Thursday, 26 April 2018

Empowered by Flowers: A Re-Write for Blodeuwedd




I've been struggling this week with the artistic design of the covers and marketing materials for my new Creative & Mindful Collection of Books, Cd's and Video Workshops, so in response, rather than stress over it, the best way to deal with my lack of design clarity, is to take myself completely away from the task in hand and do something else. Then hopefully, I will return afresh in a few days. That's the plan, anyway.

So, I decided to record a new story that came to me after a meeting with the lovely storyteller, Eleanor Shaw at Y Ffwrnes Theater, Llanelli where she is the Adopta Artsit and also runs her  business People Speak Up. I went to see her because I had a feeling that People Speak Up would be a perfect partner for collaboration with one of my creative projects, Sound Memories Dementia Friendly Radio Station ... anyway, I digress , as we chatted, we started talking about the ancient stories of the Mabinogion, and how they are not particularly woman friendly. In fact, women are mostly depicted as either devious, powerless, suffer some kind of abuse or come to a sticky end or become a nun. 

On the way home from our meeting, I started thinking about Blodeuwedd, The Woman made from Flowers, portrayed as an adulteress who beguiles her lover into killing her husband, but the plan goes horribly wrong and she ends her days as an owl, whilst her lover ends his as a standing stone.

But ... from the outset of the story, she was completely dis-empowered. For a start, she was made for Llew, and not for herself, from beautiful flowers ... then she was trapped up in his castle and forced to be his wife. Now, I ask you, what woman made from flowers would want to be stuck inside a castle all day, instead of dancing in the Summer fields? And besides, Llew doesn't come across in the story as a very nice person, in fact it sounds to me that he was a bit of a control freak. So, when he was away at battle for months at a time, it must have felt wonderful for our Blod, to be back out in the fields playing with butterflies, where she belonged. 

... And whilst there, she meets the hunky hunter. As soon as their eyes lock, it is the first time she has known love. Bless her, we've all been there, haven't we? When all sense goes out of the window and we listen to our sacral chakra.

Do you feel differently about her yet? Off course I am not condoning her behaviour. It is never acceptable to plan to kill one's husband. I'm sure my own partner will be very relieved to know that! But if this story is written from a different perspective, one of empowerment from the outset, rather than dis-empowerment, I began to wonder how it might pan out .. and this is the premise for my new story: Empowered by Flowers, a re-write of Blodeuwedd.

I have recorded the story on my phone to send to Eleanor to make her smile and meanwhile, as a break from my design indecision about covers for the new collection, I have amused myself by making some handmade bespoke books within which to hand write Empowered by Flowers.

It actually feels empowering to hand make these little tiny books and to write them by hand because women were not permitted or taught to write until much later than men. Hence, we have not had a hand in writing our own history. Sitting to hand write a story from a woman's perspective, about a woman empowered by flowers, feels somewhat empowering in itself. (I apologise for the emphatic use of the word empowered in that paragraph, but really, I felt empowered to use it, so I did, lots).

It has been a lovely way to spend my evenings. I don't need an excuse to write stories and make books. I LOVE doing it. I am hoping that this very hands on creativity will give my brain some inspiration, a vision for the cover design for my published books, so that  I can return to a more graphic design based creativity soon. 

Oh yes, by the way, if you would like me to make you your own bespoke collection of handmade books containing my re-write of Blodeuwedd, Empowered by Flowers, feel free to drop me a line on facebook. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, know that we are all flowers tied together in one very beautiful bunch.




Tree Blessings at St Ina's










Today was the first of my tree blessings. They are an extension of my love for talking sticks, which I make from the driftwood at Cei Bach, New Quay. 

This driftwood is gifted to the sea by the fallen trees lining the banks of the river as it meanders through Llanina Woods. It gave me such comfort collecting the driftwood last Summer, bringing it home and creating talking sticks, used in Native American Culture to make space for a speaker to be heard, to be listened to, giving a voice to the beholder.



At the end of last Summer, I promised to return this year to thank the trees with Om Blessings and woven wool, in gratitude to the Earth for the mutualism of our symbiotic relationship to trees.



It made perfect sense for this first blessing of the year to be with my dear friend Caroline. It was she that set me on my love affair with wool. In the depth of my despair, following my sudden deafness, she visited me at home, taught me to crochet, left me with wool and a hook ... the rest, as they say, is history. 






















Llanina holds spiritual significance for both of us. We dressed the chosen tree in woven wool and a silver leaf Om and then went to St.Ina Chapel.

