Category Archives: Children

The Devil makes play for idle hands.


That’d make me the Devil then.

Oh well, I’ve been called worse.

Here’s a fun (yes, fun) writing game for kids and growed ups alike.

First off, draw around your hand.

No, the other one. The one you don’t write with.

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Next, you’re going to write a word in each finger.

  1. Think of an object, (such as a lamp, table, doll, trombone, necklace etc), and write it in your pinky finger. Don’t think too hard about it, whatever pops into your mind.
  2. Think of a colour. Write that in your ring finger.
  3. Name a place. Could be a town, a country or somewhere specific, like a treehouse. Write that in your middle finger. (And, don’t show the middle finger to your parents.)
  4. Think of a shape. (Circle, triangle, hexagon, sphere, etc.) Write that in your index finger.
  5. Finally, think of an emotion. (Happy, content, isolated, frustrated, sad, etc.) Write that in your thumb.

Now for the writing exercise.

Write a paragraph that incorporates all of the words you have written in your digits.

They don’t have to be in the order that you have written them down.

And don’t overthink it. Just let it flow. The sillier and more surreal the better.

Once you’ve finished, read out your five things then read your paragraph.

As you can see in the example above, there are three completely different paragraphs using the same five words.

You might be wondering why there are two hands in the picture above. Well, because you can play it with a family member, (if they are in quarantine with you), or you can just overlap your own hand over your previous drawing and colour in the shapes that overlapping them makes.

So, there you go. That should take up about 15 minutes of their day!

Well, they could use the paragraph as a springboard to a longer piece of prose. Or, like the example, they could do several variants using the same words.

It’s good for creativity, prose, composition, spelling, punctuation, grammar and comprehension. (But don’t tell the kids this, or they won’t want to do it!)

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Hopscotch in the rain


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You don’t see chalk on the pavement much anymore.

My daughters used to do it outside our house and up the street with the neighbours’ children.

I was walking to school the other day to pick my daughters up when I saw some lovely pastel chalk drawings on the pavement and it took me back to when I was a kid.

So I wrote a haiku about it.

As you do.

 

Hopscotch in the rain.

 

Chalk on the pavement;

Hopscotch memories fade, in

Fine summer drizzle.

 

 

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Unleash your inner Tempest


Addendum.

Unfortunately, the Shakespeare exhibition and all workshops have been cancelled until further notice due to the coronavirus.

Apologies for the inconvenience.

 

Fancy contributing to an exhibition based around Shakespeare’s The Tempest?

I’m facilitating an exhibition for Arc in collaboration with Stockport Libraries as part of Shakespeare Week.

The theme for the exhibition is to bring the great bard’s classic play to life visually.

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Here’s one we prepared earlier…

Who can get involved?

Well, there are two groups of people that can take part – locals, and non-locals.

If you’re local to Stockport, you can come along to one of our group sessions at The Heatons and Brinnington libraries. They are on Tuesday 17th March and Friday 20th March respectively.

There are two sessions at each library. 10.30 am – 12.30 pm and 1.30 pm – 3.30 pm.

You can pop along for one, or both sessions. (There’ll be different activities in the morning and afternoon.) Stay for 10 minutes or two hours.

For non-locals who fancy having a go, simply email me a pdf of your piece (or post it if you have time) and I’ll print it out. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Vermont or Verona, just pick up your pencils and paintbrushes and wear your heart on your sleeve.

It’s quite simple really. I’m asking people to draw or paint on top of The Tempest text, as in the example above. Artwork can be A5, A4 or A3 portrait or landscape and can be in any medium.

Sometimes called Humuments or Black-out poetry. You can use the text as part of a background, or highlight certain parts of the text to make a completely different piece of prose or poetry, which doesn’t have to relate to The Tempest at all.

See examples above and below.

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The exhibition opens on Saturday 28th March at the Arc Centre Gallery Cafe, Hat Works in Stockport at 11 am – 4 pm.

That doesn’t given you long if you’re not local and would like to submit a piece. We’ll be putting the exhibition together w/c 23rd March, so ideally, we would like email/postal submissions by Saturday 21st March please. I’ll be waiting with baited breath.

Email me at thereisnocavalry@icloud.com for more details or my postal address.

Good luck, the world is your oyster.

 

 

 

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The era-defining legacy of Tish Murtha.


Patricia ‘Tish’ Murtha is another photographer I’ve been wanting to write a post about for quite some time. And, like my previous post about Saul Leiter’s early work in New York, Tish Murtha captured the zeitgeist of working class Northern England during the late 70s and 80s under Thatcher.

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Tish Murtha 14/3/1956 – 13/3/2013. © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

Unlike Leiter, Murtha’s work focuses predominantly on the socially deprived. One of the reasons I love her work so much is that I can empathise with a lot of the shots. I can see myself in them as a kid growing up in Batley in the 60s and 70s.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

Her images also remind me of the early social documentary work of legends like Bill Brandt and Don McCullin. The sort of work we don’t see enough of. That’s because people don’t like to look at it. Because it tells us the truth about the society in which we live.

Local Boys in Bradford 1972

Don McCullin

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Bill Brandt

One of the things a great photographer does is make the viewer ask questions. Like, who are they? What are they doing now? In this case, who started the fire? Did they start it? Why are they unconcerned? What are they looking at?

Tish Murtha doesn’t just capture images of the economically deprived in our society, she captures joy and despair. Fear and determination. Hope and uncertainty. Perhaps most importantly – love and kinship.

