• Nigel Wood

Ardwick Art Walk 2

I recently led a group on the second of the artist walks, with the focus this time on creative writing. I'd planned a route in advance that would take us from the Church of the Nazarene in Longsight to Pool Arts in Ardwick, largely avoiding main roads in favour of side streets, with the walk being a way for us to explore our local environment, focussing on the flora and fauna to be found there and gathering material we could use to create poems.

When planning the route I'd decided to avoid obvious nature spots like parks and public gardens and instead see what we could find walking the streets of our inner city environment. This was a way of focusing on the theme of resilience that links this series of walks, giving us an opportunity to look at the ways the natural world is able to survive and thrive in a seemingly inhospitable urban context, and to reflect on the ways in which we in turn are able to overcome the challenges and difficulties of our everyday lives in the same environment.

The morning had alternated between driving rain, sunshine and hailstones, so I wasn't sure what to expect when I got to our meeting place – whether everyone would have been put off by the weather, whether we'd have to abandon the project entirely as a ferocious downpour turned our worksheets into papier mâché …. In fact, I needn't have worried: the skies had cleared and group of 10 of us set off along Plymouth Grove, worksheets in hand. We soon turned off the main road and wound our way along quieter back streets, watching, listening, sensing, and making notes, Andy sharing his local knowledge to give us a perspective on the ways the area has changed over the years.

Underlying my approach to teaching poetry writing is the idea that poems are not made from ideas or emotions but from words, so I'd designed the worksheets to help participants gather words relating to what they were seeing, hearing, smelling etc. that they could use later as building blocks with which they could construct poems. At the same time, the worksheets could help us become aware of the everyday sense data that we often tune out during the course of a typical day – help us focus on the sounds we could hear at this particular corner at this particular time, on what we could smell on a certain street in early afternoon in February after the rain, on the plants and grasses we could see breaking through the pavement in front of us … For one of the categories I'd used, 'Touching', I suggested we think not only of what we might be touching but also what was touching us (the wind against our faces, the tarmac beneath our feet, the rain dripping from the trees onto our heads), though it also inspired some of the group to use touch to explore the physical world around them, running their fingers over the bark of trees, investigating the textures of moss growing on the stump of a chopped down tree and the layers of rust growing on iron railings.

We made our way under changing skies, from dark grey clouds to brilliant sunshine, getting to know each other and the world around us:

admiring the diversity of the gardens local residents have created in the limited space available to them;

  • seeing plants growing through kerbstones and pavements, on walls and waste ground, reclaiming their place in the world and reminding us of the cycles of change of which we and everything we create are a part;

  • reflecting on how we felt in the different spaces we passed through;

  • thinking about the correlations between the resilience of the natural world and our own personal resilience as we live and grow in the same environment;

  • gathering words with which to document and celebrate the journey we'd made and the living world around us.

We reached the end of our journey just before the rain came down. Alison welcomed us with coffee and tea and cake, and we sat round the big table in the art room, turning our words and memories and reflections into poems, reading the results out loud so we could share the sounds and rhythms and sense that we made. You can take a look at some of what we created below.

Poetry Walk, Ardwick, 25th Feb 2020

Adele Fowles

Blinking, dazzled, almost blinded from below

Tar and above

sky

Herbs are living in beds and daffodils are fully formed

And bare-boned trees, buds and white blossoms

Fir trees, cacti and mud

'Wow – look at the sky. What a landscape.'

Yes – those dense black clouds

and a tiny patch of blue

black and white

'Are you just tired?' 'Too tired to carry on.

And it's too hard to walk and write.'

And 'You learn to write by reading and writing'

and 'lyrics can be poetry too.'

When is the first day of spring?

At 7 this morning was bright light and sunshine

then hailstorms, wind and more rain

and vapes make bubbling noises and fruity smells and

hazy smoke

and

howling sirens are the sounds of trauma

but today I hear them far away

touching the edge of hope and other people's lives

staggering on / limping along

plodding plodding plod on

keep on keep on keep on keeping on

in pain and hope in the connecting, touching,

whirling and whipping wild wind

Ardwick Ghosts

Andy Atkinson

A metallic forest of cranes towering above

the rubble of demolished lives now green with weeds

Claws of ivy entwined on rusted bars

rising up in the shadows of

A moss covered stump of a long gone tree

fungus feasting on its rotten flesh

Dead leaves floating in black puddles

crushed beneath unseeing feet

Memories linger, ghosts remain

Natures regrows while the estate regenerates

Life survives slumbering for spring's return

A Journey

Brian Clewlow

On the journey from the church to Pool Arts

Seeing houses and people and cars and buses

then seeing trees and flowers

and hearing traffic and planes and sirens and birds

and smelling leaves and car fumes

and plants and flowers and grass

Feeling the wind on my head and face

and seeing traffic lights and signs,

happy and relaxed

Poem

Richard

On the walk from the Nazarene

I see the trees brown and green

I see the puddles of rain

I hear the water drip

I hear the talking people

I smell the fumes of petrol

I touch the railings and sign posts

I feel the tree stump, mushrooms wild growing

It all ends at the Art Project –

tea, cake and coffee

Poem

Chi

Always laughing,

always smiling,

always dancing.

No war in the world,

peace and love that heals my heart.

Heavenly love all over the world.

As Bob Marley says,

'Is this love, is this love

that I'm feeling?'

Romeo and Juliet,

why do we die?

Why are we born?

I have a dream today,

like Martin Luther King,

all of us loving together as one

On My Way

Bernadette O'Hanrahan

On my way, late as usual,

heavy wellies, raincoat and umbrella,

sweating, things to do I can't put off.

Ring first – Diane laughed, 'You're always late.'

Said, 'Yeah – hopefully for my own funeral.'

Nearly choked on my tooth, it broke, what

a joke, couldn't afford to wait hoping

the hail would stop. Said hello

to my neighbour – snow later, happy days.

As I looked at the dead plants in pots

on my path I noticed baby daffodils

growing like mine should have grown

on my windowsill, then trod through

the rust and grime from the workman's yard.

Finally made it to the meeting place –

it would have been a waste of time

to look for the others, they had all set off.

I was dry – I dodged the puddles and the

blocked drains, smiled as I passed the park,

nearly blooming, patches of grass near Pool Arts

where you can express your heart.

The Walk of Resilience

Samantha Tshabalala

Resilience becomes us

Seen in the world as the birds fly

Flying in the sky covered in dark clouds

Braving the wind

Letting it lift them up

Chasing the freedom of tomorrow

From one place to the other they fly.

The clouds are heavy

Ready to cry out on the world

Spreading love to the ground below

Blooming plants crave it

The water's touch awakens them

Calling them out for the spring.

Cars sound in the distance

They splash the puddles

Rushing to and fro

Transporting people to their destinations

The cars cough out fumes

Protesting in their exhaustion

Waiting for that day of retirement.

I walk along on the pedestrian path

The wind is drawing all the warmth from me

The frost bites at my uncovered fingers

I shiver as I push against the wind

Sunny days are coming

I know this as I see the sun fight through the clouds

A world blessed with the power of resilience

I learn from nature

I take these lessons and apply them to my life

Because what is life if not the determination to stay alive?

Images by Rae

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