Sunday, 20 May 2012

Featureless silver screen, mist is water in its ghost state...

Last night my friend K and I half-froze on top of a windswept hill near Oxenhope, but it was worth it. We were there for the second leg of a three-part event to mark the end of the Stanza Stones project, a collaboration between imove, Ilkley Literature Festival, poet Simon Armitage and Pennine Prospects. The project, both ambitious and fascinating, has involved many talented and creative people - some of them already famous (Yorkshire poet Simon Armitage), but many of them yet to be discovered - aspiring writers, film makers and dancers. The project centred around six stones (plus an elusive seventh stone in a mystery location) which can now be found in various remote locations along the Pennine Watershed, from Marsden to Ilkley. Into each stone is carved a poem written by Simon Armitage. The overarching theme of the poems is water; each poem represents water in a different form i.e. mist, rain, snow, dew, beck and puddle. The evening itself was very well organised (and free!) - we were shuttled from Oxenhope up the winding road to Nab Hill and dropped off a short walk away from the Mist Stone. The way was quite muddy and the wind unseasonally chilly, making us glad we'd donned all our walking gear. (I felt a motherly concern for the excellent dancers who braved the cold in their thin T-shirts and hoodies to entertain us both during and between the readings!) We arrived at the 'site' to the sound of some interesting world music coming from a soundsystem powered by a couple of bicycles, being ridden by enthusiastic volunteers. Attendees were invited, nay encouraged, to pedal them, and although we weren't keen at the outset, by the end of the evening, once the cold had set into our bones, they seemed quite an inviting prospect! After a bit of a wait (that'll teach us for being early and getting the first bus up the hill!) we were treated to a reading of all six poems by Simon Armitage. Hearing the poems read by their originator really brought them to life, and, as I'm sure many will agree, Simon has 'one of those voices' which entirely engages the listener, drawing them into his world of verse. We were also treated to a series of readings from a number of young writers and poets who had been involved in the project. They had all drawn their inspiration from visiting the moors and attending masterclasses with Simon. Our only real disappointment (apart from the cold!) was that we didn't actually get to see the Mist Stone itself. We had (mistakenly) thought this was part of the evening and if we'd known more about performance timings and exactly where it was (a mere stone's throw (sorry!) away from where we were), then we'd have scampered up to the top to find it. That said, it didn't spoil the evening and it can always be seen another day, perhaps when the weather is less cruel. According to the stone carver Pip Hall, who engraved Simon's poems into each of the stones, the stone chosen for carving at Nab Hill had a hairline crack down the middle which caused it to split in two as they were raising it, giving her a pair of stones to work with instead. So the Mist Stone is in fact two stones - perhaps it should be renamed the 'Mist Stones'? Once the performances had ended, K and I walked (very briskly) back to the waiting coaches and were ferried to the Village Community Centre for much-needed hot chocolates and bourbons! As we regained the feeling in our hands and feet we were treated to a series of films made by young film students from the Leeds College of Art. Some were scary, some were touching and some were downright baffling, but all were entertaining. K and I also bought ourselves signed copies of Simon's poems, although we didn't get to meet the man himself (sigh!). All in all, it was an original and entertaining event and it was well worth braving the cold to be there.

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