Tirlun Gwaith / Working Landscape

Recordio bywyd ar dyddynnod Canolbarth Cymru
Recording life on the smallholdings of mid Wales

 

Peak/Copa yng Ngŵyl Wanwyn y Sioe Frenhinol: 20 a 21 Mai 2017
Peak/Copa at the Royal Welsh Spring Festival: 20 & 21 May 2017

 

I don’t like to plan too much.
I’m trying to put back the natural wilderness.
Oak birch hazel thorn mountain ash ash.
A farm opening its arms wide to change,
as the same birds circle there, above,
singing their song.
And everybody on the farm looks up.

The Peak/Copa team pitched up the Horsebox Studio at the Royal Welsh Spring Festival in Builth Wells, where we presented a mini museum of tools from agricultural life of the 19th and 20th centuries. The objects were selected from the personal collection of historian, author and dry stonewaller, Stuart Fry. Over 230 people visited the Horsebox and we invited farmers and smallholders to talk with us to find out more about their experiences and memories of working on the land.

You can listen to recordings from the conversations here: soundcloud.com

 

We were delighted to be joined by Welsh poet Jonathan Edwards (winner of the Costa Poetry Prize 2014) who created a new poem for each person in response to their conversations.

You can read Jonathan’s poems here:
Tirlun Gwaith _ Working Landscape

 

And now a group of boys there on a bridge,
this summer of scything and leisure hours,
green, green leaves and lambing,
Summers don’t seem to be summers anymore.
It’s a life. It’s a life that’s gone now.

A short article from Jonathan reflecting on the weekend:


It was an enormous privilege to work with visitors to the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society Spring Festival. As I don’t come from a farming background at all, it was fascinating to hear the great variety of experiences which farming generates. The people we interviewed ranged from a woman in her twenties who’d taken to farming despite her fiancé’s lack of enthusiasm, delivering lambs with her engagement ring on, through to people who’d been in farming for sixty years, who’d seen all sorts of changes and talked with pride of passing their experiences on to the new generation.

One farmer we spoke to discussed his childhood in the 1950s, when he skipped school to work on the farm. In a family of butchers, my father had the same experience, skipping school to cart a delivery bike all over the valleys through his teens, so I was really interested in that connection, and the impact of a family business on education and opportunities. As a writer, I was also really struck by the care and delicacy of some of the processes farmers go through in their work. For example, one man discussed how part of his job at the moment involves seeding hedges, and to do so the seed needs to be removed from the berry and the poisonous pith around it. Having tried food blenders and all sorts of different apparatus, the conclusion has been that completing the process by hand is the only option, and that sort of daily process in some ways sums up the passion, patience and tenderness that the people I spoke to bring to their daily lives. Another farmer had developed from scratch a 13,000-tree wood on a piece of land he’d purchased. He spoke of going into his wood, the world he’d made, and spending hours there, the birds, the trees, how it felt protective. In that making of worlds to walk round in, that single-minded passion, there was much as a writer I could relate to.

It’s an enormous responsibility to take the experiences someone has been generous enough to share with you and form them into a piece of writing, to honour the art as well as the person. My favourite part of the weekend was seeing people’s reactions when I read the poems to them, when their lives and stories were given back to them. The gifts I received in return included five Welsh cakes, one pint, one handshake, one hug, nine smiles, one spontaneous round of applause and one offer of a bed if I ever happened to be passing through Cwmdu. Knowing how I might react if anyone ever wrote a poem about me, I’d been practising for weeks my read-and-duck method to avoid any punches, but it was never needed. Because of the quick turnaround, with each piece being written in half an hour or an hour to get to the next person in the queue, these are nascent, infant poems, first drafts, saplings, the sort of sketches my mother might make with a pencil before taking them home and getting the oils or the watercolours out. The material the farmers were kind enough to share with us was incredible, and my hope is that, with apologies for this obvious comparison, like one farmer’s berry or another’s forest, in the coming weeks and months, I can get rid of the places where the poems aren’t up to the job, can make them better, make them bloom and grow.

