Wednesday, 12 September 2018


A bit of cycledelia for starters...

The Cycling Tour of Britain was due to pass through Ulverston on September 7th, and the stages across the country were marked with various artworks including bike designs on fields and the sides of hills.

Alex and me were asked to make one in the shadow of the Sir John Barrow Monument. We made various suggestions as to a safe and temporary material and in the end went for some recyclable layflat drainage tubing and several hundred tent pegs. The design came from a local school, the weather was decent, and by the time I'd been convinced to stick with the original site and scale (sorry mate) it was an enjoyable task.

We decided to avoid paths, bracken and rocks, and we needed space so the angle was the best on offer. And I should say that, yes, if you draw something with two large circles underneath something like Hoad Monument then you had better expect consequences, from some angles at least.

We were joined by spectators, well-wishers and even helpers (thanks to Emily, and to Simon, Sam, Theo and Sonny) These pics (larger images by Lindsay Ward) tell something of the story, and Paul Leviston's drone pic shows the finished piece.

It came down yesterday, having been up for a week. It's been well received, and featured strongly in the live ITV coverage, which gave the Tour, Ulverston - and us - an audience of millions.

Our thanks to UTC, Les Tallon the Monument Keeper, for the use of the Monument as store room and workshop, and to Townlands, Alan Edmondson and his sheep for the use of the land.


The latest arts session  from the SJB3 project takes place at the Sir John Barrow Cottage on Sunday 23rd Of September from 11am to 3pm.

Artist Ellie Chaney will be presenting a printmaking workshop in which visitors can design personal Book Plates inspired by those found in Sir John Barrow's books. You will learn simple printing techniques and  make some attractive and useful work, all in the unique and atmospheric of this beautiful 18th Century cottage at Dragley Beck.

Admission is free, materials are provided, and while the session is suitable for all ages and levels of experience children should be accompanied by an adult.

The SJB3 project is organised by Artspace and is supported by Arts Council England, The Sir John Fisher Foundation, Townlands Trust and Ulverston Town Council. 

Monday, 13 August 2018


After seeing an example of Anna Marie Truter's botanical drawing during the course of Ellie's research it was clear that a drawing session at the Cottage would be appropriate.  In the absence of much of Truter's work, what better way to introduce and provide context for her story than to invite people to produce new work of their own.

And so on sunday Ellie Chaney invited visitors to meet in Truter's husband's family garden to search among its plants and overgrowth, and record what they found.

Drawing is fundamental; it's a way of  developing an understanding of the world by examining it and giving an account of what you see. A way of defining the relationship between you and what isn't you.

It can be difficult and requiring of a cold eye. It can be a way of passing on primary information about personal experience or objective reality.
Equally, it can provoke a shared experience.
And if you work in other disciplines, requiring a different kind of enquiry or response  it can be like calling home.

As always we also had a number of visitors who were there to see the cottage. Dan from Greenlane arrived to work on the garden, and when the session moved indoors to avoid the rain there were questions and conversations about the building, books opened and passed around, and addresses exchanged.

Ellie's session was a great example of what we are trying to do here, to reposition the cottage as a living space with a role in the life of the town. A site for creativity, expression and serious intent, but not just something colonised by artists. Something accessible and available, to be examined and remade by whoever walks through the door.

And the drawings produced were really good.  Scroll down for more pictures.

More of this I think.

"Lovely relaxing afternoon. Great to be given space to get back into drawing with no pressure."

"A very enjoyable time spent observing in the garden. Very tranquil."

"Fascinating. Definately taught me to look at plants in more detail."

Wednesday, 8 August 2018


Coming up, Sunday the 12th at the Cottage.
Come and meet Ellie Chaney, explore the cottage garden and take part in her free drawing workshop...
All comers welcome, Children should be accompanied by an adult.
Use your own materials or ours.

Saturday, 28 July 2018


I put a mic under the velux last night and woke to find  a recording of screaming gulls and the first hours of a storm. Towards the end there's just a series of oddly rhythmic bumps and shuffles that made me wonder if I'd just subjected a sensitive mic to several hours of sustained abuse.

The mic is fine though, so it could be the response of a fading battery, either way it made for interesting listening for Alex and me this morning while the next few gallons poured down onto the cottage.

Between deluges we still had visitors. Some have become regulars. Others have been drawn by stories of renovation and a feel for period detail, or are curious about the open door into a childhood mystery.
A camper wandered up from Bardsea; liked the building and the 'obby 'oss but declined a look into the attic...

Ah yes, the 'oss.  The 'oss has grown a jaw, and will soon be up and about on poles.  Nine feet plus of occupied hollow, set to bend and sway  under drapery and a winter sky.

Thursday, 26 July 2018


It's been a sunny day in Ulverston and the cottage was the best place to cool down, chat and make something sweet, colourful and nut-free if required with Lindsay Ward and her assistant Emily.

Our neighbours brought flowers to brighten the room, Iain was on hand with the introductions and the local knowledge, and soon one half of the cottage was buzzing with talk about Sir John, the Ice Age, The Isle Of Man and the the Roman occupation while in the other half our visitors sat down with Lindsay and Emily and got to work..

There is something very pleasing about making a small pear from marzipan...I had first bananas weren't quite as successful...

