Stories and the "Local Touch".
People often have no pride in their own area, particularly
if their own area is looked down on. When children have low self-esteem
for a variety of reasons, this added factor certainly doesn't help.
Therefore I like finding the stories that help give interest
to an area, however unromantic that place may seem. (This
was the origin of my HAGSTONE logo, which is from my own area of
Northam, in inner city Southampton.)
In Southampton I often tell the stories of BEVOIS
AND ASCUPART. These are ancient legends that have been forgotten
by most people, but have given their names to areas and streets of Southampton,
such as Bevois Town, Bevois Valley and Ascupart Street. Traces of these
legends are also to be found in the Portsmouth area and right along
the south coast to Arundel.
Similarly, Crawley in Sussex may not exactly be considered
the most picturesque of places, yet there are stories from nearby Saint
Leonard's Forest of Sussex dragons, slug-like serpents that left a trail
of slime and used to terrorise the area - children just - yeeuck - love
Then there's Swindon! I'd suggest that Swindon doesn't
top the list of the most beautiful sites of England. But all around
there is wonderful Wiltshire countryside that is absolutely stuffed
with legends and folk stories.
So, whether it's Swindon or Slough, whether it's Basingstoke,
Brighton, Bournemouth or Bognor, whether it's Portsmouth or the estates
around Portsdown Hill; there's always a story to help give the area
some interest and to help generate a bit of local pride.
When I'm further afield I find that the links between
these stories and the stories from other areas generate lots of interest.
When telling stories in Northern Ireland I found that children linked
stories of the apple tree man in the middle of the orchard with their
stories of the fairy tree in the middle of the field. Even as far away
as Himachal Pradesh in India I found that one
of my stories about a mysterious musician who can be heard underground
in the Blackwater Valley near Farnborough linked with stories about
a musician who plays the shehnai (shown on the left [image
from here] similar to a bagpipe chanter, or Breton bombarde) and
who walks beneath the Himalayas. In turn this links to stories of the
MacCrimmon pipers on the Isle of Skye.
These links and connections always generate great interest:
they help to give pride to the local. However they also, and this is
important, emphasise the deep connections between us all, between all
Why not read about Mike's involvement in the creation
of a "community bench" for Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership.
They wanted a bench for visitors to Gerry’s Copse, one of their wildlife
sites in the Farnborough section of the Blackwater Valley. Inspired
by the work of a company called Greenspace Designs, BVCP came up with
a community bench project. Read
more here. The webpage is archived as an Adobe PDF file here.