Little Green Book

We are delighted to be able to share this Little Green Book with you which has been imaginatively designed by Felicity Bristow of But ‘n’ Ben Bindery & Press, Maxton.  Click here to open the Little Green Book

The Little Green Book is based on our environmental policy and reflects our activities as a small rural based organisation that runs arts projects and tours performances and exhibitions both near and far. It is a simple achievable policy to help us to start to actively reduce our carbon footprint.

Please do share this Little Green Book with others and use it as a basis for writing your own.

Alongside the Little Green Book we are compiling an online directory of suppliers that we have found and used that have sustainable credentials and clear environmental policies. Please do tell us of suppliers you would like to recommend both locally within the Scottish Borders and beyond the Borders.

Working the Tweed Opens in the Gallery at Harestanes on Wednesday

Working the Tweed opens in the Gallery at  Harestanes Countryside Visitor Centre on Wednesday October 9th.

Download an eflyer here Working The Tweed at Harestanes Countryside Visitor Centre

It’s sometimes easy to forget just how much the Tweed and its rivers define our region and so it’s particularly appropriate that these four artists have chosen such a fundamental subject for their creative investigations.   Harestanes Centre Manager Michael Scott.

Assisted by  Tweed Forum and Southern Uplands Partnership and supported by the Scottish Borders LEADER programme, Working the Tweed has been exploring some of the lesser known aspects of the Tweed and its tributaries; from re-meandering to fish-tagging.

The biggest surprise for me has been discovering the extent to which we have produced and created so many aspects of the so-called ‘natural’ environment. James Wyness

Information gathered though field visits and riverside meetings with scientists and river specialists has provided the material from which the project room work has been created , encompassing drawing, film, sound and textiles. The project room is about bringing a creative process and a different perspective to specialist knowledge.

There is a huge wealth of knowledge about the river to draw on. My task has been to find creative ways to show some of the complexities of the river system. It’s been a playful process too, even getting educated about diggers and the difference between a front loader and an excavator.” Kate Foster

'Cryptic Digger' Collage, watercolour and pencil by Kate Foster Credit: Kate Foster and Forestry Commission.

‘Cryptic Digger’ Collage, watercolour and pencil by Kate Foster Credit: Kate Foster and Forestry Commission.

Working the Tweed is a collaborative endeavour.

The joy of working on a group project is that you arrive at ideas collectively that you would  never arrive at on your own.  Claire Pencak

Public events and activities like Knowing your River, Riverside Meetings with artists and river specialists and the Tweed Sessions have generated conversations all over the region around the river and what it means to people. This focus on social and public engagement has had a major impact on the direction of the project and it is represented  through the River Way drawings made by people over the summer and the voices of people on sound recordings.

 It has been a privilege to learn from people doing different kinds of work around the River Tweed and understand how the Borders is shaped and interconnected by the river catchment. It’s made me see the region in a new way.  Jules Horne

‘Tweed Tweed’  Jules Horne with thanks to Tweed Forum & CBEC. Credit:  Jules Horne.

‘Tweed Tweed’ Jules Horne with thanks to Tweed Forum & CBEC.
Credit: Jules Horne.

Working the Tweed  runs  from October 9th to October 31st.

The Gallery is open daily from 10am – 5pm at Harestanes Visitor Centre, near Ancrum, Scottish Borders, TD8 6UQ

Harestanes Countryside Visitor Centre  is part of Scottish Borders Museums and Galleries Service. The centre holds a Gold Award for Green Tourism and is a VisitScotland 4-star attraction.

On ‘passing-through places’, ‘so-far stories’ and movement improvisation.

Leah Gibbs (LG), Human Geographer at the University of Wollongong, Australia, in conversation with Working the Tweed artists, Kate Foster (KF) and Claire Pençak (CP).

Introduction

In the project Working the Tweed, we set out to work with different kinds of specialist knowledge. This yields various ways to think about the Tweed Catchment, and make different artistic connections and new kinds of maps. We are thinking through what we, as artists, might offer in engaging with projects that deal with sustainable land-use and the realities of environmental change. We are delighted to be able to converse with Leah Gibbs, a human geographer at the University of Wollongong, whose work concerns the cultures and politics of water. Leah has considerable experience of multi-disciplinary work focussing on land management. She explains her concept of ‘passing-through places’. This overlaps with Kate Foster’s ideas of documenting ‘so-far stories’, and Claire Pençak’s thinking on improvisation as a way to investigate relationship to place through movement.

