Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Wild Spaces, Wild Magic

Wednesday, 22 November 2017


Mat Tobin and Nick Swarbrick of the School of Education have been looking at the potential of a cross-disciplinary approach to the exploration of myth, landscape and creative writing experiences for school pupils, students and academics across a range of subjects. After an extended visit in 2016 (blogged here) to places and spaces within the work of British fantasy writer Alan Garner; this led to a two-day workshop around writing and reading the landscape in the Peak District.

With colleagues Dr Jane Spiro, Dr Roger Dalrymple and Debbie Wright, they trialled the project focusing on the story of Gawain and the Green Knight (which appears frequently in Alan Garner’s work).

The weekend consisted of two parts:

The first part involved digitally mapping the location of Gawain’s encounter with the Green Knight at the Green Chapel. Using a 360 camera, the location was mapped by Mat Tobin and uploaded to Google Earth, with the hope of creating virtual experiences of literary landscapes for students, academics and school pupils.

The second part involved a structured approach to reading the landscape which began with an initial exploration of the site. Each member discussed their experience of travelling through the space, commenting on memories, ideas and emotions it evoked. This was followed with a reading of the passage from Gawain in which he enters the Green Chapel. Readings were lifted from several different versions of the text (listen here). The Green Chapel was revisited, in order to take notes, photos and videos to support a creative piece of writing.

Debbie Wright said of the experience “Placing myself in the position of writer allowed me to consider the pressures we put on young children when we ask them to write within the classroom environment.”

With funding, it is envisaged that this project will continue across faculties so that writers/educators/academics can each bring different skills, interests and knowledge domains to the reading experience. A future question being: Can a collaborative multi-disciplinary, experiential reading event involving students, staff and pupils, provide meaningful opportunities to reconnect with and understand the landscape?

The Green Chapel 360 walk can be accessed here