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The Cultural Spring has unveiled its new summer creative
I’m delighted to once again be offering calligraphy workshops in South Shields, but there’s plenty of other activities to get involved in.
The Cultural Spring is funded by the Arts Council England to
improve access to the arts in Sunderland and South Tyneside and has been
running since 2014.
Its latest programme brings the second phase of the project
to a close, although a funding bid has been submitted for a third phase.
Calligraphy workshops return to The Cultural Spring programme
Music and performance activities include Social Singing at
Back on the Map in Sunderland, Find Your Voice at Perth Green Community
Association in Jarrow and Theatre and Performance at Grindon Church Community
Project in Sunderland.
A Spectacular Drag Storytime has also been programmed in
conjunction with Curious Arts, with performances taking place at The Customs
House in South Shields and The fans Museum in Sunderland on Wednesday, July 3.
Hendon Writing Group meets at Back on the Map in Sunderland
and photographer Jo Howell runs a photography club at her studio in Whickham
Textiles and crafts activities include Fun with Fabrics:
Glorious Gardens at St Luke’s Church in Sunderland, Creative Crafts at Perth
Green Community Association in Jarrow and Printing on Fabrics at Sunderland
There’s also ceramics at Marsden Road Health and Well-being
Centre in South Shields, Upcycling Furniture classes at Parker Trust in
Sunderland and glass fusing at Monkton Park Methodist Church in Jarrow.
Have fun with fabrics with The Cultural Spring
A series of Clean and Green workshops are also being
supported by Sunderland City Council’s Strategic Initiative Budget, including
Family Eco-crafts, Pl-abric Bunting and Banner Making and Creative Gardening
You can also learn to play the ukulele and take part in
storytelling workshops in the city.
The Cultural Spring’s Go and See tours this summer include
trips to the Mining Art Gallery and Auckland Tower in Bishop Auckland on
Saturday, June 15 and Dippy on Tour: A Natural History Adventure at Great North
Museum: Hancock on Friday, July 19.
For full listings and booking details, visit www.theculturalspring.org.uk, where you can also read a guest blog from me about working with The Cultural Spring.
A rare day off allowed me to explore the pop-up exhibition at Newcastle City Library inspired by the British Library’s Writing: Making Your Mark exhibition.
Family-friendly displays accompanying
the main exhibition have been launched in over 20 partner libraries throughout
the UK, through the Living Knowledge Network.
The one in Newcastle shines a light on
the work of Thomas Bewick and Leo Wyatt, among others, with information boards
on two floors of the building.
The first part of Writing: Making Your Mark at Newcastle City Library
The introduction reads: “Inspired by
the new British Library exhibition on the history of writing, we’ve explored
our library collections and discovered a wealth of information about the
history of writing and printing.
“We’ve focused on the history of
printing and the first English printer, William Caxton, one of the most famous
north east printers, Thomas Bewick, the renowned calligrapher Leo Wyatt, the
art of the tattoo and examples of patented writing instruments, like the Biro.
“We’ve also been loaned examples of
early writing from the Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums.”
Examples of work by and tools belonging to calligrapher Leo Wyatt
It was a shame not to see any original
items on display, but a selection of Leo Wyatt’s tools, donated by his daughter
in 2009, were on show.
Leo was an engraver and calligrapher,
born in London in 1909. He studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and
worked in Leeds, Bristol, Edinburgh and London before emigrating to South
Africa in 1947.
He moved back to the UK in 1961 and
settled in the north east, lecturing in the Faculty of Art at Newcastle
Polytechnic. He gained fam as a bookplate engraver both in England and the
US.he died in 1981 in Jesmond, Newcastle.
Examples of his work can be found in a
number of institutions, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and
within the Newcastle Libraries collection, examples of which are on display in
the pop-up exhibition.
Writing: Making Your Mark
Writing: Making Your Mark is a
landmark British Library exhibition, spanning 5,000 years of writing, from
carved stone initials, medieval manuscripts and early printed works to
beautiful calligraphy, iconic fonts and emojis.