 We read passages from Mission Praise to each other, wherever our pages opened, replacing the word Lord with Universe to recognise the multi-faith nature of spirituality. It was beautifully quiet and serene.

And then we meandered down to the Quay for afternoon tea overlooking the sea ... what could be more beautiful than to spend such an afternoon with a friend?






Monday, 23 April 2018

PLEASE HELP TO KEEP MY MUSIC LIVE

The sun came out last week. Did you see it? We had 2 glorious days. I think it was the good weather that sparked a flurry of people putting out information on social media about their Summer Festivals and Events. I had a number of invitations to perform at castles and festivals and the like but sadly, because of my hearing loss and associated conditions of tinnitus and hyperacusis, I am not able to perform anymore. It's a sinking feeling.

I could sense my heart filling with sadness at the thought of being excluded from the very thing that gives me the most joy. My songs, written throughout a lifetime, would stay tucked away on Bandcamp instead of being out there, part of the music community that I love so dearly and that has been central to my whole life.

I meditated on this feeling of sadness, so as to hold it and move it on ... and in so doing, a wonderful idea came to me. Why not ask other musicians to put one of my songs into their set this Summer, so that even though I can not hear my tunes so well anymore, other people still will and I will know in my heart that part of me is out and about helping folk have a great time. I can still be included. It gives me a very warm glow to think of it. As my Nan would say, where there's a will, there's a way.

So, I am wondering, is this something YOU would like to get involved with?

I don't mind if you do a cover or  your version of my song, all I ask is, please record yourself and/or take pics ... I would love to share here on my blog all the lovely musicians that took part. and map where my songs have been this Summer. 

If you would like to help me keep my music live in this way, then follow the link below to my facebook group page, ask to join and you'll find out how you can peruse my back catalogue to choose one of my songs.

Thank you so much to everyone who has already signed up and is choosing a song right now as we speak. We're a lovely bunch, aren't we, us musicians ... but it's not just musicians, 2 dancers have expressed an interest in using my music for their projects, too ...  the possibilities are endless ... this feels so much more beautiful than being sad about it. 

All love to you, dear ones, 






Friday, 20 April 2018

Reaching Out for Creative Empaths

It's funny, you know, there have been some beautiful gifts that have come into my life since becoming deaf and living with tinnitus and hyperacusis. It can be hard to see them sometimes with this constant noise in my head and the distortion issues but this last few months, I have felt strong enough to start reaching out to the Universe in a meaningful and considered way, opening my heart and inviting her to bring the right people into my life. Creative people who are kind, understanding and caring and who might want to collaborate artistically to make beautiful things happen. I want to say creative people who are empaths but the definition of empath is a person with a paranormal ability to sense the emotions of others, so maybe I mean empathic, though to be honest, I think we all have the ability to be an empath if we learn to listen.

And that's the really funny thing, I can't hear what's in front of me, even with my hearing aids, face to face with someone, I miss certain words. The sound of rivers distorts in my head and either I can not hear the birds or there is one that kindly sings at the top of her voice into my tinnitus range and blows the speakers of my ears, triggering hyperacusis and yet, I can listen to my intuition more deeply than I ever have in my entire life.

This is manifesting in some very beautiful ways that I will discuss later as they are the premise of my new Creative & Mindful Business Venture that launches this Summer, so I don't want to ruin the surprise but today, a very interesting thing dawned on me.

I have written to a few people. People that, whilst I was in the depths of despair, I had much joy connecting with, via facebook. I have watched their creative journey and can see that perhaps, we would work well together, guessing from the type of work they do, that they would be understanding about my need for them to come to me, rather than me go to them. 

I would never have done this before. I would have just booked to go and see them. Everyday I was out and about travelling 3 or 4 hours a day, meeting everyone's needs, but now, my hearing in the car is blasted by a tone in my engine that we can't get rid of, even with sound proofing, so I try to base myself mostly at home or close by unless it is an engagement that I just can not afford to miss. Besides, the internet means I can be working at home and all over the world at the same time.

Now then, the response to these calls, has been very interesting and informed my gut instinct much about the person. For instance, some have said yes, they would like to meet up but they are very busy, so could I travel to them. This tells me a lot about how they would expect a future collaborative partnership to be structured. 

What I am open to is creative empaths who think ...WOW, that would exciting to go and visit Cheryl to talk creative possibilities. What a lovely invite, yes, thanks, I'd love to come' and not ... 'Er well, I'll try to squeeze you in if you compromise your hearing health and drive to me.'

I would never have even considered this before. I would have just arranged to visit them. Before my hearing disabilities came along, I did not for one minute think about my own needs and bent over backwards driving all over the country to accommodate but you can only bend over backwards for so long before you break ... I simply have no choice other than to invite the world to me and trust the right people will come.

