LEARNING the ROPES a 4 day workshop 18-21 May 2015

SOUND EXPLORERS Wed 22nd July led by Dan Fox
18th August 2017
18th August 2017

LEARNING the ROPES a 4 day workshop 18-21 May 2015

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.

Beach flags made from cockle bags discarded by fishermen

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.

Participants' feedback:

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.

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