Wayfaring means ‘to travel by foot’; to be a journeyer, a wanderer. Since before the Romans came to Britain, people have been walking the Icknield Way, a route that stretches from North Norfolk to the Dorset Coast.
On our 'Wayfaring Engagement Days', our Learning and Participation team, accompanied by hundreds of school children, teachers and volunteers, became the latest wayfarers to track this ancient path- well, a section of it anyway!
As part of a wider event travelling the whole route from Norfolk to Dorset, Wayfaring recently arrived at Basildon Park, a National Trust property in the heart of Berkshire. Funded by Arts Council England, artists and performers from And Now: worked with the environment to create a series of art works inviting audiences to think about movement and migration. Their work focused on using the natural materials of the landscape, the trees and the chalk to explore questions of boundaries and change.
Over two days, thirteen schools from Newbury and beyond explored the site with the Corn Exchange team, partaking in engaging workshops with creative professionals And Now:, Bearface Theatre and Edward Wren. The children were also given a tour of Basildon House which prompted a lot of ‘wow!’ and ‘can I touch this?’ as well as comparisons to their own lives: ‘there’s no TV?!’
Working with Kate and Polly from Bearface Theatre, the children stepped into their time machines and travelled back to tribal times, creating their own tribal dances and chants, culminating in a tribal dance off! They also explored the landscape, the trees and the thousands of species of grass, before creating their own grass pictures using natural materials from the land, chalk and charcoal. One child remarked at the end of the day, ‘you’ve made nature fun, I want to come back!’
Edward Wren performed a captivating shadow puppet show about the history of Basildon Park which entertained and informed as well as making the children giggle!
And of course, the children participated in the main event, the Wayfaring installations. They were led through the woods to discover the chalk line, the area that would have been underwater 150 million years ago when the coccoliths were forming into the chalk underground today. They then moved on to a gateway where they were gifted chalk as a passport for entry, exploring the notion of boundaries. This was reiterated at a red brick wall in the grass where the children could scribe thoughts and feelings about borders. One child poignantly suggested ‘You can make your own path’. When the children reached the installation, they explored shrines and the shoes of travellers, pondering questions of migration across countries and borders and the concept of natives versus aliens.
These engagement days were great fun for both the children and us ( and I think we all slept well afterwards!) - a huge thanks must go out to all our creative practitioners and the teams from both the National Trust and the North Wessex Downs AONB for their massive contributions to the success of the event. One of our teachers said ‘I wish this project was an annual offer!’
For more information about Wayfaring, visit the Activate Performing Arts website: Activate Performing Arts
Or for information on upcoming outdoor events with the Corn Exchange, just visit the Outdoor section of our website.