What an incredible learning that is. It's almost a gift that has been handed to me ... it is absolutely fine for someone to be too busy to accommodate my hearing needs and it is absolutely fine for me to focus on welcoming those who do have the time.

So, if you are a Creative Empath and would like to arrange to pop by to chat possibilities over a cuppa, feel free to drop me a line on facebook ... 

All love to you. dear ones.















Tuesday, 17 April 2018

New Film Collaboration

I am always excited about my work but tomorrow I will be especially excited because Film Maker Bill Taylor-Beales is coming over to see me so that we can have a chat about collaborating in making some videos for my new Creative & Mindful Business Venture. I have been working tirelessly on the project for over a year, devising an inspirational online resource to help others and am so close to being ready to open the doors.

Bill & I have already made one very exciting piece for my website, held under wraps until the launch later this year. We have been working remotely by telephone and email which has motivated us to meet up tomorrow and talk possibilities.

Meanwhile ... why not pop over to my Bandcamp and check out my back catalogue Celebrating 40 years as a songwriter.






Monday, 16 April 2018

Inspirational Women Over Fifty: Avril Yospa



Continuing on the theme of building a platform from which to celebrate the creativity of women over fifty & thus making visible the inspirational work that we quietly chip away doing while no-one in the media is noticing, tonight's blog is about another of my amazing friends, Avril, who has just got back from performing for two months in India.



Avril Yospa is retired from a 15 year career as a midwife, which let's face it, is pretty amazing in itself ...  but having stopped birthing babies, at the age of 67, she is now focused fully on birthing songs as a musician, songwriter and performer, just like as she did in the 70's with the band Prana who played Glastonbury 6 years on the trot, touring the US and parts of Europe, In fact, Avril is known locally as 'Avril the Song' and many of her chants can be heard upon the lips of those at Marches or sat around camp fires. Her chant 'Mother Earthship' has been recorded in many different languages all over the world on youtube and soundcloud and is used for one of the dances of Universal Peace.


I first met Avril when I was the Director of Celtic Womenfest for the National Botanic Garden of Wales in partnership with Community Music Wales. I held a series of very special improvisation workshops at my place for Women in Tune, giving accomplished women musicians the opportunity to come together and perform in a woman only recording set up. The sessions were a great success and went onto be played at the Festival itself in the Great Glasshouse, used as dance music for the Contemporary dancers with Artscare Gofal Celf. You can hear one of the 15 minute tracks as background music in this rehearsal video.



When Avril came to these sessions, I had never met her before. She seemed quiet and reserved, but when we all started to play, that's when she really came into her own. So experimental and brave. I remember, she had amongst her treasures, a set of glockenspiel blocks and laid them on different surfaces to get different sounds ... I was blown away.


Photo of Avril with her Grandaughters ... 






Since, then, Avril has come to my Ukulele and Songwriting Courses at the National Botanic Garden of Wales  and then when I was Poet in residence at the Dylan Thomas Boathouse, I invited her as a guest to play with me one afternoon.

She is almost always out performing and when she is not out performing, she is at home playing with family (who seem to be following in her footsteps) and/or friends.

CLICK HERE FOR ONE OF AVRIL'S SONGS ABOUT AN OWL THAT CAME TO VISIT

I make a point of looking out for whatever adventures she is going to get up to next and then I saw on her facebook page that she was away to Agonda, India with her guitar and her friend, fellow musician, Garima Ulrich.


I loved watching her posts telling us about her wonderful performances, how they secured their own floor spots and built up a local following.








How often do we read about women of our age packing up their sarong and their guitars to fly off to India for two months to play their music? Never! And what's more, they have bookings to go back and do it all again next year.






So that's why I am writing about it here. Let's inspire each other to be free, to follow our hearts, to open our creative souls and learn to listen to our most sacred calling. Just because we hardly ever read about the inspiring lives of women over 50, doesn't mean it isn't happening ... 






Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Movement + Music = Magic in Hong Kong


WOW, thanks everyone for the tremendous feedback to the call I made in my last blog post, supporting inspirational, creative women over fifty who are non-existent if we believe the media, and yet in reality, are changing the world.

I said (and you agreed in your droves) that we should cheer each other on and in following this theme, I simply must tell you about my friend Fiona, who never ceases to blow my socks off with her inspiring work. That's her in the picture above, wearing bright green with some of her students in Hong Kong.

Fiona Winter is the Director of her own company called Energy Moves based here in Wales. You've probably guessed that Fiona has dedicated her life to helping literally 1000's of people to connect with the magic of movement.

