The Facilitator, The Farmer and The Foxett Sisters

It says on my blurb that one of my roles is  ‘facilitator’, I prefer that description when running workshops or events as it fits my approach of providing a creative, calm space with a programme of activities. The aim is to enable participants to write, learn, discuss in a way that is not stressful, not like school, not like an old fashioned teacher.  Usually it all goes well; I do a lot of preparation, print out relevant material and the feedback is good. Sometimes I get carried away with the group discussion and realise I’ve missed out something important but mostly its ok.

However this approach definitely does not work with The Foxett Sisters, seen here looking as if butter wouldn’t melt…They have sort of Jekyll and Hyde characters: soft and affectionate in the house, with kids and other dogs. But wild and disobedient as soon as they get the sniff of a hare, deer, fox. (Its in the Foxhound/Bassett Hound genes). This has resulted in numerous ‘incidents’ – the most recent being a phone message from a local farmer which went something like this-

I saw your damn hoonds in with my sheep last night; if it happens again I’ll take the law into my own hands and SHOOT them.’

After conciliatory phone calls, apologies, grovelling and more money spent on garden fence reinforcements,   I thought we had persuaded him that the dogs are NEVER allowed off the lead and their recent escape was an unfortunate incident. BUT this morning I met the same farmer while I was walking the dogs on a narrow track as he was driving his Landrover and trailer. This required that somebody had to get into the bushes – and a chance for me to prove my disciplinary, old-fashioned teacher style with the hounds. Of course The Foxetts only sensed anxiety in my voice, refusing to budge and threatening to wriggle out of their collars and leads. The farmer watched for a minute, shook his head, muttered loudly and slammed his foot onto the accelerator, taking several hawthorn branches with him as he roared away. Leaving me ready to sit for a minute with the hounds for a drink and a biscuit as a reward for poor facilitation skills.

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……. and the next thing.

For several years I have been involved in a wonderful project, Bell View in Belford in rural North Northumberland,  where local people came together to develop a resource centre and housing project for older people when the existing residential home was forced to close. Rebuilt on the site ( which was also originally the old workhouse)  Bell View now runs numerous community and creative activities, day care and café in a light and beautifully designed building.

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Detail of ‘clikky’ mat made at Bell View

Always looking for innovative and creative opportunities, Bell View invited me to develop a writing project collaborating  with sound artist Geoff Sample. After months of discussions and funding bids, we received Arts Council England grant and the ‘Where We Belong ‘ project started  in November 2014. Since then we’ve been talking and running workshops with over thirty older people about their experiences of  ageing, isolation, belonging in a rural area.  You can get details and hear some wonderful voices on the project blog at http://www.fragmentsne70.wordpress.com.    By the end of the project we will have produced  an installation at the Watchtower Gallery in Berwick-upon-Tweed, including Geoff’s  soundscape which will accompany the written words which I am collecting and editing and deciding …….how to exhibit  those words in a gallery  space?? So many themes and inspirations have emerged – acceptance of change, love of family and friends, delight in making and producing,  and a youthful pleasure in being alive.

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