Our latest pop-up writing workshop saw a group of 26 members
(and a few new faces) join Neil Baker and John Simmons for a walk in the woods.
Becca Magnus reports back on this writing ramble inspired by 26 Trees.
One unseasonably damp June afternoon,
writers from across London and beyond traversed across the muggy city to find
inspiration among the trees of Highgate Woods.
This particular wood is a curious area. On the border of the well-to-do
hills of North London and rural Middlesex, these ancient woods have stood in
quiet contemplation since the late 17th
century. The shambles of London have grown around proud oaks and wily
hornbeams, drawing fellow ramblers, flaneurs and writers from across the city
to rest in their shade.
Like many wanderers before us, we
ventured into the woods to connect and reconnect. Led by Neil Baker and John
Simmons, we started with a discussion on the nature of trees and gentle
exercises in free writing and haiku. Trees communicate through their roots,
sensing and reacting as one to micro changes in the environment. They notice, and
through free writing, we remember to notice as well.
Moving from the collective to the
individual, we moved among the trees deep in the wood, asking ourselves ‘If I
were a tree, what would I do?’ Unusual questions provoke interesting answers,
and the responses covered everything from self-love to finding childlike
wonder, in a cracking line from Faye Sharpe:
“If I were a tree, I would grow down
before I grow up”
After musings over tea, we took
inspiration from Mary Oliver’s poem ‘Last
night the rain spoke to me’ to create our own pieces, weaving our words with
hers to create an original piece that we shared with each other. Just as Oliver’s
poem mindfully and joyfully explores a moment in nature, our own pieces
explored how trees had influenced our words. My own piece explored the moment
when we observe nature, and it observes us back:
Today the trees spoke to me, whispers of curiosity from root to leaf as I shook a branch to make acquaintance. A thrum of recognition, a polite twigshake. Then it was over.
We left pubwards, with a renewed sense
of connection to each other, to nature, and perhaps to this greater thing
called writing too. It was lovely to give a warm welcome to old faces and new,
to make new connections and to revel in our love of words over tea, cake and
soggy branches. Until the next ramble.
– Becca Magnus
We’re hoping to do more of these
pop-up writing workshops, so keep your eyes peeled! Or, if you have any ideas
for future events, get in touch.