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Magical Mystery Tour – Pennines 14 – 17th March

Sir, sir, me sir, pick me!

Sir, sir, me sir, pick me!

I get to travel a lot in this line of work, and often I’m dashing up and down the country to cover bookings in wildly disparate locations. A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be booked by Pennine Prospects, a company that aims to promote the regeneration of the Pennine region. I demonstrated for them at the Nell Bank Centre on the 14th, at the Castleshaw Outdoor Education Centre near Oldham on the 15th and at Bradford University on the 17th of March. What was I doing on the 16th? Hurtling down the M1 to run two adult workshop sessions at the British Museum before piling back into the car and heading back to Yorkshire! It was a hectic four days but a great deal of fun, and I got to see first hand the impact that a company like Pennine Prospects has on local communities.

You can read about the day at Nell Bank here, so after a night in the gorgeous historic town of Haworth it was on to the Castleshaw Outdoor Centre, for a day of demonstrations with young children from local schools. I’m constantly delighted by how eager and interactive the kids at my demos are, they come out with some very good questions and often have a fresh way of looking at prehistoric life that keeps me on my toes! The facilities at Castleshaw are excellent, and like Nell Bank, it’s sited in a dramatic and striking landscape. I didn’t manage to circulate very much during the day to investigate the other activities, as I had several groups to get through, but I did see lots of children suiting up in waterproofs and clambering up a climbing wall. Judging by the noise, they were thoroughly enjoying themselves despite the rain!

Bashing rocks can be a surprisingly loud experience!

Bashing rocks can be a surprisingly loud experience!

With the first two days completed, it was into the car for the journey to London. I love running workshops and demonstrations at the British Museum; even though I’ve been there many times, and have worked at Franks House (where the prehistoric collections not on display in the main museum are kept), I still get a feeling of awe at replicating stone tools at the home of such of an impressive collection of originals. The schedule at the BM was two sessions of workshops for adults; I make a handaxe or spearhead usually, to show the general principles and techniques of knapping, and then it’s hands on time for the participants. The piece of flint I had with me for the first session turned out to be exceptionally good, and I’ll be writing about what I made with it in an upcoming post. Both groups of adults were a joy to teach, very keen and engaged with the topic and it wasn’t long before they were turning out museum quality replica hide scrapers. An unexpected pleasure was Jill Cook dropping in and contributing with an impromptu talk about lithics. Jill is currently masterminding the amazing Ice Age Art exhibition at the British Museum, and has just published the wonderful and lavishly illustrated Ice Age art: arrival of the modern mind which really brings the exhibits to life.

Flint knapping? Yeah, you want the next room along on the right.

Flint knapping? Yeah, you want the next room along on the right.

London booking taken care of, the last in my March magical mystery tour was on campus at Bradford University. This was a much more freewheeling affair, with lots of demonstrators present, and the visitors circulating from area to area, experiencing a range of activities at their own pace. The directions to where I was to set up were certainly more intriguing than the usual; down the hall, past the dinosaurs, if you bump into the Vikings, you’ve gone the wrong way. Not only were there archaeologists present, but local craftsmen and women, artists, geological societies and the National Trust.

The drawing together of the community for these few days was great to see; I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Yorkshire with Pennine Prospects, and I hope to be back in God’s Own Country again soon!

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