The exhibition is accompanied by a
programme of events, including talks, performances and walking tours, as well
as a richly-illustrated book celebrating the act of writing from across the
Adrian Edwards, lead curator of Writing: Making Your Mark at the
British Library, said: “From street signs to social media, writing surrounds us
in the modern world and reflects the diversity of everyone who uses it around
“In the 5,000 years since speech was
first turned into symbol, written communication has stimulated innovations as
varied as the printing press and smart phones.
“Today, however, new technologies allow
us to replace written words with pictures, videos and voice recordings.
Making Your Mark at the
British Library asks what the future holds for writing and how we will choose
to make our mark in the decades to come.”
Viewing the oldest item in the British Library exhibition
Activities in Newcastle include an introduction to a medieval script calligraphy workshop on Wednesday, May 22, at 2pm and a talk by Peter Quin on Thomas Bewick’s books on Tuesday, June 11, at 2.30pm. To book a place, visit www.newcastle.gov.uk/libraryevents.
There is also an activity trail for families and groups.
The exhibition is a little smaller than I expected and in the main thoroughfare of the library, rather than in a separate room or gallery space, but it’s definitely worth an hour or so of your time.
My traditional calligraphy books include Susan Hufton’s Step-by-Step Calligraphy, which I picked up from Barter Books in Alnwick.
The Calligrapher’s Project Book, by Susanne Haines, was gifted to me and features an inspiring gallery of calligraphic works before you get to the reference section!
I also have the books that started my collection, inherited
from the Northumbrian Scribes when I attended classes taught by its chairman,
They are Tom Goudie’s Basic Calligraphic Hands; Anne Trudgill’s Traditional Penmanship; Making Calligraphy Work for You: An Osmiroid Book of Ideas by Tom Barnard and Christopher Jarman; Borders for Calligraphy, by Margaret Shepherd; 100+ Easy Calligraphy Projects by G. Roland Smith; Colour Calligraphy by David Graham and Creative Calligraphy, by Peter Halliday.
Some of these books are a little dated – a couple are older
than me – but the techniques are still the same and I refer to them time and
General lettering books
I also have some general lettering books on my shelf.
The Joy of Lettering, by Walter Foster, was recommended to me by Kate Watson, from Olive & Reid Studio, and I picked up The Little Book of Lettering, by Emily Gregory, in Toronto.
The latter features work from artists all over the world, be it digitally drawn or hand-lettered. I love the pencil sketch of the book cover design on the inside cover – it’s how it all starts!
Do you have a favourite calligraphy book? Share your
recommendations in the comments below.
Did you know Roald Dahl had his pencils shipped in from
The yellow Dixon Ticonderoga 2HB – dubbed the world’s best
pencil by the manufacturer – matched the yellow lined paper he wrote on behind
the yellow door of his writing hut.
If you’re noticing a bit of pattern here, yellow was his
These are just some of the gems we picked up on our tour of
Roald Dahl country.
James, 9, and Sophie, 7, with their dad, Michael, outside The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden.
Sharing a love of Roald Dahl
My children are just as obsessed with Roald Dahl’s books as
I was at their age.
I distinctly remember first reading Fantastic Mr Fox in the
classroom at Southwick Primary School and repeatedly watching Gene Wilder’s
Willy Wonka and Anjelica Huston’s terrifying Grand High Witch on VHS at home.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is James’ favourite too,
while Sophie prefers Matilda and The BFG. We’ve read the books and seen the
Sophie and James with the famous Wonka gates, donated by Warner Bros.
Spot the stories in Great Missenden
We decided to stay in Aylesbury and get the train to Great
Missenden, as parking is at a premium in the village and mostly for residents
The museum is just a short walk from the station – past
Matilda’s library, the house that inspired Sophie’s orphanage in The BFG and
the Red Pump Garage that inspired the garage in Danny the Champion of the
The building that inspired Sophie’s orphanage in The BFG
These and other points of interest are included in one of
the museum’s trails. The other leads you into the surrounding woodlands – the
setting for Billy and the Minpins.
