30 Apr

The Giants Tour – part two

The Giants Tour has just finished – after eleven performance bookings, one puncture, one crash (more on this later) and several hundred miles of cycling.  The tour was planned around the Easter holidays taking place in the middle and being spent at home- in Huddersfield.  Part Two of the tour took in Doncaster, York and Hull.
Easter Monday was a day for cycling as I had a booking for ‘Giant Killers’ in Thorne Library in the far north of Doncaster. Apart from the first five miles and the last eight miles, my route followed the Transpennine Trail.  Much of the route in this part of the country passes through the Yorkshire Coalfield with many links to the Giants project.  At Harlington I passed a huge pit wheel monument to Barnburgh Colliery. My more detailed reflections on passing nearby on the ‘Boy Who Dreamed Only Ice’ tour can be read here http://meltingice2013.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/lost-in-the-coalfield-day-three-of-the-tour/

Giants Barnburgh Colliery monument

Barnburgh colliery pit wheel monument.

At Mexborough I passed what was once the Earth Centre. The Earth Centre was originally a community project built on old coal mines and then became a flagship environmental Millennium project. It was built largely of reclaimed materials, included growing projects and featured Europe’s largest flat-foot photovoltaic installation, a 1,300m2 canopy containing 250 photovoltaic panels – generating 80,000 KW of electricity per year. Sadly, it closed in 2004 and after being briefly occupied by environmentalists, eventually became a children’s activity centre.

The ex-Earth Centre, Mexborough

The ex-Earth Centre, Mexborough

The performance of ‘Giant Killers’ at Doncaster Children’s Library went well. The performance of songs accompanied by the ukulele went down particularly well there!

Playing the ukulele in Thorne Library, Doncaster.

Playing the ukulele in Thorne Library, Doncaster.

Unfortunately, disaster struck just outside Thorne. It had been raining and I lost control on a railway crossing where the rails had become as slippery as ice. After flying briefly through the air I landed in the road. A passing driver helped me with my bike. I cycled on another twenty miles or so to Snaith with a growing sense of foreboding. The pain in many parts of my body was subsiding, but one particular place- the base of my left hand- was agony. I couldn’t use my thumb at all. Snaith became the end of the ‘Giants’ cycle tour. A lift in a car to York got me to the hospital. An x-ray scan was unable to detect a fractured scaphoid but I was encouraged to return after ten days to be re-x-rayed as scaphoid fractures are frequently invisible until then. The train took me on the last leg of the journey to Hull.

I wanted to arrive early in Hull to do sightseeing- particularly the William Wilberforce Museum which celebrates the life of the man who – with many others- brought about the vote ending the slave trade in 1807. The struggle for a safe climate has often been compared to the struggle against slavery, perhaps most eloquently by Polly Higgins, international barrister who has proposed to the United Nations that Ecocide be the fifth Crime Against Peace.

“Maybe sometimes we need crisis to focus our minds and recognise that what we’re doing is ultimately unsustainable and untenable morally. We’ve done it before in history and we’ll do it again. The abolition of slavery was really the recognition of the moral imperative trumping the economic imperative. When William Wilberforce came along and fought for the abolition of the slave trade, his big thing was that it’s not about closing down companies; it’s about giving them the legislative framework so that they can reinvent themselves in the other direction.
One of the key people in this was Charles Grant, who was one of the biggest businessmen of the day. He agreed with Wilberforce and spoke out and said, ‘morally this is wrong, full stop’. When he did that from a business perspective, two things happened. Government didn’t just listen, it took action, because hearing it from business is very important. But he also gave permission for other business leaders to stand up and demonstrate that same bold moral courage and leadership. This is what we’re lacking today – the ability to dare to be great – to stand up and say this has to stop, it’s not working”

Polly Higgins http://www.triodos.co.uk/en/about-triodos/news-and-media/colour-of-money/polly-higgins-ecocide-interview-from-the-colour-of-money/

Three giants in Hull: the back of the Gandhi statue, seen from Nelson Mandela Garden, at the rear of the William Wilberforce Musuem

Three giants in Hull: the back of the Gandhi statue, seen from Nelson Mandela Garden, at the rear of the William Wilberforce Musuem

My first performance in Hull was at Pearson Park Wildlife Garden. The Wildlife Garden is run by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and is an attractive corner of Pearson Park in Hull. They grow vegetables and wildflowers, keep bees and run educational activities. There is an amphitheatre where I performed. This was the only performance of the tour where I performed outside. I tried to make use of the environment, space and natural features, as I had in Sprint Mill near Kendal. For one story, ‘The Two  Headed Giant of Rotuma’ we went on a tour of the garden, following the route of the brother and the sister into their garden and through the forest. The sun set during the performance and tea lights were lit to create atmosphere.

