Friday, 27 January 2012

Furness Abbey and its future

Drove past our beautiful Furness Abbey today-its looking a bit bedraggled and careworn these days I'm afraid. Following the 2 digs conducted by Oxford Archaeology North and the addition of the huge metal support to hold up the abbey church-due to the oak rafts upon which it is built, sinking and becoming compromised. I notice now another company of archaeologists who have begun work near the sedilia and yet another support has been erected. 
The work is essential and is undoubtedly a drain on the resources of English Heritage, but I do wonder why they don't turn this into a selling point. For many years the abbey has been a hidden gem, worthy of far more  notice than it is currently afforded and it is apparent that it is never going to have the profile of say, Fountains Abbey. The argument which EH pose is that it is off the beaten track and only attract 10,000 visitors a year-half of whom do not pay because they are residents of Barrow. Many more come and view the abbey over the fence, where with digital cameras they can zoom in on a good portion of the abbey without ever entering. It dismays me however, that when they have invested many thousands of pounds in properties like Dover castle-renovating and creating exactly the internal decor and furniture using bespoke craftsmen, or redeveloping gardens which have become disused or overgrown. Great ideas indeed to encourage an interest in the past and our heritage-but why not a similar approach to our abbey? Maybe because we are not in the south? Or is that too cynical? Yes-we are off the beaten track-so what? Dalton zoo is in the same position yet with sensible and thoughtful marketing David Gill attracts thousands of visitors.
When the report of the digs which have been undertaken are released to the public-should this not herald a fanfare and huge publicity campaign? Visitors would flock to see the interesting finds-some of which may be remarkable and especially as the abbey is under threat from the subsidence issues. However, if the finds are reported quietly, displayed briefly and then hidden away in EH's archives at York then all will be lost! We need as an interested public-particularly locally to lobby them and ensure that this does not happen. OAN are reporting on the finds on 3 March at Lancaster University-unfortunately I am unable to attend due to work commitments but I would encourage anyone to go-it will be amazing. 
Some like minded friends are joining me soon to set up a "friends" of Furness Abbey to see if we can help in any way-with some creative thinking and a little leap of faith we could make the abbey a popular and lucrative tourist venue. I will post details soon

Friday, 20 January 2012

Even more visits...

Busy week again-which is nice. The first half of the week we were interviewing new students for Bluebirds Study Centre and then I had a spectacular visit to Lindale Primary School near Grange over Sands.The children were extremely inventive and imaginative and we had a great time. So much so that I am returning in February for another day-working with KS1 and Reception as well. I will take photos of the views next time-they were quite breathtaking! The phone and internet were off this week which made communication difficult-but it didn't stop some more bookings coming in-so it looks like  will be busy over the next few weeks! I registered our teams for the 40 mile Keswick to Barrow walk this week-we will have 5 teams for Dystonia and 1 for Bluebirds Study Centre (in memory of a little chap called Cameron who sadly died at the age of 6). So the training begins in earnest-I can't wait-been out a few times but we need to stretch it to a longer walk now-a trip over Kirkby moor beckons I think!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Gargoyles, competitions and creativity

What a week! On the work front-busy, we do at last seem to be making headway with the study centre. Then on Thursday I had a fantastic day at Lindal and Marton Primary School. I spent the whole day with the most delightful children and friendly staff. We had writing workshops and the children created wonderfully imaginative characters. For the infants I read Guy the Grumpy Gargoyle and it went down a storm!Te pictures above are of the competition winners. In fact so much so that I believe the children have made clay gargoyles today and little houses for them! Aw! It was great to be in school and I'm at Lindale (not the same school) next week-can't wait! 
Guy is with the publisher as I write and I expect to see it coming out soon-I will keep you posted.

Friday, 6 January 2012

New book on its way

Finished the final illustrations for Guy the Grumpy Gargoyle and will be packing them up to go off to the publisher on Monday. This book has already been tested out on the Foundation and Key Stage 1 at a local school-Dalton St Mary's-the verdict was very positive so all that remains is to get the publicity right! I will be preparing to visit schools, this time younger pupils and I am looking forward to it.

At Bluebirds Study Centre we will be welcoming some more students to the Teaching Assistant course later this month. There are some other projects in the pipe line so it looks as though we are getting back to where we were-even if its a slow progress. We still need significant funds and donors but this will have to be a gradual improvement-but at least we can see that we have a small growth in business!So lots more hard work ahead...oh and writing too. 
                                     Guy the Grumpy Gargoyle looking sad