Conversation

KF: Leah, you have written about ‘passing-through places’, which is an intriguing idea and keeps coming to mind as we plan the Working the Tweed project. Can you explain why you find the concept of ‘passing through’ helpful, and how you came to adopt the term?

LG: The idea of a ‘passing-through place’ emerged from a project I’ve been involved with over the last few years called ‘SiteWorks’. SiteWorks is an ongoing series of collaborative projects, which was initiated by arts organisation Bundanon Trust, and is based on the Shoalhaven River, just south of where I live in Wollongong (south eastern Australia). It involves a really interesting, shifting group of people: arts practitioners, scientists, other scholars, local people, including folk involved in Landcare groups, and other local organisations. The project asks participants to respond to the Bundanon sites on the river. I was thrilled to be invited to be part of it in 2010.

leah1

Image 1: Looking down the Shoalhaven River from Bundanon property ‘Riversdale’, August 2010.
Photo © Leah Gibbs 2010.

As a Human Geographer, I’m really interested in people and place, so when I first visited Bundanon I was keen to learn about people’s relationships with the site, and also how an arts-science collaboration might help us to understand place. I quickly learned that Bundanon is important to a lot of people. But it’s a place that people tend to pass through: visitors to the site, school groups, artists in residence, Bundanon employees, all pass through this place. We learn, and make connections, but we don’t dwell here. The previous owners of Bundanon were the late Australian artist Arthur Boyd and his family. Bundanon shaped a large body of Boyd’s work, and the place is strongly associated with him. But he and his family lived here for a relatively short time. Learning from the archive, it seems earlier settler families also passed through this place.
There has been some recent work done on the Indigenous heritage and history of the Bundanon properties, and this work finds that the main population centre prior to European colonisation was downstream, near the estuary. But the site was still important: people passed through here, often travelling on the river, to get to food and hunting sites, and to ceremony sites.
So what I’m trying to get at with the idea of a ‘passing-through place’ is that some places may not be permanently dwelt in, but are extremely significant, vital places none-the-less. Permanent dwelling, fixity, longevity, are not the only ways of forming meaningful relationships with places.

Leah2

Image 2: Across the floodplain, March 2011. Photo © Leah Gibbs 2011.

In addition, in Australia – as in other parts of the world – the idea of ‘belonging’ is highly political. It feeds into thinking about ‘native’ and ‘introduced’, ‘invasive’ or ‘feral’ species of plants and animals, and it goes on to inform management and decision-making about these things. Ideas about belonging also influence thinking and action towards people, particularly in the context of indigenous relations, ethnicity and migration. But belonging is highly complex in a settler-dominated society. Concepts of belonging that are based on fixed notions of permanence or longevity in a place can lead to some very troublesome, racist attitudes and even policy.
So I like the concept of a ‘passing-through place’ for a couple of reasons. First because it highlights the significance of places that may not be permanently dwelt in, but are vital none-the-less; and second, because it unsettles fixed notions of belonging. And it strikes me that challenging fixed ideas of belonging is incredibly important in the context of contemporary environmental change. It’s in this context that we need to learn how to better live with other humans and a more-than-human world under changing conditions.
I’ve written more extensively about the idea of a ‘passing-through place’ and my experiences as a SiteWorks participant in a recent article published in the journal ‘Cultural Geographies’.

