Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Animated emigrant journal

Today I met with Emily Portman to discuss possible music for a short animated 'journal'. This will be my personal contribution to the final exhibition next year. Emily is a wonderful folk singer and musician and has generously agreed to produce a soundtrack for my short animated film inspired by the seventyninemillion emigrant journals that I've recently read. You can hear her own compositions on her myspace page and find links where you can hear more. She is also a virtuoso on the seashell.


On the 8th November we held a celebration of the Semi Precious project. FIRE & BANGS was held at Harehope Quarry with bonfire, fireworks (ooooh aaaah), drumming and clog dancing by local young people. We also had projections on the quarry's classroom windows and on a sail/screen we built. Visitors enjoyed a torch lit walk to the quarry and a great family atmosphere. The work from four schools was screened and displayed as well as boat lanterns floating on the ponds. We held a workshop in the afternoon to produce a giant flying fish lantern.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mr. Hillary's Trip

After a hectic week at Wolsingham Primary School, we pulled off a minor miracle. Working with Year 5 pupils we managed (in only 4 hours - the miracle)to produce 8 beautiful light boats and a two minute animated film based on 'Westland' the journal of John Hillary's trip to New Zealand in 1879. Mr. Hillary came from nearby Tow Law a hilltop village in the North Pennines.
Here's the film.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Kicking off again

Next week we're starting again after the summer break. This time we're doing a whole raft of activities with Wolsingham School. We hope to produce a short animation based on an imaginary emigrant's diary. Some of the kids at Wolsingham come from Tow Law which is the Durham village left behind by John Hillary in 1879. Mr. Hillary a fervent Sunday School teacher set of to New Zealand with his family, but after a dismal six months of little work and no prospects returned home to Blighty. He travelled on the Westland (see my previous entry).

This picture came from the Mary-Ann's Cottage blog - it's a painting of the Westland on the inside of a sea chest belonging to Mary-Ann's father who was a sailor on the maiden voyage.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

And breathe .....

What a manic few months it has been with house renovations, shows, workshops, films, books, animations all coming together and celebrated. Now offers the perfect opportunity for relaxation and brain de-frag and more ideas to grow and we can start to concentrate on the making and pulling together of material. Jan and I had a trip to Liverpool not to look at archives or anything but just to look at the presentation of material and information and breathe the scouse vibe in - it was top class and we learnt loads - how Liverpool has a very diverse population since many people from Europe came to Liverpool to begin their emigration journeys. I can just imagine the noises, the rabble of sounds and different languages you would hear - coming from Weardale this must have been so confusing. Whilst Weardale must have been a very dynamic place in the 1800s it also must have been very different, accoustically to the sounds of Liverpool.
We also found a Gold Diggers Game for the Gold Diggings of Australia - would be good to make our own.

As with Steve's visitors it is time for some of us to get off on our own journeys and try and find some gold of our own in the form of the sun!!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


During research for this project we stumbled on a really excellent artist's blog with a wonderful connection to the Westland - have a look Mary-Ann's Cottage - Caithness Scotland

The artist Joanne has some of our Janet's work on her blog - which is one of the best I've seen as she updates it very regularly unlike me!

Over the past few weeks I've been reading lots of accounts of emigrant journeys. There's such a variety of views: John Hillary actively enjoyed his journey and constantly comments on the excellent provisions, Thomas Blackah had a miserable time travelling to America and seemed to hate every minute, the Dobie sisters were more privileged and Mary made wonderful sketches. They all report seeing marvellous sights, sunsets, whales, icebergs, flying fish etc. John and Thomas had short unsuccessful stays and soon returned home but poor Mary Dobie was murdered after a few months in New Zealand.

The Summer

Here's three drawings made by pupils from Stanhope Primary School when we visited the Ashes Quarry. These were made with pastels on a rainy and windy day which made a few interesting textures. The DVD is finished and the school has closed for the summer.

Next bit of schools work is down the road a bit with Wolsingham Primary. This time we're planning an animated film based on John Hillary's diary of his journey to New Zealand aboard the Westland in 1879. Mr. Hillary came from Tow Law a village up the hill from Wolsingham so some of the children will be from the same village.

Now I have to spend the summer planning my own contribution to the Semi Precious project in between visitors from Japan, South Africa and Australia - it's a busy year for travellers.