School’s in the Shed


If you are allowed out you will have noticed homemade rainbows painted or stuck inside people’s front windows. Kids and adults alike have been making them to share brightness and cheer. The idea being that those walking by can spot them on route giving a feeling of solidarity during this difficult time.

This little project will help you make a number of rainbows in one go. You can then send to friends and family in isolation and to brighten your own window.


What you’ll need:

  • Wax or pastel crayons.
  • Pen or pencil.
  • Six or seven sheets of plain paper the same size.
  •  Glue.
  • Scissors.
  • Sellotape.
  • Textured surfaces- we used some texture wallpaper from pattern books. But you could use your wood floor, flag stones, patio, bark, bubble wrap, sandpaper…etc

What you do:20200326_130547

  1. First we chose crayons in the colours we wanted for our rainbow – we chose 7. In this case make sure you have at least 8 sheets of paper, more if you want more rainbows.
  2. Putting the plain paper over the texture surface rub the crayon over, colouring the whole sheet and capturing the pattern beneath.
  3.  Repeat this for all your rainbow colours. Mix and match the textures if you like.
  4. When you have all your colours done stack them up and turn them over.
  5. On the back of the top one, draw your rainbow stripes with a pen or pencil.
  6. Then, holding them all together cut along all the lines. It doesn’t matter if this comes out wobbly- that will make it more interesting!
  7. Once cut out you’ll have a whole load of different sized rainbow stripes in all the different colours.
  8. Now glue them onto your spare plain piece of paper. Start with one of the biggest stripes and work your way down, fitting them together the best you can.20200326_135839
  9. All done? Wait for the glue to dry and cut the whole thing out and sellotape it up into your front window.
  10. Make more for your friends and family. Stick them in the post for grandparents or pop them through the doors of your neighbours with a cheery message to give them a smile.20200401_143901
  11. Now kids- go have an ice lolly or something and GO AWAY!! Parents- you’ve done your home schooling for today- pour yourself and G and T and have a lie down!

Shamans of the Arctic

I have been very fortunate to work on the exhibition, Between Two Worlds, at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. This is a unique collection of work from artists affected by war and intolerance in the 20th century, much of it never seen by the public before. On the surface, much of the artwork on display is vibrant and colourful but beneath are stories of artists who were persecuted, interned and displaced. Even within the permissive art world, these individuals faced discrimination and prejudice for not conforming to society’s expectations either through religious beliefs, race or sexuality. The exhibition is also about a time when colonial governments sought to impose Western society and religion, depriving indigenous communities of their cultural identity.

The exhibition draws on artworks from Derbyshire County Council’s own collection, the bequest of Arto Funduklian, the son of Armenian emigres, as well as from the Derbyshire School Library Service. Pictures and artefacts from around the world were purchased by Derbyshire County Council with the classroom in mind and was an innovative education resource, established in the 1930s to lend museum quality objects to schools. A project to oversee the dispersal of the collection, following the closure of the SLS in 2018, received funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, in conjunction with the Museum Association (MA). The MA Code of Ethics is guiding the work.

Between Two Worlds exhibition

Some of my favourite objects in the exhibition, and which I was lucky to work on, are the Inuit items. These enigmatic pieces from the frozen Arctic reveal a way of life that is rapidly changing due to the imposition of a Western lifestyle, as well as climate change.

Inuit material on display in Between Two Worlds

Some of these objects are associated with Shamanism, the practitioners of the indigenous Inuit animist religion. Animism was once widespread across the world and is possibly the oldest form of religious/spiritual expression. Evidence for it goes back at least to the hunter-gatherers of the Ice Age 35,000 years ago. Animism is the belief that objects, places and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. This belief system perceives all things—animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems – as animated and alive.

A shaman is a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing on behalf of an individual or entire community. The role of a shaman is often inherited, and both men and women can take on the role. Today, traditional animistic shamanism is found mainly in the Arctic, Siberia, Mongolia, the Himalayas and among Native American and First Nation tribes.

One of my personal favourite objects is a whale tooth carved into a strange creature, described by one of my colleagues as looking like a Moomin ! However, this is not as cute and cuddly as a Moomin. Known as a Tupilak, this one was made for the tourist market in the mid-20th century. The original Tupilaks were made from perishable materials and their purpose, once they were brought to life by a shaman performing a ritual, was to locate and destroy an enemy. After the ceremony the shaman would place it into water, where it was believed to swim off in search of its prey. Europeans were fascinated by these creatures and so the Inuit began to carve them from marine ivory to sell as curiosities.