KF: What you have said shows how ‘unsettling’ a fixed idea can be a constructive step to take. I am wary when I hear ‘The Story of X, Y, Z’ – all in capitals. Intellectually we might know that many different stories can be told but they do still jostle for position. We seem to shy away from complexity. Happy-endings can appeal – but for whom, where, and in what timescale?
I used a prompt from political ecology to work out how making ‘so-far stories’ can expand my human viewpoint. I borrowed this from the work of geographer Doreen Massey who asks us to think of landscape as an event, as a simultaneity of ‘stories-so-far’.  This is a sketchbook extract, written when drawing a thistle being blown in the wind.

kftextimage

Image 3: sketchbook extract © Kate Foster 2011

I know that geographical theory takes time and work to absorb, and believe that a rigorous and self-disciplined approach, learning from shared experience, is important. The idea of simultaneity (at different timescales) by-passes anthropocentrism. I set out artistically to attaining ‘ecocentrism’ but I am re-thinking this. I realise that learning about human environmental impact – and degradation – has also taught me more about what it is to be human. This is what I wrote in that article:

Unfinishable as they are, so-far stories may afford possibilities and juxtapositions that escape an aesthetic of despair. Of course the prompt might be anguish or anger, but fury and grief should not overwhelm quieter voices and tender ways of working, in order to acknowledge complexity.

KF: Claire, can you say more about how you use movement improvisation to explore place? Perhaps it’s best to be there with you to find out for ourselves! Does it help to document this kind of exploration? If so, how?

CP: There are several things here.
There is movement improvisation as a way of working that encourages an open, responsive and playful approach and doesn’t require that you follow a series of set steps. There is also the dancer whose body is a passing through place, a transformative place and place of flux. And there is the witness.
For me improvisation encourages thinking on your feet.  It is about responding to and being in relationship to – a person or a place or an object or an idea – at a given time, season and place.
It is a process towards finding ways to traverse, to move around, over, under and through that might offer opportunities to be in a slightly different relationship to place.  By not having to follow proscribed procedures and pathways it permits us to wander off the beaten track.
This way of working could suggest other ways to understand what place might or could be. It would certainly suggest that place is neither static nor singular but is in a state of becoming and is shaped by the interactions that take place there. If the dancer shifts – does the place not shift too?
For me this is a performative relationship.
Dancers are trained for years to literally place themselves and also to traverse, to pass through.
A dancer brings a different way of paying attention, an under_standing* that is corporeal, terrestrial and aerial.  Flux is where they are most at home.
Improvisation isn’t really something to be captured through documentation – it can be experienced, recalled and discussed but doesn’t take well to being fixed as it is thinking in action. The body ‘thinking’ through action.
It can though stimulate images, dialogue, writing.
I like the idea of a companion or witness, as their presence brings a creative eye to the process.
Improvisation is not a spectator sport but collaboration. The witness is there to look closely. They bring their eyes and ears and their presence. They are viewing points and can chose to shift their point of view and their focus of attention and so contribute to the improvisation.
The documentation lies somewhere in the dialogue between the dancer and the witness.

paxontkf

Image 4: Participants at Working the Tweed Riverside Meeting, August 2013. We were looking under a bridge to find traces of otters using the river and marking territory. Photo © Kate Foster 2013.

This conversation has begun to show how human geography, visual art and dance can interweave. Having glimpsed the insights that geographers can offer, our next discussion will be about why ‘more-than-human’ might be a helpful term that expands on traditional ideas of Nature.

References

http://smah.uow.edu.au/sees/eesstaff/UOW080115.html
http://www.bundanon.com.au/siteworks
http://www.bundanon.com.au/
http://cgj.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/05/17/1474474013487484.abstract
• Gibbs L In Press Arts-science collaboration, embodied research methods, and the politics of belonging: ‘SiteWorks’ and the Shoalhaven River, Australia. cultural geographies doi: 10.1177/1474474013487484 (published online 17 May 2013).

• Massey, D. 2006. ‘Landscapes as a Provocation: reflections on moving mountains. Journal of Material Culture, 11(1-2), pp. 33–48.

http://www.politicalecology.org/2012/01/responses-where-is-politics-in.html

Footnote

* When Claire Pençak speaks about under_standing, she gives it a certain emphasis. Translated into text, using the underscore intends to convey the idea that we stand from underneath – that standing is ‘feet up knowledge’.

Rights: Text © authors, Leah Gibbs, Claire Pençak, Kate Foster, unless otherwise stated. Images credited individually.

Cogsmill Burn – Slitrig – Teviot – Tweed: World Listening Day Reflections

I set off on the bicycle to find the junction of Cogsmill Burn and the Slitrig Water, which later joins the Teviot at the point where the heron fishes in Hawick.

