This week, in the final report on this year’s Chudfest activities, Chudleigh Writers’ Circle Secretary, Diana Moyse talks about this year’s Church Exhibition and the contribution made by CWC members.
The exhibition, in Chudleigh Church, took place over the week of Chudfest. It was instigated by Leah Stirrat working with various community groups: SEARCH; Chudleigh WILD; U3A Photographers; Chudleigh Church flower arrangers; pupils at the Primary School; and Chudleigh Writers’ Circle working in collaboration with Newton Abbot Photographers.
The exhibition sought to raise awareness in our community of the positive aspects and benefits of living in our beautiful part of Devon, but also the threats to us and to all communities in the wider world, from climate change due to global warming and rising levels of pollution created by our life style choices.
A beautiful Tree of Life, a vibrant silk creation made by Jacqui Parkinson, dominated the altar screen. Native trees surrounding it were made by children from Chudleigh school and small animals and birds within the trees, were painted by Miniones (the church Toddler Group). The beautiful woodland scene complete with birdsong was marred by the presence of litter including plastic, cellophane and other non-degradable rubbish. A perfect visual metaphor for the on-going disaster approaching us of massive pollution poisoning and destruction of not just humans, but also the natural world.
The collaboration between Chudleigh Writers and Newton Abbot Photographers worked very well. Both groups rose to the challenge. Most of the writing was done in April in very warm weather; Easter weekend was recorded having the hottest temperature since records began. Many similar themes emerged in a significant number pieces about the wonders and enchantment of spring awakenings of garden plants, familiar beloved wild flowers, arrivals of migrants from Africa including the aerobatic swallows and swifts and in one story the arrival of an exotic African butterfly, off course in a Devon garden, causing excitement and some research by the writer.
A strong theme was the celebration of the wealth of flora and fauna which surrounds us in our lovely rural surroundings and questions as to how we can maintain habitat for wild life when most of our population lives in urban areas, where air pollution and green spaces are neglected or increasingly being developed for housing and industrial units and where people may have very little concept of the value and importance of sustaining wild life and bio diversity.
An amusing insight was The Woe Begotten Dandelion, a short reflection on how we tend to value some wild plants and others we cannot tolerate – the dandelion, colourful in full bloom and enjoyed by pollinators in early spring, seems in a flash to become the “feathery ball of seeds…poised to release its parachutes into the passing breeze”. This wonder disperses seeds far and wide leading to continuous bouts of weeding for the gardener. On a similar theme, My Place to Be describes the juxtaposition of a derelict area of land on the edge of the Chudleigh Rocks, “this cemetery of earlier life” contrasted with, “the huge Rock of the limestone quarry stretches into the sky. Its magnificent form is its own Angel of the South or God of the Valley below.” This overgrown place is loved by the writer as a habitat for many species of birds, insects and mammals and reflects the “tussle of life and decay, conservation and neglect ever battle…The circle of life embraces the soul of the earth”.
A dystopian future, Today is 10th July 2052 portrays mainland Britain as an empty arid and pesticide poisoned wasteland. Most people have died in the preceding ten years. Three surviving brothers protect and defend their source of spring water and forage for useful tools or comforts, like books and paper, from empty abandoned houses in a nearby town. They are starving, anticipating death. “A woman’s silhouette grows larger as it approaches.” The brothers and the reader are left with questions about a miracle? Hope? Renewal? Who is she?
Survival, a dramatic and wrenching story, vividly describes the conditions of a homeless woman who desperately shelters for the night in a derelict terraced house, not realizing that the house is due for demolition the next morning. Her desire is “… a few nights away from doorways stinking of urine and filled with rubbish, safe from the other street sleepers and the people who got their kicks from attacking the homeless.” She wakes, realizes the danger, as the bulldozer approaches, but is found by a worker just checking the place, so she is saved. This story reflects the appalling neglect of homeless people in our wealthy country, where speculation on land and housing development is a major driver of our economy.
In a similar vein, The Day It Rained tells a heart- wrenching story of a disastrous flood in a rural area of a developing country. “The red earth turned to mud, then to sludge; gradually it began to slide down the hillside like the coagulating blood of a corpse whose throat has been cut.” Two sisters and a brother live in the village. The elder sister looks out for her younger siblings. Torrential rain leads to a landslide sweeping away the hut and the entire village. The two sisters manage to escape but the young brother is swept away. The story dramatically portrays the increasing effects of global warming caused by rising temperatures, triggered mainly by the burning of fossil fuels.