You can easily spend a day in the area.
The Roald Dahl Museum
The museum itself has three gallery spaces dedicated to the
life of Roald Dahl.
The first explores his childhood, including his life at
boarding school and the pranks he used to play with his friends. You can see
where the episode with the newt in Matilda came from!
Chocolate-scented doors at the entrance to one of the gallery spaces
I found it very amusing that his report cards for English
were not in the least bit flattering, while one of his teachers described him
as a “muddler”.
Well, that muddler went on to have a pretty amazing life,
although it was tinged with tragedy.
He became famous for his heroics as a fighter pilot during
the Second World War, which is explored in the second gallery space, which is
more about his adult life, but suffered pain for the rest of his life after cheating
death in a crash.
He married a film star, Patricia Neale, but had to nurse her
back to health when she suffered a series of strokes. They also lost a child,
Olivia, to measles encephalitis at the age of seven and their son, Theo was
severely injured as a baby when his pram was hit by a car.
James outside the reconstructed Roald Dahl’s writing hut
Dahl first started writing about his wartime adventures and
his first children’s book, published in 1943, was called The Gremlins, which
attracted the attention of The White House and Walt Disney, who wanted to turn
it into a film.
He went on to create some of the best-loved children’s
stories of the 20th century, but also wrote macabre short stories
for adults, as well as the screenplays for the James Bond film You Only Live
Twice and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
My jaw dropped several times as I took in all this new
There’s plenty of exhibits to interact with and we all
enjoyed measuring ourselves against a height chart of Dahl’s characters and
walking into his writing hut, reconstructed in the museum from Gipsy Cottage,
his home in the village.
Naturally, I homed in on his notes and the letters he exchanged with illustrator Quentin Blake – my son’s hero!
A letter from Quentin Blake discussing the illustration of Miss Trunchbull
The magic continues in The Story Centre and James and Sophie
were thrilled to see the puppets from Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox on
So much of the detail in Mr Fox’s home is taken from Dahl’s
writing hut, from the pattern on the floor to his specially-adapted chair to
the items he displayed on a side table.
James and Sophie also got to sit on a replica of his chair,
which Dahl sat in for four hours a day, scribbling away with his Dixon
Sophie sitting in a replica of Roald Dahl’s writing chair
Obviously, we bought some in the gift shop – and they are
rather lovely pencils!
We also took part in a storyboard workshop with the education team at the museum and on our return to Aylesbury, visited the Road Dahl Children’s Gallery at Buckinghamshire County Museum.
There, you can climb through Fantastic Mr Fox’s tunnels, meet the creatures from James and the Giant Peach and ride in the Great Glass Elevator.
A landmark exhibition exploring 5,000 years of
writing opens at the British Library in London this month – with smaller,
pop-up exhibitions around the country.
From carved stone
inscriptions, medieval manuscripts and early printed works to beautiful
calligraphy, iconic fonts and emojis, Writing: Making Your Mark will deconstruct
the act of writing and consider its future in the digital age.
Writing: Making Your Mark
with the origins of writing in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and the Americas, the
exhibition will chart the evolution of writing through technology and
innovation with examples from over 30 different writing systems, including
Greek, Chinese and Arabic.
Making Your Mark will explore how writing can be personal,
functional, beautiful or political and will challenge our preconceptions of
what writing is through examples of writing as art, expression and instruction.