Cogsmill Burn is my closest water way and runs a couple of fields away from the back of the house.

It passes Cogsmill Hall – the pink hall which will soon be pink no longer – and under a bridge – and somewhere between that point and before the pig farm it runs into the Slitrig.

From the road, the junction is concealed. Instinct suggested it was somewhere behind the big gated entrance to Stobs Estate.

The sound of flowing water is audible and a broken down wall offered a glimpse of it, so leaving the bike, it was a scramble down the bank to a shady river – which one, though? I thought the Slitrig, as it seemed unlikely the Cogsmill Burn would have widened quite so much in such a short distance, so upstream seemed the most likely direction to find the meeting place. The riverbanks were lush. I noted hawthorn, beech, ash , rhododendron, hogweed, campion, wild garlic, raspberry and dock.

Slitrig Water Photo Claire Pencak

It was difficult to move through, and the easiest way to make any distance was by taking to the river. I imagined this might have been how the first people moved up the tributary.

After a good ten minutes or so of slow river walking, there it was, the meeting place of the Cogsmill Burn and the faster flowing, more chattering Slitrig Water.

meeting cogsmill and slitrig

Listening is a continuous, subtle adjusting and shifting of your weight as your feet negotiate stony riverbeds.

River Listening

It is a state of opening up and out through all the senses.  A present tense state of being in complete attention. We might talk about listening with the soles of your feet, the sternum, the back of your neck.

July 2013 064

It occurred to me that it wasn’t the water that I was listening to but the flow, the passing of the water that sounded the stones and branches and plants that it moved over, under and by.

I thought I was hearing voices on a distant radio somewhere but this turned out to be the conversation of a specific combination of river, stone and branch in one specific place very close by.

flowing conversation in the Slitrig

The ‘over there’ and ‘out of sight’ of passing cars travelled to me as sound even though the road was up the bank and the other side of the wall.  I could hear the cars through the wall even though I couldn’t see the cars through the wall.

Dipping a long, slim branch into a faster part of the water and allowing it to be taken by the river whilst still holding the other end, it was easy to sense the rate and energy of the flow which seemed to want to take it with you. This was easier to experience through the medium of the branch than by placing my hand into the river. The energy of the flow could be more sensitively felt when channelled through the branch into the hand and arm and finally the spine, and I thought I could perhaps begin to understand what it must be like to know the river with a rod and line and knew that this was river listening too.

Later in the day I passed the junction of the Slitrig with the Teviot on its way to join the Tweed at Kelso.

slitrig meets teviot

 

The heron was riverside listening too.

Heron on Slitrig

 

Working the Tweed at the Border Union Show

Working the Tweed at Border Union Show.

Working the Tweed had a lovely weekend at the Border Union Show thanks to Tweed Foundation, Tweed Forum and the Border Union Agricultural Society, who let us share their marquee.

    ClaireatBUS3 small

We were placed next to a large map of the Tweed which belongs to Border Union Agricultural Society, and made an interesting contrast in scale to the Tweed Catchment maps drawn by Working the Tweed artist Kate Foster.

Kate’s maps caught people’s attention and imagination because they reveal the complexity and density of the Tweed catchment, which is the most dendritic in Europe. As one person noted, it looks just like a lung.

Knowing your River Border  Union Show CP

The maps are one element of Knowing your River, a family activity which encourages us to consider where we are each placed within the catchment and how the Border region is connected through the many burns and tributaries which eventually all meet and flow into the Tweed.

After a slight pause for thought, many people were able to find whereabouts they were located on the map, which shows the fantastic amount of river knowledge that people have in the Borders.

I liked this local river knowledge encapsulated in a verse:

The foot of the Breamish and the head of the Till
Meet together at Bewick Mill.

People used the catchment ink drawing to make a tracings which showed their river journey to Kelso if they had travelled there using the water ways. By adding other details of favourite haunts, activities and memories, these transformed into personal maps of stretches of the rivers. These will all feature in the Working the Tweed exhibition at Harestanes Countryside Visitors Centre, October 9th – 31st.

