Saturday, 6 June 2009

Cinderford Town Trail & RIO


torrential rain and a strong fresh breeze has encouraged me to stay indoors awhile and do a little blogging.

I want to tell you about the heritage trail leaflet for Cinderford in the Forest of Dean. This leaflet has just been created by the year 5s of Littledean Primary School in a project that was arranged by the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO) and enlisted the creative support of myself, Ffinlo Kilner, and Sally Gibson, and the energies and enthusiasms Sarah Jane Bonser.

For more information on the Trail, go to ... or if that doesn't work, google (or whatever is your search engine of choice) 'Cinderford Trail' and follow links ...

The pupils were supported by:

myself, with their creative writing, creating the text of the leaflet;

Ffinlo, with initial research about Cinderford's heritage, design of web input, graphics and images within the leaflet, design of the leaflet itself;

Sally, with providing access to the Artspace venue, and organising a research day for us all - that involved a talk and access to archive material and old books at Cinderford library; a tour and talk at the Palace cinema; a talk and access to old photographs and cuttings by a chap who worked at the old Mercury newspaper office for over 50 years;

Sarah Jane, in her role as one of the school's senior Teaching Assistants - helping to keep focus on the tasks in hand - and with the successful efforts of herself and her daughter to find the weather-worn grave of Forest poet, Catherine Drew.

The whole project had first to be approved by the head teacher, and was initiated by Debbie Cook from RIO. More about RIO below, and I'm including their website in my Links list.

We are all tremendously proud of the finished result, the trail leaflet - but the type of process that this sort of project enables is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

I have 'put my oar in', last year some time, about the value of creative collaborative projects to the development of young people's life and essential skills to a select committee researching creativity in schools. I can't emphasise too strongly the massive gains to be had in getting a couple of creative practitioners together with a bunch of school pupils under the umbrella of a previously-researched community project and driving the process through to a finished result - and usually a darn good launch event with the local press and fruit juice and healthy biscuits and such!

Massive gains to the pupils, but I'm talking about myself too (I know, selfish, selfish).

I always gain inspiration and creative stimulation from working with these projects. Not least is the thought-provoking and entertainment value of, say, a baker's dozen of 10 year olds in one space, given free rein to their ideas and opinions.

But other stuff too, that can't be predicted at the start.

Like, for example, I hadn't previously been to the just-gorgeous old Victorain church and graveyard of St Johns.
I hadn't stood on the terrace of the Baptist Chapel and looked over the forest landscape from that view.
I'd barely heard of Catherine Drew, an 'ordinary' housewife who happened to write poetry about the Forest.
I'd never read the 1965 scrap book created by the WI that is housed in Cinderford library.
I'd never heard about the alleged-witches of the area.
I hadn't realised the Triangle now had a mini-auditorium with Forest dialect carved into the sides of the seating!

And one of the times that I really, really loved was the discussion about dialect that the year 5s, me and Sarah Jane had!
I speak with a north-east dialect, even though I've been out of the north-east for over 20 years (lived out, that is, they don't keep me out per se, I go up there all the time :-) ... and I am passionate about the cultural value in retaining dialect. It was lovely to be chatting dialect with these Forest children and their forester TA!


As per their website wording, RIO are a 'social enterprise creating and providing programmes, products and services that help young people around the world realise their potential'.

This is a huge ambition!

But all of my experience with RIO shows me that they're achieving it in their local projects with schools (probably in lots of other projects too, but I only have experience of the schools' ones :-))

And I'm happy to be involved with a further RIO project in the county, this time with Longlevens Primary School.

I wonder what treasures are in store for me this time!
I'll let you know after the project.


1 comment:

  1. Dear Fi

    I’m sorry to send you this email out-of-the-blue but I wondered if you know who currently maintains the Cinderford Town Trail?

    You kindly linked two of the articles to my web-site: “Edward Hunt’s Forest of Dean Miscellany”.

    Following problems with the web-site hosts, I am now rebuilding the site with a new host (

    Unfortunately, this has caused the two links on the Cinderford Town Trail to stop working.

    The new links are:

    Catherine Drew:

    Who Killed the Bears?

    By the way we have met: about 4 years ago at the Church in Lydrook. You and other writers, including Rebecca Tope, were discussing the significance of location in novels. I have a signed copy of your book “From Wear to Wye” from that evening.

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    Kind Regards

    Edward Hunt