Published on July 2nd, 2014 | by Jennifer Jones0
Creative Voices in Dumfries: Place, Walking and Home
Below is the second in a series of guest posts from creative writing tutor Andrea McNicoll who has been facilitating a series of workshops with communitiy groups in Rutherglen, Dumfries, Paisley and Kilmarnock as part of the Digital Commonwealth Creative Voices project.
The second round of creative writing workshops started in Dumfries on the 8th of February. My colleague, David Manderson, and I spent the day with members of the Dumfries and Galloway Multicultural Association. Nine participants came to the first workshop – eight women and one man – from India, Pakistan, Bulgaria, Holland and the UK. Dave started the session with a creative exercise based around the concept of ‘walking’ – which he explains here:
Over the last year or so I’ve developed research around the theme of walking and creative writing along with my colleague Louise Barrett at the University of the West of Scotland. It’s a piece of work that’s gone down well at conferences, festivals and other events throughout the UK – but I’ve never felt such pleasure anywhere else when it met with such a great response at the creative writing workshop in Dumfries. After running through the history of walking in the country in creative writing from Rousseau to Wordsworth, we turned our attention to the more sinister art of walking in the city, with all its connotations of ‘skulking’, ‘loitering’ and ‘lurking’ through the practice of the flaneur to the ambient drifting of the Situationists in mid-twentieth century Paris, the great city of walking, and of revolution. After that, because it was bucketing down outside, we tried the art of mental walking, with participants being asked to produce a piece of creative writing based on one of their favourite walks, either in Scotland or their home country.
The session resulted in some fantastic pieces of writing that some of the participants felt comfortable enough to share with the group. Here are a couple of extracts from longer pieces:
Today the sun is shining. The frost on the grass glistens and glitters – no rain today!
The tits are enjoying their breakfast on the birdfeeder. A few sparrows are waiting for their turn in the hedge. A robin forages for the fallen seeds on the ground.
I close the door behind me, put my gloves on and my ear band – the wind is cold.
The smell of frost in the air. Snowdrops.
The water in the burn gurgles and spills its salty innards onto the braille tarmac, as if reaching out to touch the broken flow of the white lines. As I reach the top of the hill, I hear the cows groan into the dusk, stamping their hooves on concrete stalls as they edge their warm mouths through the metal bars towards the feeding trough. Their breath puffs into the cold air and I inhale their dreams of sunshine and buttercups.
I returned to Dumfries on March 5th to deliver another workshop around the themes of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ to the DGMA women’s group. I asked the participants to bring with them a precious item that evokes for them the notion of ‘home’. Again, this exercise elicited some beautiful responses, extracts of which are included below:
My Little Box
Green wooden box covered by colourful folk calligraphy decorates my room. It reminds me of my home. My home is my country – Poland.
Sometimes I open the box and smell it. It has a fragrance of wood, which takes me easily to the wonderful, holiday moments of my childhood.
One day I went to Wisla in southern Poland, a village which is situated in Beskid mountain range. This is a place where I enjoy freedom from the every day turmoil in peace and silence.
In this small piece of wood is contained so many memories. Whenever I take him in hand I am moving to happy days of my childhood. Was beautiful, sunny spring and I spent most of the time in the woods, next to the home of my grandparents. I collected flowers, wading in mosses. However, most I liked to look at the sun tilting of the trees.
The object which reminds me of home is this ordinary wooden spatula. It is old – it was old even when I first used it – and worn from long years of use. Home for me means family, and cooking countless meals for them. I have spent many hours using this spatula in my kitchen, stirring soups , frying onions and garlic to make a pasta sauce, or lifting the edges of omelettes and pancakes.
Best of Egypt
When I close my eyes and think of what makes me happy, I will see Egypt and its amazing places, kind people, wonderful weather, seashores, ancient temples and different cultural places. I feel at home. Home is Egypt. When I think of Egypt, the first place that comes to my mind is Cairo.
I would like to introduce you to my dress, my magnificent Technicolor Boubou; my hand made tie-dye dress, finished off with elaborate embroidery all the way round the neckline. My dress which normally hangs forlorn in the wardrobe of my Dumfries home, almost forgotten, does not seem to belong there. It is strangely out of place among the jackets, cardigans and warm wooly scarves; yet I keep it hanging there through all the seasons, a memento of home, of Ghana, my native country.