Thursday, 12 December 2013


Three months ago we made an outdoor Museum in a Day from flotsam and jetsam, displayed on the beach in an upended packing crate that had floated in. It contains, inevitably, much plastic marine litter that the tides deposit daily on the shoreline.

It still stands there, with its back to the sea and a handsome bleached sheep's skull on top. Curious walkers on the Cumbria Coastal Way peer in, perplexed at rusty cigarette lighters - unlikely bedfellows alongside a baby's dummy, a cartridge case and an old lipstick.

In his book of literary mysticism PUPPET - an essay on uncanny life, Kenneth Gross writes about the shadow boxes of visual artist Joseph Cornell, with their tiny objects set one against another:
'Each object keeps a certain solitude and secrecy......  long lost companions who speak in silence ...... a fragile but necessary community'. 



Monday, 9 December 2013

Storm Surge at the Beach House

   Exhilarating day last Thursday as 9.81 tide came in at midday with massive waves and white horses. The westerly wind in gusts was blowing the spray backwards as they broke. Came up higher than we have seen it for years, breaking against the low limestone cliffs and scouring the shoreline. Then a high 1 am tide, but by then the wind had dropped and it was a millpond.

The Beach House was OK - high and dry on its  stilts. Some flooding on the beach below us, around the fireplace and museum, which soon drained away. The poles for John's whirlygigs and weathervanes stood the test. All credit to Jamie Proud and Andy Mortimer who sweated and helped dig really deep holes to instal them in the summer.

Next morning all was revealed. So much had changed on the foreshore. Massive timbers lying for years all relocated and twirled around. Reed beds trashed. The previously cobbly foreshore smoothed with swathes of shingle and transformed into 'proper' beach.

Half a mile south along the peninsula is Bean Well where 18th century schooners would visit to fill up with sweet drinking water. A constant vigorous stream runs down towards the sea, and is host to a huge crop of wild watercress. There has always been an ancient stone slab acting as a bridge over the stream for walkers to cross. Today all the watercress is gone and that slab is slewed like a frisbee, only just doing its job. Maybe a work party with massive crowbars might just be able to reposition it?

The biggest talking point between early morning walkers is the Wishing Tree. It's gone!! Lost in the storm, floated out towards the Irish Sea ......   A hawthorn which, seven years ago after incessant winter rains, slipped 30 feet down the soft bank, roots and all. Since then we have nurtured it and decorated it with flotsam and jetsam, delivered daily by the tide. Public art by stealth. A rumour trace and point of interest for walkers on the Cumbria Coastal Way, who would pause for a picnic, take a photograph and frequently add their own creations. Was this a place of pilgrimage or an aberration?

And where can it be now? If it is washed up near you, please give it our best wishes and add some of your own.

STOP PRESS  The good news is that, within 48 hours, someone has already started a new one. A polished leather boot - albeit a bit rusty around the lace holes - has appeared dangling from the lower branches of a collapsing ash tree and already several coloured plastic bottles and bits and pieces have been added. Wishing Tree/ Rag Tree/ Cloutie Tree - call it what you will - these places are important and, as we have observed over 7 years,  seem to have meaning for us.

Booting up the 2nd Wishing Tree on the west shore of Morecambe Bay


Sunday, 1 December 2013


Winter Droving Procession Penrith

Hannah Fox created this magnificent Ram's Head lantern to complement the agricultural theme. 
Thanks to Duncan Copley, Simon Hanson and Bob Fisher. She also dressed the square with a couple of dozen new silk flags, burning the midnight sewing machines with Naomi Edwards and Donna - who is more at home with the industrial sewing machine from her fantastic yurt holiday company on the shores of Windermere   

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


It's that time again. The elderberries are full of sun and rain ready for harvesting. Pick them and boil them in a syrup. A great boost to the immune system. Take some each morning. It really works.
Here's what to do. Using a fork strip the berries off the stalks into the pan, cover with water and simmer for 10-15 minutes. To extract the juice pour the whole lot into a large square of muslin. ( Turn a chair upside down on the table. Tie the muslin firmly to each leg).Place a large clean bowl underneath to catch the precious juice. To each pint of juice add 8-10 cloves and 350 g of sugar. Return to the pan and simmer 15 mins. Leave to cool. Bottle in sterilised bottles. Store up to 4 months or put into clean plastic milk bottles and freeze.

It's that time again. Our October Rites of Passage Autumn School may offer further mellow transitions. Two unexpected cancellations mean we can offer 2 late deal places. For further info. See our website:

                              Headline below ( in black on dark blue ) above the stunning image of



                                " A NEW CONCEPT OF CELEBRATORY FACILITATORS"


Sunday, 22 September 2013

LATE DEAL on Rites of Passage Autumn School

Quick! Save £85 on your fee for a place on our next Rites of Passage workshop 21-24 October in Frome, Somerset. A couple of late cancellations means that we have 2 gaps to fill, so here's a special discount fee of £295 instead of £380 for a place. Just 4 weeks to go, so don't leave it too long. 