We'll be in the cottage again on saturday (July 28th), this time with Alex. The plan is to walk his 9ft high 'obby' 'oss around the garden.
Iain will be on hand next thursday with his books, artefacts and arcane  knowledge, and on August 11th, Ellie Chaney will be hosting a drawing session.
Look out for more information.

So, plenty going on at The Sir John Barrow Cottage.

Luckily Emily provided a visitors comments book for today..

"an unexpected surprise for us to take part in some wonderful marzipan fruit decorating. Thank you."

" tuition from Emily Ward and Lindsay, Emily's mum."

Come and see us.

Saturday, 21 July 2018


Well, that went well.
Many thanks to all who took part in Lexi's felting session today, and to Ulverston Library for hosting this and the exhibition of her work.
Hopefully we can do some more of these sessions.. there's clearly plenty of interest and skill
out there.

Great work Lexi.

Thursday, 19 July 2018


Lots of Ulverston people remember the Sir John Barrow Cottage as a sweet shop, and for one day only, on Thursday July 26th, it will be again. Kind of.

Lindsay Ward and her junior assistant will be running a Marzipan Fruit Sweets kitchen, where visitors will be able to make tiny sweets with marzipan and food colouring as part of our shared open day with Green Lane Archaeology and Historian Iain McNicol.

Iain opens the cottage to visitors every thursday. Last week a group of Year Three boys and girls from SJB school arrived, and Iain says some have made return visits, and acted as Guide to their little brothers and sisters.

On Saturday July 28th John and Alex will be in the cottage, where you'll have a chance to see how  Alex's 'obby 'oss is progressing. More on that to follow.

Iain will be in the cottage on thursday from 11am till 4pm, and Lindsay will be on hand to make sweets with you from 11am till 2pm, for as long as stocks last.
A warning though; marzipan contains nuts.

Alex and John will be on hand on saturday from 10 till 2.

Monday, 16 July 2018


"A medley of bags from the Year 6 class I worked with at Sir John Barrow, what a fabulously creative and determined class they were."

This is the last week at SJB  and as Lexi's project ends we hear that the children will be loading up their new Drawstring Bags with souvenirs of their time in Year Six.

I called in today to catch what was Lexi's final session, and the last of our whole programme. 

The plan was to demonstrate new skills  that could be revisited and re-applied as the children progress through school, and to provide the school staff with some thorough and process-based  lesson plans that can be used, re-used, adapted and re-adapted. 

Alex, Lexi, Dominic and me have all enjoyed our time at SJB enormously. We all believe wholeheartedly in the value of the arts at all levels of education and we will do anything we can to support our local schools in their efforts to introduce and develop art and craft skills in our young people, along with the early signposting that might just set someone out there on a career path.  
We hope we can keep the relationship going; we will be meeting soon to discuss how it can be done. 

In the meantime, show off those bags, soon-to-be erstwhile Year Sixers, and get some use out of them. Lovely work.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018


Dominic Kelly and the Year Three children have been working hard on their Stories and their Story-Telling techniques, and at 10.30 on Saturday morning this weekend they will be in the Supper Room at Coronation Hall as part of the Furness Tradition Folk Festival, sharing the bill with internationally renowned musicians, dancers and other storytellers...including Dominic himself who will be performing in the afternoon.

We are also happy to be able to pay for two tickets to our show for the families of each of the children who are performing. If that's you, the school will be getting in touch.

The festival is in its 2Oth year now, and it's one of the highlights of the year...we are all very proud to be involved. Here's the festival website, where you can find full details of the weekend programme..

And here's a message from Dominic...
"Over recent weeks the children have been storyboarding their tales and this last week we’ve opened up a little toolbox of techniques for bringing the storytelling to life in front of an audience: how to go in and out of characters, play with the speed and volume of their telling, and use their physicality to make it even more fun.

The children have divided into groups and each group has decided for themselves how they would like to split the storytelling between themselves. They’ve been rehearsing - and also filming to evaluate how their own storytelling performance is progressing. On Friday we’ll have a last rehearsal in the Supper Room of the Coronation Hall, where the groups will get used to how we’ll run our ‘storyfair’ event the next day. And then on Saturday morning they’ll be performing their stories in front of live audiences for the first time!"

Exciting business....we shall see you there.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018


Just back from a visit to SJB and Lex Blakeway's latest textile session with Year Six. There was a real sense of concentration and thoughtfulness in the room, with the children  caught up in the rhythms of the job in hand.  Every now and then you heard someone singing to themselves, sometimes a hand would go up and Lex,
Ms Davison and their supporters would move around the room offering advice and help on cutting patterns and fixing the children's designs to their bags.

The work looks lovely; we have the personalised needle books with their combinations of stitchcraft, beadwork, colour and surface and now the bags are on their way, with motifs ranging from initials, hearts, a pair of octopus and a few World Cup inspired combinations of red and white.

This isn't an easy process, and as we've said elsewhere during these sessions, if the process isn't followed then the work won't hold up. These children understand that, and are combining important crafting skills with decisions on colour and texture and applying them to a practical end.

No wanting to disturb, I took my photos from  a distance, but when anyone got up in search of beads, buttons or pins I asked how they
were finding the project and if they were having fun..some had found it easier than others,but were pleased with their progress, some  beamed with delight
in what they were doing and at what they had produced.
All were engaged, sure of getting help when they needed it, all getting the time to work through the process and find pleasure in it.