteriously powerful in the way that card, sticks, screen and light can bring your imagination out into the world. The screen was hung in the yurt and backlit with a soft light. Then, working on straw bales with rain pattering on the barn roof, people made puppets … apples, horses, falcons, wizards and … more! Here are some pictures and some more here

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a week of apples

applemanIt has been a good week for apple stories. I have been working with the story of the Appleman, an old Devon tale of two brothers and the care of a farm. A long time ago I worked on an Orchard Project involving stories, puppets and apple names and as part of that created an apple man puppet. 15 years later and that puppet was looking a little worn – well leaves tend not to last that long!! So Monday was repair the Appleman before working with a group of Nursery children who discovered the him up a tree. Tuesday was a reception class from Alphington Primary, pumpkin gathering, soup making and orchard exploring. Saturday out in Mincinglake Valley Park taking part in the Beacon Heath Growing Project‘s apple day. Sunday back to West Town Farm for the annual Apple and Pumpkin day. Very busy! There was the great sight of looking back on a long procession of familes walking from barn to orchard in search of … the Appleman! There is such a tradition of orchards and apples in Devon and so much that has been lost. Apple Days, in their various forms, seek to make a reconnection with tree and fruit and people. Certainly orchards are very beautiful places. West Town’s is a mix of young trees planted just a few years ago still with their chicken wire rabbit guards in place, and old, crooked, lichen covered, rough barked characters well rooted in history and place. However they are working places and seeing the windfalls gathered to be pressed in the barn is a reminder of how land and people work together. apple pressClick this apple press to see the process. (Thanks James!!) The Appleman in the story looks after those who after the trees and it is the older brother, thought by all to be slow and stupid, who shows true wisdom and wins the respect and care of the trees. The message is simple but to bring it to fruition takes work and time and love.

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Talking of pigs ..

I was looking out at the pigs this morning. They are looking so organised. Little groups with their shelter, loads of dug up hill slope to explore in and regular food. Problem was they thought that I was Andy with the food and were not amused to find that I had nothing for them. This is what is making the storytelling relevant and rooted (very rooted in the case of the pigs!)Stories are being told increasingly from very direct experience. The rather too bold piglet from the “The Tiger and the Pig” can be seen charging across the slope at West Town. I am looking forward to looking more closely at what is living and growing and weaving that into my work.

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