Full details on     

Sunday, 15 September 2013



The Lantern Parade in Ulverston has come a long way since 1983.
A perfect example of vernacular art in action.
Non commercial. Non competitive. Not in aid of anything except itself. 
Open to all comers whatever their experience and skill. 
Beautiful home made sculptures, delicate with tissue and candlelight.
A seasonal and personal  transition point. A gathering of friends and family. 
Multi generational. Multi cultural.
A thousand lanterns.
Four rivers of light.
Four energetic and raucous street bands including the 20 piece Blast Furness.
A few moments of excess.
A perfect firework conclusion.
A public rite of passage to mark the coming of autumn before the rainy days set in.
An Ulverston export along with Stan Laurel, pole vaulting and women's football.
Long may it continue.

Congratulations to the dedicated team who made it happen.

Garry Gifford's Lantern. 
                                Photo Ceri Hutton.                     More fine photos on Facebook

On a personal note, Rowan our youngest granddaughter rising five, made (with her mum)  a stunning big lantern of a "lady". With her pointy ears  and full face I thought it was a snow leopard but it was probably a a very large Mrs Mouse. Rowan said it was "The happiest day of her life'. This as she tumbled in glee at the noisy firework stars. Naturally we wondered if, all those thirty years ago, Rowan Stella was a gleam in some firmament or other ......


Just back from Dublin Fringe Festival where we ran a Rites of Passage Workshop for TRAILBLAZERY to explore Ceremony and Celebration in contemporary society - 

everything Sue Gill is saying is compelling and amazing, we are finding it tough to capture in a tweet!  

Opening Ceremony with the workshop participants
Spiral Dance where John played melodeon.

For our next venture we are offering a little mellow fruitfulness in the form of our  


led by Gilly Adams and Sue Gill

21 - 24 October in Frome, Somerset


Many of us experience ritual and ceremony in our lives in an inarticulate way, plagued by anxiety and embarrassment: we settle for a formulaic response to marking birthdays; we give a glance to the changing of the seasons; we bear witness at weddings and funerals. 

This intensive 4 day course offers an opportunity to explore how ceremony and celebration feature, and have featured, in our own lives in order to empower ourselves to be bolder.

Journey is a key metaphor in this work and the focus is on rolling up our sleeves and making ceremony - both public and private - in a safe environment ......   

Fee £380 includes tuition, materials and home cooked meals throughout. We can often help with contacts for households in Frome offering budget accommodation which is not included in the price of the workshop. 

Please contact                      

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


We are working in Dublin on Sunday September 8th for The Trailblazery, a seriously dynamic and visionary outfit, ploughing and seeding new ground. Have a look at their  work:

Meanwhile also check out the Campaign Against The Arms Trade website. They are an equally serious, energetic and very well informed organisation who are currently drawing attention to the immediate obscene London Arms Fair (7th to 13th September):
 Ask CAAT "Who makes the teargas?"

A Book:"The Shadow World" Inside The Global Arms Trade by Andrew Feinstein. Penguin
is a good primer.

Monday, 3 June 2013


Next AUTUMN SCHOOL 21st - 24th October

 in Frome, Somerset.

Check out  to see and hear Howling Wire.  

Audible Forces is an intricate landscape of musical installations powered by the wind. Created by 7 of the country's best sound artists, it is touring to UK festivals this summer. Dan Fox's 'Howling Wire' is made from recycled military and orchestral hardware. A 12 metre high electro acoustic windharp with weathervane whistlers and sounds elemental was premiered at Brighton Festival. See dates and more information.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013


Daily visitors along the tideline below the Beach House, we see them walk purposefully to and fro from dawn to dusk checking what the tide’s brought in. Cleaning up carrion, they also search for slugs, insects, worms, fruits and seeds. In spring they are known for taking eggs and small birds. Their diet is 85% carnivorous.

Here in the open sweep of Morecambe Bay we feel at home and we think our three crows do too. We’re not sure where they nest, but they invariably emerge from the wooded bank further along the shore, within watchful distance of the rookery in Sea Wood. 

On Friday one of the crows was shot by a marksman* as it flew up from the beach, heading inland. A single shot to the temple; sudden, immediate death as it plunged down into the meadow. 

I hold it by the tail and wing tips. Well over half a kilo. Total blackness of eye, talons, beak, feathers, legs. 

It’s half term and the grandchildren are sleeping over for a few days. On Monday morning we choose a spot near the bank, alongside a young sycamore. Reuben digs the grave, Rosa creates a ceremonial path leading towards it, edged with stones, floored with transverse sticks. 

Back at the Beach House we are ready to begin the ceremony. Rosa lays the bird on a flat willow basket, places sea glass, shells and rosemary around, then covers him with a new yellow cockling bag for the funeral cortege. It is a drizzly day. We are alone as we process along the beach. 