Her current DVD 'GRACE' is literally touring the world as it not only helps the likes of us to connect with movement, but there is also an instructors/teachers version. It is an 'elegantly crafted piece of movement medicine, designed to take you into a state of uplifting, joyous movement.' 

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT GRACE HERE

So, you can imagine my joy in following Fiona's journey, as she is currently sharing GRACE in HONG KONG! Yes, Hong Kong. To think we have a Welsh Woman Creative in her fifties sharing her own Movement & Music routine on the other side of the world and no-one even knows about it! So, I'm setting that straight, here.

So far, Fiona has shared 3 classes and been part of a Ceroc Evening, focusing on connection, connecting to each other, to teachers, to the rest of the world, to the joy of movement.

Here's a little video showing us where one of her classes was held!


The thing is, if we don't hear about each others stories, triumphs, adventures, then we won't know they are happening. We are history in the making and yet still, we are virtually invisible. I can name you straight off, a long list of creative women who are not on the tip of anyone's tongue and yet are doing the most extraordinary things. And this gives me faith, hope, inspiration and drive to step into my own power.


So, well done Fiona,! I celebrate you, I am creatng a platform here to cheer you on, as my creative kindred, as an inspirational woman over 50 ...  and most of all, as my dear friend.









Sunday, 8 April 2018

The Gallery Gadabout

Maven & Hare, LLandysul. Photo by Ed Sherlock

It can be difficult, finding somewhere to go out when you have hearing disabilities, especially with hyperacusis because everywhere seems too noisy. 

So, I was very pleased that the Universe sorted out this dilemma and sent three wonderful, relatively quiet invites into my lap for this week. I invited my dear friend, Suzanne, to join me and we had a week of Launch Surfing.

The first was to Maven & Hare in LLandysul, which strictly speaking, is a shop rather than a gallery, but for sure, going there is a quirky & creative experience. The second was the Exhibition 'this is a moment i can't say' by Patricia McParlin at King Street Gallery and the third to the re-launch of Dorothy Morris' Greenspace Gallery in Carmarthen.

We had such a lovely time, that I thought I'd tell you all about it.




In the picture above, on the far right, is Mandy & in the middle, Bronia who have combined their special kind of magic to open a shop in Llandysul called Maven & Hare. You might recognise it. It is the same shop where I did the pop  up Quiet Space Studio in Llandysul last year. 





I like to think that perhaps my energy infused the space with a love that attracted these wonderful creatives to invest in Llandysul and join the band of wayward women that make it such a special place to live. Maven & Hare are selling the weird and wonderful from bling taxidermy to re-vamped vintage furniture and have exciting ideas for the future. The Launch kicked off with caviar and sparkling wine, a twin gramophone DJ and live models in the window display, with hand made felt animal masks made by Mandy. The village turned out to welcome Mandy & Bronia, our newcomers, into the fold.

My friend Trish is a Fine Artist, or as I like to say, a mighty fine artist, so I was delighted when she invited me to the launch of her new Show at King Street Gallery, Exhibting for 3 weeks. I was really taken by her collection, especially the interplay between the narrative of her paintings and her poetry. 




It was very powerful to read her poems whilst looking into her paintings. Somehow it took me beneth the layers of paint.

I had a good look around King Street gallery, which is just exquisite. The people on the desk (who I think are fellow artist volunteers) were very kind and it was just magical to be in the space.

Patricia has also published an accompanying poetry booklet to go with her paintings. As a fellow writer, I know how much work this will have taken. 



My third trip out was to the launch of Dorothy Morris Greenspace Gallery, and again I felt really emotional about the dedication and level of commitment to the Arts my friends have, in making  their vision a reality ... it is truly inspirational how Dorothy has transformed the old framers in Carmarthen into a trail of arts treasure ... room after room filled with outstanding work, including her own as an award winning artist.





And I am left thinking this ... so often in our society we face stereotypes regarding women of a certain age. I know that as a woman of 52, I am treated very differently to even 5 years ago. We hear every day, of the exciting things that young artists are doing, how they are changing the world, up and coming. But hey, what about us? How often do we hear about women in their 50's plus? Where are our achievements in the local press or the radio? And yet here, we have the most inspirational examples of middle life women, giving absolutely everything they have to their craft, passionately creating something breath taking and a making difference - without funding I hasten to add - just because they live and breathe creativity and that, quite frankly, not only inspires me but makes me quite emotional.

Let's get behind each other, celebrate each other, attend each others' events, cheer each other on because, after all, we are absolutely blooming marvellous!