Jules Horne also collected ‘biological records’ about our visitors, along with what their local river means to them and what they might change if they could.

Making the most of having so many river specialist in the same space, we were introduced  to the art of tying  fish flies by Tweed Foundation, were entertained with lively conversations and stories by River Bailiffs Eric Hastings and Kenny Graham (below with Tracy Hall from Tweed Forum), and witnessed the difference that Natural Flood Management techniques can make to slowing down water as it moves through an area through the Tweed Forum’s comparative catchment models.

baiilffstraceysmall

Next weekend we will be at Kailzie Wildlife Festival, Kailzie Gardens.  http://www.kailziewildlife.org/

Blessing of the Nets, Paxton, May 1st 2013

A  sound recording of the Blessing of the Nets ceremony that took place on the banks of the Tweed at Paxton on May 1st 2013.

The Paxton netting station is one of the very few fisheries still operating  this traditional net and cobble method of salmon and trout fishing.

The first catch that evening was of  two large and one smaller sea trout. The first fish is always for the Minister and this was gutted and cleaned on the river side by George.

Thanks to the  Minister Bill Landale, for  permitting this recording and to Martha Andrews, Paxton House for inviting us along.

Click here to listen to Blessing of the Nets on Soundcloud – look for the orange ‘play’ button.   

Voice: David Mitchell, Selkirk Angling Club

Fishing flies are designed from the point of view of the fish – they’re meant to emulate beetles and flies, and look tasty from below the water line.

In this audio clip, David Mitchell of Selkirk Angling Club talks about different flies in his collection.

Here, he talks about the joys of trout fishing and wildlife on the River Tweed and tributaries.

This interview was recorded by Jules Horne to be part of the exhibition Where the Pools Are Bright and Deep on Selkirk Angling Club, by Scottish Borders Council Museums.

Where the Pools are Bright and Deep

Working the Tweed artists Kate Foster and Jules Horne have contributed to this exhibition which takes a delightful look at the joys and challenges of fly fishing on the Ettrick, Yarrow and Tweed.

Angling artefacts and curiosities from Scottish Borders Council Museums Service, Selkirk and District Angling Association and Private Collections.

Many thanks go to David Mitchell from Selkirk and District Angling Association for agreeing to be interviewed and to the Tweed Foundation  that gave their time to Kate and Jules to explain about their  fish scale research activities.

Robson Gallery
Friday 29th March – Sunday 5th May 2013
Mon- Sat 11 – 4pm
Sun 12 – 3pm

Sea Trout Seminar by the Tweed Foundation

7pm, Wednesday 27th March 2013

Ednam House Hotel, Kelso

The Tweed Foundation is holding a seminar on Sea-trout.

The FREE evening seminar will explore new and recent discoveries about the Tweed’s Sea-trout.

Over the past three years, as part of a international partnership study with countries bordering the North Sea, The Tweed Foundation and others have been working to further our understanding of Sea-trout movement and stock components.

Sea-Trout-Seminar-Mar-2013-Poster

 

Estonia Event with Working the Tweed Artists

Interested in finding out about international artists’ residencies? Come along to Hawick’s Tower Mill for a CABN event on Estonia by three of the Working The Tweed artists, who have spent time there.

Setu Michaelmas Celebrations4th April 2013 6.30-8.30pm
Room 205, Tower Mill, Heart of Hawick

In October 2012, Kate Foster, Jules Horne and James Wyness travelled from the Borders to spend two weeks working at the inspiring MoKS Centre for Art & Social Practice in Estonia, supported by the Creative Arts Business Network.

Teatri Kodu in EstoniaThis is a chance to hear firsthand about their experiences in Estonia, how they responded to the impressions and surroundings of MoKS, and more about how the MoKS model works. It’s also an opportunity to discuss how residencies develop artistic practice, and what links we can make now and in the future with international residency programmes. MoKS is set in Mooste – a very rural part of Estonia – and there were many intriguing parallels and differences with respect to the Borders.

This event is free and refreshments will be provided.MoKS in Estonia

To book a place, please email kay.mccluskey@scotborders.gov.uk before 28th March 2013.