Rebellion is an amusing reference to recent events. It’s a story about a couple, a vicar and his wife, who decide to take part in the Extinction Rebellion demonstration which took in London in the spring. They are arrested and held briefly in custody. We discover the tension at the heart of their relationship.
“You see the world in souls “, she’d said.
“And you in trees – does not every tree have a soul?”
“Of course! Isn’t that the point?”
“Then if you believe that, why can’t you believe in one true creator?” he said.
“The mother is glorious AND, unlike your all-seeing God, she regenerates every year”.
…You need a congregation, I don’t. The forest is my church, every tree flower and person a worship of Her Bounty, the fulfillment of a circle of gifts”.
It is clear “He smiled at her then, loving her passion…their differences brought them together”. Epiphany! The couple get huge respect from their son and daughter when they arrive back home to Totnes. They pledge to change their way of living, to limit their impact on our planet. This is the dilemma and the ultimate challenge to all of us in developed and economically emerging countries.
How important Are You? is a challenging factual piece of writing regarding population growth statistics, quantifying the variety of species in the world and statistics quantifying the magnitude of the galaxy. “Earth is but one planet orbiting around a star which itself is only one of 100 to 400 billion stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way.” The writer questions, and invites the reader to question, man’s significance. “We might console ourselves with the belief we are significant to our immediate circle of family and friends and at least known to our wider family and acquaintances. But these numbers are small, negligible in proportion to the number of human beings on the planet.” This piece makes disturbing reading in relation to the issues related to our world – population distribution, great wealth, mass poverty, climate change, temperatures rising, water shortages pollution of our air and water and survival of our species. Will this overpower us?
The Newton Abbot photographers did a great job at interpreting the stories. Most pictures were montages of several images to portray the complexity and feeling of the writing. The photos augmented and complimented the issues and situations that emerged through the writing. There were vibrant pictures of wild-life; swallows in flight across fields mirroring the story My World. The photo accompanying Spring Notes featured a series of unconnected pieces of a jigsaw puzzle each with a wild life image – a lady bird, a hedgehog, a thrush on a lawn, a speckled toad in a damp place, a bug hotel, a damsel fly on a pond plant and more. Pieced together it showed the ways we can conserve and make habitats to attract more wildlife to our gardens and wider community areas, which was the central theme of the writing.
Little Boxes was an amazing photo of a hillside of newly built houses in a rural setting. A Butterfly Moment depicted the writer hanging out her washing with the African Blood Red Butterfly fluttering above. The photo accompanying Rebellion portrayed the earth with cupped hands around and beneath it, as if to protect the earth, but not touching and restricting it. These could be the hands of God and I was reminded of the chorus, “He’s got the whole world in his hands”, yet it made me think also, that mankind has the power within our hands to protect and stop further disastrous damage to our world. This cleverly reflected the message of the story. The Survival photo was created by merging two images and showed the homeless woman sleeping in the cold, dark, bleakness, of the derelict building.
Comments from visitors to our CWC and Newton Abbot Photographers collaboration were very positive. Several people came over to congratulate us for the writing and skillful and beautiful photos. Thanks goes to the writers from CWC who came up trumps with the varied and insightfully-written pieces. It was not an easy topic to cover. Thanks also go to the Photographers and the difficult task they had of a very prescribed brief dictated by the writing. Speaking to some of them, it was a thought- provoking task but also allowed them to use their technical expertise. Thank you also to all the people involved in stewarding during the week and to Anne, Gordon, other photographers, Leah who supported me in the set- up of our joint project.
Chudleigh Writers included:
Jenny Raffan My World
Maureen Williams A Butterfly Moment and Little Boxes
Diana Moyse Spring Notes
Manny Lewis My Place to Be
Peter Whittle The Woe Begotten Dandelion
Sharon Cook Rebellion
Steve Male How Important Are You?
Elizabeth Ducie The Day It Rained
Suzanne McConaghy Survival
Celia Moore Today Is 10th July2052