By Sarah Butterworth, Glow Badbury Project Lead and Creative Director of Emerald Ant.
Navigating the currents of project management is normally my role, so it’s great to be given the chance to talk personally about my passion for this project.
I am an artist that works with groups and have done so since 1994 when I was involved in engaging children in painting murals in war-torn Bosnia. Having set up Emerald Ant in 2015 we find ourselves engaging children in learning about wildlife and their local history, through creativity. Art and history help us look at our ancestors and ourselves, and wildlife makes us kinder to the world outside of ourselves.
Environmental stewardship is what we are aiming for, so Glow Badbury is about being immersed in heritage and nature, learning from experts, interpreting, creating and celebrating as a community. We have a wonderful team doing this work.
My favourite part of our projects is running the workshops.
At 8.30 on Friday morning I stood in a barn in Shapwick. In front of me lay 4 wooden boards from which rose 8 hazel sticks; the beginnings of a roundhouse to be made with 12 year olds from St Michael’s Middle School. The hazel I had chosen over bamboo for the uprights, was a material more likely to be used by the local Celts, plus, its sinewy lines provide a natural woodland quality.
This 2m x 2.5m structure was being built to celebrate the Iron Age homes of the Durotriges people who lived on Badbury Rings, and it will accompany a live performance at the Glow Badbury event in September, created by Paper Cinema. As I stood there I was grappling with the usual questions of a workshop leader: Will they all be engaged? Is the group too big for the structure? Will they muck about? Do we have enough time to complete it? And, Ugh, is that a piece of old badger poo in the corner?
The task was to build the walls in 2 hours. I should never doubt the draw of large constructions – the group arrived and set to the challenge with vigour and teamwork, and I found myself standing in the middle of the structure handing out willow, as the walls formed. Before long, they stood back to admire their work, amazed it was already time to get back in the minibus. Their lines of willow beautifully mimicked the hazel, and they’d put in hobbit-like windows and a door, which allowed me to exit, phew.
Over lunch I scrambled together a basic roof structure, and the afternoon group arrived and built that, complete with willow roof tiles, before sitting inside to inspect their work.
Next week 2 more groups will work with paper and glue to cover the walls and roof, and when the lights are added it will become a very pretty, large lantern at the Glow Badbury event. The students provided written comments, such as the one below. It is always heartwarming to see how happy these projects make them feel.