– Jonathan Edwards
May 2017

Images, Film and Sound Recordings by Sion Marshall Waters

With thanks to the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society and everyone who stopped by the Horsebox Studio to share their story.

 

 

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Y Gors Ddu / The Black Bog

Join us for an informal event to view Allen Fisher’s work in progress and discover more about the Black Bog.

 

SATURDAY 10TH JUNE, 10am-1pm
(panel discussion will start promptly at 11am)

 

Arts Alive Wales
The Old School, Brecon Road, Crickhowell, NP8 1DG

 

FREE. Refreshments served. To book a place:  info@artsalivewales.org.uk / 01873 811579

Artist, Allen Fisher has created a new collection of paintings on y Waen Ddu, the Black Bog – a rare raised peat bog situated on the Craig Y Cilau nature reserve in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Allen is drawn to the cultural associations of peat bogs as sites of Iron Age sacrifice, preservation and divination as well as their ecological importance as rich environments of biodiversity and carbon capture. Peak/Copa, in collaboration with BBC Cymru R&D has produced 360 degree film footage and binaural sound recordings of Allen creating new work on site.

Rebecca Spooner, Creative Director, will host a panel discussion with Allen and two guest speakers:

 – Allen Fisher is based in Hereford and is a poet, painter and tutor associated with the British Poetry Revival and the Fluxus movement. His work is represented by Tate gallery. Allen will talk about his attraction to working on site with the ponds of y Waen Ddu and his working process. He will also discuss the enduring need amongst artists to work directly in the landscape, particularly referencing the land art movement of the twentieth century.

– Archaeologist and author, Professor Miranda Aldhouse-Green, will discuss the historical and cultural context of peat bogs. Referring to her critically acclaimed book Bog Bodies Uncovered (Thames & Hudson. 2015) Miranda will tell us more about the remains of prehistoric people who have been revealed in the bogs of northern Europe. In many cases their skin, hair, nails, and marks of injury survive, betraying the violence and ritual that surrounded their deaths. Who were these unfortunate people, and why were they killed

– Geologist Alan Bowring is the Fforest Fawr Geopark Development Officer for the Brecon Beacons National Park Authrority. Alan will talk about the ecological and geological significance of the Criag Y Cilau site and its importance within the National Park.  In 2013 Alan discovered a rare example of Bronze Age rock art, more than 4,000 years old  in the Brecon Beacons.

Our Digital Manager, Gavin Johnson will discuss the documentation of Allen Fisher’s project in partnerhsip with BBC Cymru and the potential for digital technology in artist projects.

Directions and parking information can be found on the Visit Us page of the Arts Alive Wales website.

Photo credit: Toril Brancher

Woodland

French & Mottershead

A love poem to the forest and body

Cushioned by soil and surrounded by leaf litter and new growth, Woodland by artist duo French & Mottershead is a meditative and deeply affecting audio work that creates a self-portrait of the body after death. Using spoken narrative with insights from forensic anthropologists and ecologists, Woodland is a gentle confrontation of mortality and an invitation to imagine our body’s return to the earth over an epic length of time.

Friday 26th– Monday 29th May, 10:30am – 4:30pm

Special event:
Saturday 27th May with an artist talk at 7pm

The Old Station, Tintern, nr Chepstow, Monmouthshire, NP16 7NX

Suggested donation: £4 per person

Drop-in or to book a place contact: info@artsalivewales.org.uk

  • Woodland is an outdoor piece. Please wear appropriate clothing and sensible shoes.
  • This works contains sensitive material. Recommended 14+, or by parental guidance.
  • The audio experience lasts 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Co-presented with independent curator and producer Ruth Holdsworth and supported by Wye Valley River Festival and Wye Valley AONB.

www.frenchmottershead.com

Photo credit: Paul Blakemore