As a partial explanation of my failure to maintain this blog for the last few months, here’s one of the things I’ve been up to:
This month, I have the joy of working with 300 year five and six pupils from Durham City schools to turn their ideas into One Big Story: an epic and imaginative tale that will be published in paperback in October.
This one of the most exciting things I have done for a while; it ticks about a hundred boxes for the things I love doing: creative writing, stimulating other people’s imaginations and helping them to realise their creative ideas, being able to say the magical word “story” about 50 times a day and share my passion for the written word.
I’m working as part of a team alongside Christina Maiden (Off The Page Drama) and Robyn Trainer (Floral Footsteps), running whole day workshops in primary schools, getting children to invent and develop ideas for stories and working collaboratively to forge them into a coherent narrative.
Remarkably, it turns out to be quite possible to take the ideas of 30-40 children at a time and guide them into creating a story together as long as you think on your feet and prepare yourself for almost anything to happen. Not to give too much away, but we are half way through the project already and have five out of ten chapters mapped out. The children have taken us beyond our own imaginations into their own world where there are a lot of fights involving food and an awful lot of ghoulish characters in which the malevolent and comedic are theatrically blended.
It has been very encouraging to see that literacy is alive and kicking in every school we have visited so far; I’m the one getting educated.
In less than a month, we will be holding the book in our hands and you, too, will be able to read what happens when children create the sort of story that they would like to read … watch this space …
One of the most exciting things to find and eat at this time of year is Laetiporus sulphureus, commonly and aptly named “Chicken of the Woods”. Appearing from April and sticking around into November, this bracket fungus grows mainly on dead and dying Oaks in the UK. It is nice and easy to recognise but may be inaccessibly high for foragers without crampons. Look for the distinctive clusters of overlapping fans that are bright yellow, turning more orangey as the specimen matures. It takes a good while to establish itself before the fruit actually appears, but once you have located one of these, you will generally be able to revisit it for several years.
This is a great eater and it really does behave and taste a little like chicken when you cook it. It is important, though, if it is your first time, to try a small quantity as it has been known to cause stomach upsets in some people – and it must ALWAYS be cooked. When gathering it, make sure you pick the younger yellow fans as older parts of the fruit are more bitter and tough.
When you get them home, clean them up and chop into slices. The mushroom will keep well in the freezer for later use. I generally blanch them before cooking them, to be sure that they are well cooked and to take any bitterness off. My favourite way to eat these is to make up a fairly heavy batter to dip them in and then fry up some “chicken nuggets” using oil that has been sitting for a week or so with some lemon rind in it to give it a citrussy edge. You can use it as you would use chicken in any recipe but make sure that it is always well cooked.
Please don’t use my Foraging Friday posts for identification purposes, get a couple of decent books to double check your identification. You are responsible for what you eat. Follow the guidance in my article on “Picking and Identifying Edible Mushrooms“. I won’t be held responsible for people falling out of trees, either (ahem).
When I gave up working in a stable, full-time job this time last year in order to pursue a creative streak, I thought I had a good idea of where that would take me. I had a plan to write, commercially, and grow a freelancing business as quickly as possible. However, as soon as I gave a bit of space to my dreams, they sort of got a life of their own and I got drawn into some projects in a way I had not anticipated.
One of these projects was a small theatre company, started by a good friend, James Robinson (AKA noahsapprentice), who has always had a knack for persuading me to do odd things like helping him to give a seminar dressed as a pirate and toting an accordion. The opportunity to get involved in performing as part of “Noah’s Nanny Goat Productions” seemed to draw together the threads of my passion for communicating with not just the written word but the spoken and acted word as well.
This year, being the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, has sparked a renewed interest in the Bible and a host of initiatives under the the banner of Biblefresh that seeks to restore some level of biblical literacy to Britain and explore fresh ways of presenting scripture. It seemed like a good moment to jump on the band waggon and the fruit of some eight months of writing, rewriting, wrestling and rehearsing is at last apparent in our first ever show, “Bible on a Washing Line”.
A year ago I never imagined that this is what I’d be doing and it goes to show the thrill and the danger of taking risks and opening up to wider horizons. We are even taking BOAWL on tour.
The show is about an hour and twenty minutes long with no interval and takes the audience on a frantic tour through the Bible, looking at some well known and some less well known characters and stories from the Bible. It is fast and funny and hopefully provokes people to think as well as laugh.
It is basically a series of short sketches based on “Top Tens” from the Bible, including the top ten deaths (which is set in a forensic lab), the top ten relationships (a reality TV show), the top ten foods (a restaurant) and the top ten animals (a zoo). The website is: noahsnannygoat.org.uk and tickets for the tour can also be bought on the website.
At the moment we are going to be performing in:
Darlington on May 14th at 7:30pm in Bondgate Methodist Church
Durham on May 27th at 7:30pm in St John’s, Nevilles Cross
Durham on May 29th at 6:00pm in St. Mary Magdalene’s, Belmont
Horley (near Gatwick) on June 1st at 7:30pm in St. Wilfrid’s, Horley
Godalming (near Guildford) on June 2nd at 7:30pm in a venue TBC
Birmingham on June 3rd at 3:00pm (matinee) and 7:30pm in St. Thomas’, Aldridge
Manchester on June 4th at 7:30pm in St. John’s, Mossley
More dates and venues to be announced.
See you there?