 

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

 

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

Tish Murtha would have been have been 64 next month. Sadly, she died at the tender age of 56 in 2013 of a sudden brain aneurysm.

The legacy of Tish Murtha is carried on by her daughter Ella who has kindly given me permission to publisher her mother’s work, and to whom I owe a debt of gratitude.

Ella posthumously published collections of her mum’s work in the books Youth Unemployment and Elswick Kids which you can find here.

You can also get exhibition prints here.

I could continue this post with Tish Murtha’s work for as many Google pages there are showing it. But that would leave you with nothing to do. To find out more about her era-defining work – and how she saved the lives of four women through organ donation – why not explore her life and work here.

Happy birthday Tish.

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Adieu 2019.


Well, it’s been an eventful year, to say the least.

I’ve been doing a lot more visual arts this year, so I thought I’d do a month-by-month, blow-by-blow, pictorial representation of my year. (Lucky you.)

Actually, the reason behind it is to see if/how the images/moods have changed over the course of the year. And how that might correlate to my mental health.

As some of you know, I volunteer for an arts charity called Arc, (Arts for Recovery in the Community), which works with people with mental health issues. I am an ardent advocate of the arts as a medium to treat mental health, and wellbeing in general.

Many years ago, I visted the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and you could see the gradual decline in his mental health through his work.

Whilst I’m no Van Gogh, I am trying to see if there are any similar patterns to my own work.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

And before I forget; Have a Happy New Year and an absolutely spectacular 2020.

JANUARY

Oh dear… that’s not a good start.

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FEBRUARY

That’s a bit more positive. Birthday trip to Haworth, West Yorkshire, (home of the Brontes’), with my daughters.

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MARCH

Pros: Part of an Arc exhibition. Cons: Became homeless.

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APRIL

Ee, it’s grim up north. Charcoal sketch of an L.S. Lowry.

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MAY

“Are you sure you’re all right?”

Rehomed.

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JUNE

Think I can see a pattern emerging.

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JULY

Rehab.

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AUGUST

I guess a lot of things are obvious in hindsight.

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SEPTEMBER

The road to recovery.

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OCTOBER

Signs of improvement.

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NOVEMBER

Apart from my volunteer work at Arc, I started facilitating a Creative Writing Workshop at The Wellspring homeless charity in Stockport.

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There are always reminders.

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DECEMBER

A change of outlook.

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As you can see, it’s been a tumultuous year.

I feel very fortunate to be able to experience the last day of it. That would not have been possible were it not for the actions of my dear friend, Siobhan Costigan, over in Australia. Her, and my friends, family, NHS, Stepping Hill Hospital, Pathfinder, AA, The Wellspring and Arc have all played their part in saving my life and helping me to recover. And I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

As of 31/12/2019, I am 140 days abstinent. I feel completely blessed that I have been able to experience 140 days on Earth with my daughters, family and friends that I might not have been able to. I am truly a lucky man.

I wish you all a magnificent 2020; may the forthcoming decade bring you everything that you hope and dream for.

 

Addendum.

If you, or a loved one, are going through a difficult time, there are organisations out there who can help. Reaching out isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength that you have managed to hold on this far. And remember, if things get so bad, go to your nearest A&E dept., they will take care of you just like any other patient.

The Samaritans call 116 123

NHS call 111 or 999

Alcoholics Anonymous call 0800 917 7650

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London Grammar Calling: Or, What my children teach me.


They teach me a lot.

Don’t worry, this post won’t be an itemised list of all the joys of being a parent.

Just a band they’ve introduced me to called London Grammar.

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As usual, I’m a bit late to the party as they’ve been going quite a while. Hannah Reid, the lead singer, has a hauntingly beautiful voice and the music is eerily sparse and melancholic with Dan Rothman on guitar and Dominic ‘Dot’ Major on keyboards & percussion. (It’s called ‘Dream Pop’ apparently.) Who new? Oh, you all did.

They’re a trio who formed in Nottingham in… do I look like Wikipedia? If you’re interested, have a read about them here.

I’ve picked out a couple of songs that I have on repeat at the moment. But, the more I listen to them, the longer that list becomes. (Although, I doubt that an old codger like me is their prime target audience.) I guess, those who know a bit more about my story will understand the poignancy of ‘Strong’.

So thanks, you crazy kids, (I can hear them groan and see their eyes roll), for introducing me to London Grammar, Sia, First Aid Kit, Billie Eilish, 21 Pilots, Melanie Martinez and the rest. You’re pretty cool, despite your parentage.

Enjoy. And have a very happy Christmas if you celebrate that sort of thing. And have a very happy holiday season if you don’t.

 

I’ll just leave a little something for my kids to aspire to…

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Army Men Around the House.


I love these little set ups by Gareth McGorman, called Army Men Around the House.

Yes, I’ve seen figurines used this way before. I’m thinking of farmhands chopping up florets of broccoli, that sort of thing.

But, I just find these quite amusing. Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that I used to play with toy soldiers as a child. (Much to the consternation of our cat.)

Gareth hails from Toronto, Canada and I first came across him on Instagram. I can’t find a website for him, but I’ll post a couple of links to his work under the shots.

Enjoy.

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Links:

https://www.instagram.com/armymenaroundthehouse/

https://www.facebook.com/armymenaroundthehouse/

Gareth McGorman

 

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