Works by famous
hands, such as the final diary entry by Scott of the Antarctic and James
Joyce’s autograph notes for Ulysses, will sit alongside tools belonging
to unknown everyday people, including early 19th century Burmese
tattooing instruments and modern reed pens, which will be seen in new
Mozart’s catalogue of his complete musical works from 1784-91 c British Library
Many items will be
going on display for the first time and exhibition highlights include:
An 1,800-year-old ancient wax tablet containing a schoolchild’s homework as they struggle to learn their Greek letters
The first book printed in England, Caxton’s 1476-7 printing of the Canterbury Tales
A 60,000 strong petition from 1905 protesting against the first partition of Bengal, signed in Bengali and English
Tools including styluses, brushes, quill pens, ball-point pens, typewriters and computers
Mozart’s catalogue of his complete musical works from 1784-91, featuring his handwriting and musical notation
Alexander Fleming’s autograph notebook recording his discovery of penicillin from 1928
Schoolchild’s homework in Greek on a wax tablet c British Library
Edwards, lead curator of Writing: Making Your Mark at the
British Library, said: “From hieroglyph to emoji and clay tablet to
digital, Writing: Making Your Mark will demonstrate how
writing is so much more than words on the page – it is how we communicate
across time and space, how we express ourselves, and how we lay down our
that visitors will consider their own relationship with writing in the digital
age and reflect on whether we will abandon pens and keyboards in favour of
voice-activated machine writing and video messaging, or continue to carry the
legacy of ancient times with us.”
Petition against partition of Bengal c British Library
Pop-up exhibitions around the UK
Making Your Mark will launch simultaneously in over 20 partner
libraries around the UK, through the Living Knowledge Network.
Belfast and Norwich to Exeter and Edinburgh, the family-focused pop up displays
will encourage libraries to respond to the themes of the exhibition with
material from their own archives as well as through local events programmes,
enabling visitors to engage in a nationwide conversation on the origins, means
and future of writing.
Caxton’s Canterbury Tales c British Library
This simultaneous launch will build on the success of the first Living Knowledge Network display, which was based on the British Library’s Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition and welcomed over 775,000 visitors in 2017/18.
The Living Knowledge Network is an innovative partnership, in collaboration with the National Library of Scotland and the National Library of Wales, which shares resources, skills and ideas, promoting the enduring values of libraries in the 21st century and reinforcing the idea of the library as a transformative and accessible public asset.k
Writing: Making Your Mark at the British Library will be accompanied by a richly-illustrated book celebrating the act of writing from across the globe, available in hardback and paperback from the British Library shop and all good bookstores.
There will be a programme of events inspired by the exhibition, which runs from Friday, April 26 to Tuesday, August 27, 2019.
Newlyweds Helen and Alex Tribe sent me a gorgeous thank you card recently after commissioning my calligraphy skills for various aspects of their wedding last summer.
I couldn’t resist asking DIY bride Helen why she wanted to incorporate calligraphy into their plans and the difference it made to the day.
Here’s what she had to say…
Calligraphy for a DIY bride
I met Angela though a commission I asked her to do for my cousin and her husband just after their wedding.
Alex and I went to one of her classes a few months later and when we were engaged, I knew I had to commission Angela to do some calligraphy for our wedding.
We wanted our wedding to have DIY elements. I’m crafty myself, I love to cross-stitch and I brought that into the wedding too.
Our relationship started by writing good old fashioned love letters to each other and as writing is a dying art, we like to keep it going.
We even had a ceremony at our wedding where we put a bottle of wine with a love letter to each other in a locked box that we can open on our fifth anniversary. We will drink the wine, reminisce about the last five years and write another letter, eventually making a time capsule of our marriage.
A personal touch
Calligraphy was important to us to have that hand written touch to our day.
We had the usual table plan, table numbers and place cards, but also took the opportunity to make some things we could keep, so we had our favourite love quotes framed on the bar that we now have up in our home.
Just when you think you’ve thought of everything possible for your wedding, Angela suggested an ink that might go with our colour scheme, made out of walnut.
We instantly agreed. It was perfect, since we also love walking in the woods. It was one of those touches that no one else would notice, but it was just for us and made us smile.
