“In the course of a walk, we usually find out something about our
companion, and this is true even when we travel alone.”
-Thomas A. Clark (from In Praise of Walking)
After weeks of heat and dryness, the forecast was for rain on August 11th, the day chosen for our workshop. Despite that, ten of us went along to spend the day with award winning poet Char March. It didn’t rain, we had sunshine, and a very special workshop.
The place was Hirst Wood near Saltaire in West Yorkshire, and we began gently with a 15 minute meander into the wood, examining the physical process of moving, collecting impressions “as an artist mixes her pallet”. We shared these impressions, then worked on them, together with prompts from Char, who interspersed our writing with facts about Hirst Wood, pointing out the glacial moraine it had grown on, encouraging us to consider its ancient beech trees, to slip in a reference to 1950, to make up our own “fact” about the wood...
We shared our efforts again, then took a tea break at the nearby cafe, and read Thomas A. Clark’s fabulous poem “In Praise of Walking” out loud together. Suggested by group member Bruce Barnes, this had been the seed and the starting point of our workshop. We each chose a line from it that spoke to us, and walked and wrote and shared again.
By now time was running away with us, so we walked back to Saltaire, along the canal, under instructions to notice the people we met on the way, with a view to writing about them, and congregated for food and drinks in the Dandelion Cafe, (where they sold Andalusian Gazpatcho, which I live in hopes of slipping into a poem one day).
After reading back our poems about the imagined inner lives of the characters we’d met on our journey to the cafe, we finished by gifting each other a line from the day’s work, with a view to using that line as the title of a poem for homework.
Apart from being great to be out writing in the open air, this workshop worked really well in fulfilling its aim of encouraging more people to be involved in our Lapidus group. For 5 of the people it was their first West Yorkshire Lapidus workshop, so it was great to see new faces, as well as core members who have been regulars. Char was on brilliant form as a group leader, relaxed and sensitive to people’s needs, but also full of energy and ideas about writing. Her comments on each person’s pieces were really interesting for everyone to hear, and full of insight. By the end the day it felt we’d become a close group, looking forward to seeing each other again next time.
Terry Simpson is from Leeds, where he still lives. He has edited several collections of stories and poetry, including Doorways in The Night, Stories From The Threshold Of Recovery, Local Voices, (2004). Two of his plays about the mental health system have been filmed for use on OU courses.