Flash and further!

We’ve had a glorious morning. Yesterday, snow covered the branches and walls. Last night there was a hard frost. Our village awoke to a cloudless blue sky, winter sun struggling to melt the frozen snow, sending fine showers of flakes drifting from the trees on to passers-by. The air was bitterly cold despite the sun’s efforts, and my morning walk with the neighbour’s fat dog was a joy – provided one avoided slipping on the ice.

Last Saturday, in contrast, was wet and dreary when I set off around 11 a.m. to drive to Flash, allegedly the highest village in England, which residents claim enjoys ‘nine months of winter and three of bad weather’. As I drove through Buxton, fifteen miles south of my home, the rain turned to sleet. When I left the town to drive up the Axe Edge road towards Leek, the sleet turned to snow, and as I climbed to the top of the moor I was in thick cloud and needed my fog lamps. But my journey was well rewarded. In the Traveller’s Rest at Flash I met the wonderful Mrs Doreen Hailes, organiser of the Flash Luncheon Club, to discuss our application for a grant to support the film project.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Tim Knebel of Peak in the Past hopes to work with me to make films of Peak District folktales, with me as teller, and of events in local history. We’re focussing on South West Peak – the Staffordshire Moorlands area, which includes Flash – because that’s the region for which we have a chance of securing a grant. Our hope is to involve the local village communities, of which there are many in the area, in two ways. First, I want to exchange stories with them: I can tell them traditional tales from the Peak District that they might not know, and with any luck they’ll reciprocate by telling me folktales that are new to me. Also, we want to hear the reminiscences of older residents; Tim and his colleagues have collected many of these from other parts of the Peak District. Second, we want to involve the village communities, particularly young people recruited from schools and colleges, in making the films; partly by taking part in dramatisations and re-enactments and partly by hands-on involvement in the film making itself. The objective is to help preserve the local traditional culture – and also to enhance the children’s education.

Mrs Hailes was enthusiastic and I believe she’ll be a great supporter of our aims. She plans to introduce us to older residents with stories to tell, and to mention our project to other people in the area. Also, we’ve arranged for me to deliver a storytelling performance to the Luncheon Club later this year. I might sell copies of my book and CD at that event, but I’ve insisted (as I always do) that proceeds from ticket sales should go to local causes, such as the restoration of the village hall.

Meanwhile, I have appointments to meet other contacts in South West Peak, including the villages of Onecote (famous for its headless horseman) and Swythamley (close to Lud’s Church, traditionally the site of the Green Chapel in ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’); and early in March I’m due to do a storytelling gig in Butterton, just a few miles from Onecote. I shall keep my eyes peeled for the headless horseman when I drive there.

Perhaps today’s splendid winter weather appeared in celebration of our progress so far with the project. Onwards and upwards.


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