Throughout the planning Angela was so helpful, from her expert advice to double checking my spellings at every turn. Angela’s calligraphy set the scene for our intimate wedding that focused on us as a couple and our wonderful family and friends and I couldn’t recommend her enough.
Pictures used with kind permission of Belle Art Photography.
The Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Society (CLAS) is bringing its 25th anniversary exhibition to the University of Sunderland.
A Way With Words features almost 100 pieces of work showcasing the best of contemporary calligraphy and lettering arts.
It has been curated by world-renowned calligraphy, Dr Manny Ling, who is also programme leader for MA Design at the University of Sunderland.
Two of his pieces will be shown alongside a range of other works by 56 calligraphers from around the world, representing the diverse and international range of CLAS members’ work.
From traditional to modern
Traditional manuscripts with illumination and gilding will be on display alongside many other techniques, such as writing on metals or glass, work with nibs, brushes and other tools, paints, inks and engraving, linocuts and digitally manipulated images.
One of the largest western lettering societies in the world, UK-based CLAS has an extensive membership and is a registered charity that provides educational support for its members and the wider public.
Manny, who is an Honorary Fellow of CLAS, said: “The opportunity to curate this exciting exhibition has been a huge honour; showing the many ways to express words both visually and beautifully.
“In an increasingly visual society, calligraphy has gained a popularity as people appreciate the skilful demonstration of scripts and styles.
“It is also a thriving and popular craft skill that encourages anyone with a love of words to express themselves.
“We anticipate this will be a hugely popular exhibition.”
Creating a centre for calligraphy development
Manny has made it his mission over the last 19 years to create a hub for the traditional letter-making skills of calligraphy on Wearside, establishing the International Research Centre for Calligraphy (IRCC) at Sunderland.
He has also launched a popular graphic design course in his native Hong Kong.
Manny believes Sunderland has now firmly established itself as an international centre for calligraphy.
He said: “We developed the IRCC at the university and since 1999 we have been hosting regular international calligraphy conferences, attracting calligraphers and academics from across the world, coming to Sunderland for master classes, as well as lectures and seminars to discuss the serious issues surrounding the art.
“As a result of our efforts, Sunderland is now perceived globally as the centre for calligraphy development.”
Learning from the past
Manny believes it’s no coincidence that the city and university have become such a calligraphy hotspot.
“You only have to look back at Sunderland’s history at St Peter’s and the writings of the monastic scholar Venerable Bede, who studied calligraphy as a boy, to realise how connected this area is to this art form,” he explained.
Dr Manny Ling
Manny has forged his own successful career out of calligraphy, combining his knowledge and interest in Eastern philosophy with Western design and typographic practice to develop a distinctive approach to the subject.
He has been invited to speak and show his work internationally and completed a PhD in 2008 – the first practice-based Doctorate in the world to be awarded for Western calligraphy.
He said: “Since I was 16 I have always wanted to promote calligraphy in a more formal and academic way to a broad audience.
“I want people to see calligraphy as more than just a hobby. It’s an art form in itself and something you can study for the whole of your life.”
A Way With Words will be on display in the Priestman Gallery, First Floor, Priestman Building, City Campus, Green Terrace, Sunderland, from March 7 to April 2, 2019.
The gallery is open from 10am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Admission is free.
Most works are also for sale and commissions are welcomed.
I’m getting my pens out for The Cultural Spring once again.
It’s always a thrill to see my workshops listed alongside lots of other amazing workshops led by local artists in Sunderland and South Tyneside.
The latest programme features glass fusing, ceramics, textiles, jewellery making, creative writing, photography, upcycling furniture, theatre and performance skills and singing.
I’ll be running two calligraphy courses – traditional calligraphy (foundational hand) and copperplate calligraphy – in a lovely new community venue, which I’m very excited about.
What is The Cultural Spring?
For those of you who don’t know what The Cultural Spring is, it is a project funded by Arts Council England to increase participation in the arts.
It was launched in 2014, initially for three years, in 10 wards in Sunderland and South Tyneside.