Starting the show at Pearson Park Wildlife Garden

Starting the show at Pearson Park Wildlife Garden

After a pleasant night’s sleep in Inglehome http://inglehome.co.uk/, a low carbon home, all the more impressive because it is an ordinary terrace house, I prepared for the final performance: the children’s show ‘Giant Killers’. Here there was a large and lively audience who had waited patiently after a fire alarm delayed the event. The children were good fun and enjoyed acting out moments from the stories although the songs- due to the hand injury- had to be sung acapella.

Last show done! With June from Hull Children's Library

Last show done! With June from Hull Children’s Library

And then it was home! Thank you to all the partners, funders, hosts, audiences, parents (including mine) and helpers! Who knows where Giants will be performed next?

22 Apr

The Giants Tour: part one

The Giants Tour: Part one: Kendal to Wakefield (10th April-17th April).
The Giants tour has begun!  I have cycled for eight days from Kendal to Wakefield, telling giant tales and engaging with climate change.  I’ve had some wonderful audiences and met inspiring people on the way.
The tour opened on Thursday 10th April with a performance of ‘Giant Killers’, the children’s show at Kendal Library followed by a performance of ‘Giants’. This took place at the beautiful Sprint Mill, two miles out of Kendal.  The audience was engaged, involved and supportive.  It was also large and thanks go to South Lakes Action on Climate Change Towards Transition for their promotion of the event. One of the highlights of the performance was including elements from the mill in the performance. Edward’s ‘Spannerphone’, a sort of xylophone made out of spanners, helped to create the soundtrack to two stories.  A besom broom became a prop for the telling of the ‘Six Sisters and the Giant’.

Giants tour 2014 Sprint Mill

Sprint Mill: The clock ticks on the fossil fuel companies.

The route has been cycle friendly and a pleasure to complete. From Kendal I followed National Cycle Route 6 to Lancaster and Preston, then cut west to Southport. From there I have –with one or two diversions- followed the Transpennine Trail through Liverpool, Manchester and Yorkshire. Route 6 was delightful: not only are the roads quiet and safe, like any route, once you’re on it, you can relax. All you need to do is keep an eye out for the route markers.

Giants Tour 2014

Route 6 Woods north of Lancaster

The Transpennine trail is based mainly on a series of old disused railway routes. I think Liverpool won the prize for clear signposts all the way into the centre.  On the way to Manchester I followed the walk along the Mersey, went inland, crossed Sefton Park, skirted Calderstones Park, passed through Childwall and Halewood before approaching Widnes and open country.

Giants Toyr 2014

At the start of the Transpennine Trail, Southport.

The tour has seen performances at Lancaster’s Storey Centre, Manchester’s Friends Meeting House, Birstall Library in Kirklees and the Orangery in Wakefield.  All were different but enjoyable and all the time the piece developed and changed, partly as a result of people’s feedback.  In Lancaster there was a humorous atmosphere, almost like stand up. In Manchester the audience were great but I felt tired, having cycled from Liverpool that morning.  One gentleman arrived one hour early and waited quietly whilst thumbing through a four inch thick copy of the IPCC report. Birstall library in Kirklees has ‘clients’ who are really interested in storytelling performances. It was there that I began my last tour of a piece called ‘The Boy Who Dreamed Only Ice’ and it was great to see familiar faces.  A ten year old boy told me there that my singing was the worst part of the performance and so at the Orangery in Wakefield the performance was faster-paced and without its songs.

Giants tour 2014

Birstall Library: Playing the ever-popular singing bowl.

Then there have been the people I have met on the way.  I wanted to connect with, and celebrate people who are ‘taking on the giant’ of climate change in their own ways. Many of these people put me up for the night. I met Edward and Romola at Sprint Mill, living in a way that is sustainable and low impact and talked to Chris about the work of South Lakes Action on Climate Change Towards Transition. At Lancaster I stayed at Lancaster co-housing, an attractive an low carbon community on the banks of the Lune in Halton. In Preston I stayed with students David and Bradley, involved in their local Greenpeace Group and, in David’s case, engaged as a ‘Green hero’ a the local branch of Lush. My Manchester hosts were Pete and Cat, a lovely couple involved in Manchester Friends of the Earth. I also visited Barton Moss anti-fracking camp, just before it was about to be packed away due to the end of exploratory drilling. From Manchester I left the trail for some miles in order to visit a community hydro project at New Mills in Derbyshire.  In my home town I met with Janet from Holmfirth Transition Town at the site of the new community wind power project and the people involved in the Growing Newsome food project.  In Sharlston near Wakefield, I was shown around the vast area of a recent open cast coal application, turned down by the council only two weeks earlier. Soon, I will put a separate post about these people and projects.

Gianys Tour 2014

Janet from Holmfirth Transition Town at Longley wind turbine and site of proposed community wind turbine.

All in all, it’s been a great start! I’ve been lucky with the weather, have only got lost a few times and only had one puncture!  The story has developed and, of course, the journey itself has been a story with many interesting characters. From here, after the Easter break I head out east and will end at Hull.

Giants Tour 2014

Looking out over the Pennines with Holme Moss behind me.

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