Reuben's iPad drawing

Removing the cover, Rosa gently lies him in the grave, head facing towards the west. We place the grave goods around. Reuben speaks about the nature of the death and how crow would not have suffered as the shot was so accurate. Rosa thanks crow for choosing to nest here, becoming part of our daily landscape. Nana reminds us that crows like him have been around on similar shorelines since ancient times. Mezolithic children living in caves and huts had crows living around them. John reads a poem written that morning and our ceremony ends with planting forget-me-not seeds around the grave, in sunshine and partial shade. This part of our land will be known as Crow Country.   

Reuben walks to the water's edge and asks the incoming tide to bring strong winds to blow crow's spirit around the trees again. 

* The marksman appears in the fields behind the Beach House from time to time with rifle and full combat camouflage gear. He has shooting rights across the farmer's land, to hunt foxes and other vermin. It appears crows are not welcome as they dig up the potatoes.

Monday, 20 May 2013


At an unusual local auction sale of 30 acres of Morecambe Bay Foreshore and woodland, we managed to acquire a handkerchief sized plot of 2 acres running north from the Beach House. Labelled 'Manorial Waste' its ownership goes back in time to the middle ages and currently the Crown Estates wish to sell the lot. A sure sign of the times ... 

So we have a patch of scrubland on an embankment of loose boulder clay, countless neglected small trees, loads of brambles and the foreshore up to the mean high tidemark. A public right of way - the   Cumbria Coastal Way footpath runs along the tideline. 

The strip contains a variety of trees: wild cherry, willow, ash, elder, hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, alder, young sycamore and a couple of small oaks. In consultation with Natural England, Greg Thompson, our local tree expert, began work - before the nesting season -  on pruning some of the trees. A few, their canopies heavily weighted with ivy, were leaning towards the beach and with their  roots  loosened  were in danger of collapse in the 'sail' effect of  high winds . Some brambles are also being cleared to open up glades, others are being left as good cover for small mammals and birds. 

Now having legitimate access to more beach space we can plan installations, arts and environment workshops and gatherings for the summer months. Working title for the project is 'Wildernest'.    

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Maintaining the momentum. One way or another.

We have done a lot since our last blog on 7 Feb. Too busy to blog.

1. Took down our "After the Storm" very popular arboreal cloister. - -on the Falkland Estate in Fife, Scotland. Many local people wanted it to stay but we had already gave it a month extra than planned and it was starting to look tatty.  I am developing a theory that if people are not given the space and opportunity to make art for themselves they are bound to want to hang on whatever stimulating art they come across.

We artists are very privileged to know that we have the experience and skill and temerity to  go on to make something else new. We always have and we always will. That's a big gift.

2. Did a five day recce in Co Mayo in Eire in Ballycroy for our next work " I Could Read the Sky"to be developed with local artists over a three week residency in March and April. Unless a local funeral or a match intrude the climactic days will be 13th and 14th April inside and outside  the Ballycroy Visitor Centre. It will be walkabout symphony of flying colours, wind sculptures and sounds amazing.

3. Check out "Firecrane" the newsprint broadsheet of poetry and stuff  published  by New Writing Cumbria. Soon to be on line. There is a diary entry in there about our Beach House which is also to be featured on BBC2 at 18.30 on Thursday 7th March in a programme called "The British Winter."

4. Saw and definitely heard the wildly excellent Hot 8 Brass Band from New Orleans stomping hard in the Forum in Barrow in Furness. As it wasn't a club and there was minimal dancing space and 75% of the audience were wrinkly greyheads like us, sitting at "cabaret tables" they were a bit out of their comfort zone. Bit irritating when  they bottled  for more money though with "Another member of the band called Fillup." ( a bucket they passed round the audience ) After we had just paid £12.50 a ticket with no concessions and a full price each for three children (one of them 4 years old.) " We don't work for fun." they said.  Salutary!  Back to our own huge luck and privilege again I guess. I certainly wouldn't like to live on a minimal income in New Orleans.

John Fox

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Back again.

Thursday 7 February 2012

We are back after a holiday and writing break. Not a lot to report except to say that distance and time away from computers, e mails, blogging and twittering has confirmed our view that such potential addictions can be all consuming, forcing  us to live in top of the head instant communication rather than in more considered and maybe poetic spaces. Obvious really. But we are going to watch it from now on.

We are off to Scotland this coming weekend  to take down our "After the Storm" arboreal cloister in Falkland Fife. Extended through  public demand for another 6 weeks it  has been a big and rather unexpected success . Loads of info about it on our website:

Next big trip for DEAD GOOD GUIDES is to Co Mayo where we have been invited back to explore possiblities of creating wonders in the Ballycroy National Park. A bit remote and boggy there but looking forward to explorations with many of the brilliant Irish artists we met a few years ago. Reconnaissance 15th-20th February. Residency 23rd March -16th April.  

Sunday, 6 January 2013

For Crying Out Loud

Between theatre and dance, between tradition and invention we find something new - Contemporary Circus. 

Crying Out Loud Circus has done a wonderful archive project online, 

ranging from 1968 to 2012. Welfare State International appears first representing 1968. 

Have a look at their wonderful selection of shorts on