The aim is to put creative activities on the doorsteps of people who traditionally wouldn’t access the arts, giving them the chance to meet new people, learn new skills and have fun.
The activities are heavily subsidised and although a voluntary donation is suggested, those who are unable to pay are still welcome to join in.
The Cultural Spring’s funding was extended for a further three years in October 2016, with phase two launching in 10 different wards the following autumn.
I’ve been involved in the project for several terms, but I still get a kick when I see my workshops in the brochure.
This time, I’ll be based at St Hilda’s Pit Head in Henry Robson Way, South Shields, on Wednesday mornings, from 10am to noon, with traditional calligraphy running from January 23 and copperplate from March 6, both for five weeks each.
Workshops and beyond
As well as workshops, The Cultural Spring organises ‘Go and See’ trips to exhibitions, events and cultural venues across the north east and beyond.
Current opportunities include Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, ITV Signpost and Forbidden Corner in North Yorkshire.
It also offers funding to community groups via its Your Art scheme.
You can also become a community champion or volunteer with The Cultural Spring.
This year has been another busy one for Creative Calligraphy, particularly in keeping my workshops and commissions running alongside a second job!
Here are five highlights of 2018 for me.
Pages of the Sea
Without a doubt, the biggest event I’ve ever been involved in – and the most poignant.
Sand writing practice on Sandhaven Beach.
Devised by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, the national event saw people flocking to beaches around the UK to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
Portraits of local servicemen and women were etched into the sand and at Redcar Beach, the portrait was accompanied by words from a poem written by Poet Laureate Carol Anne Duffy for the occasion, which I was asked to write.
I was unsure it would work at first, but after testing out some tools and techniques on my local beach, I came up with a winning formula and was really pleased with how it turned out – as were the organisers, Stellar Projects.
Rachel Willis, from Stellar Projects, said: “Thanks for bringing a random idea we had to life! We received so many lovely comments about the text.”
When newly-engaged Andie got in touch for help in asking 12 of his closest friends (and brother) to act as ushers at his wedding, I couldn’t wait to be involved!
He had selected matching leather-bound photo albums that would include pictures of each of the men and a personalised inscription.
The handmade paper was tricky to write on – and I couldn’t exactly rip it out if I made a mistake, so the pressure was on.
But the sentiment of the project was so beautiful, it’s become one of my favourites.
Earlier this year, Joe Jasperse got in touch all the way from the USA to ask for help with a romantic proposal intended for his UK-based girlfriend, Jill Groom.
Joe Jasperse and Jill Groom
He was due to fly over at Easter for a visit and wanted to pop the question, but the build-up included six handwritten notes delivered to her home in Newcastle, with nothing to give away the identity of the sender.
Each postcard-sized note included a quote and co-ordinates relating to a place that was special to the couple, who met in 2015 while responding to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.
The final card was delivered to her parents’ house, ready for Joe to collect on his arrival, which featured the all-important question: Will You Marry Me?
The whole project brought a smile to my face and I loved being ‘in’ on the surprise, nipping to the post box every week to send off another card.
I was asked by Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead to add guest names on invitations for the launch of its summer season, part of the Great Exhibition of the North.
As one of three hub venues for the festival, Baltic hosted new commissions from Turner prize-winning Michael Dean, a film installation by Phil Collins, site-specific sculptures by Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan and a solo show by Turner prize-winning Lubaina Himid.
These artists were among the names I had to write on the invitations and it was a pleasure to play a small part in such a large cultural event for the north east – in one of my favourite galleries.
Aspinal of London
My first foray into on-site calligraphy for a high-end brand that I’ve seen so many of my London-based calligraphy friends get involved in!
I was delighted to be asked by Aspinal of London at House of Fraser to personalise Valentine’s Day gifts bought at their Gateshead MetroCentre store this year.
The staff were great company and I got to spend several hours writing calligraphy surrounded by beautiful handbags. What’s not to love?