The Buxton Tupilak

Another intriguing object, also carved from marine ivory, depicts an aquatic bird, possibly a cormorant. Closer inspection reveals that the bird has human legs and feet. This beautiful carving depicts a shaman shapeshifting into a bird so that she/he could travel to the spirit world. Shamans believed that during the trance rituals their soul would transform into an animal so that it could safely travel to the spirit world to communicate with the ancestors and spirits to appeal for a good hunt, the safe birth of a child or to heal an illness.

Shaman transforming into a bird

Other Inuit shaman items in the exhibition include a whale tooth carved with depictions of plants and animals that was one of many that hung from a shaman’s cloak, and a soapstone pendant with the facial features contorted as the shaman transforms during a ritual.

These intriguing items have now been transferred from the School Library Service to the permanent collections at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.

Between two Worlds is on at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery until June 10th. Entry to the museum and exhibitions is free and your donations to support the work of the museum are very welcome.

The Chrome Hill Project

Chrome Hill is steeped in history- layers of it.

There are a series of sharp edged limestone ridges on the north side of the upper Dove Valley where, 340 million years ago coral reefs formed the edges of tropical lagoons.

Look east as you travel out of Buxton on the A53 towards Staffordshire. The leaning, sharpened peaks of Parkhouse and Chrome Hill are out of place amongst the softer landscape. And at only 425m you look down on them, a mini Switzerland sunken amongst rolling hills.

Typical of limestone landscapes these hills are riddled with a network of cave systems formed by  swallets and resurgence waters which in later and colder times became places of hibernation, shelter and burial. There are notable caves; Dowel Cave was a burial place 6,000 years ago, the skulls and skeletons of ten people were found here but charcoal fragments reveal its use as far back as 11,000 years. Nearby Fox Hole cave on the pyramid shaped High Wheeldon had human bone, pottery, an axe and sharpened antler points that date the occupation of the cave at 15,000 years ago and excavations at Hitter Hill uncovered two cists  and four rock cut graves. The finds are in Buxton Museum. Then there is the potholers’ favourite, the huge but hidden Owl Hole and the mysteriously deep and lesser known Etches cave, named after the family who farm the land.

The view from Hitter Hill is stunning and can easily be accessed from a footpath running behind The Quiet Woman pub at Earl Sterndale. It is this same view that features in Buxton Museum’s Wonder of the Peak gallery. From here the ridge of Parkhouse looms tall and imposing and the ‘spine’ of Chrome Hill clearly articulated giving rise to its local name ‘The Dragons Back’. Sharp sunlight adds vividity to this view when both crags cast their dense shadows into the valley accentuating the amphitheatre they create around Glutton and Dowel Dale.

Take a walk here and you will sense this area is indeed unique giving the impression that you are simultaneously in expansive space and yet closed in on all sides.

It is here in the valley of Dowel Dale that two artists, Tony Wild and Brian Holdcroft decided to plot their materials and their ideas to take their work on a journey for twelve months.

Both artists originally hail from the Potteries. Tony having worked in the arts ever since studying at Burslem School of Art in the late 1950’s, and Brian developing his art form in more or less isolation from other artists until meeting Tony over twenty years ago. Over the years their work has diverged and returned to the landscape many times.


T and B at Chrome Hill
Brian Holdcroft and Tony Wild at the barn at Chrome Hill.

This exhibition is a culmination of work they created throughout the year from spring 2018 to spring 2019.

Most months are inclement here in the Peaks, they needed shelter. And so they hired a barn from farmer Mr Etches to store their materials, keep a stove and when needed take refuge.

Throughout the twelve months they drew, explored, walked and photographed. Their work shows the industry of their origins both in its output and how it now appears in series and variations.

Tony’s work falls into set of images. Chrome Hill and groups of trees appear as a repeated motif in small heavily textured and expressive paintings, their energy punching out from their size. Butterflies are lost in the textures of limestone and the microscopic world of lichens are honed in and magnified into much larger paintings. And there is colour, lots of it.

Trees at Parkhouse Hill – Tony Wild

He has two folders of work on display. One has sets of ink drawings created on the spot reminiscent of Japanese Sumi-e painting. The other, a series of photo montages cut from striking images of the hills, close-ups of tracks and the limestone’s lichen, again with a repeat motif. There seems to be four or more threads to Tony’s work, each with the potential to go on a journey of their own from this same central point.

Bird and Bark – Tony Wild

Brian’s work evolves into series; growth, erosion and mapping, as he considers the layered histories of the area and the interactions between its geology, materials, animal and human activity. He uses beeswax, pigment, ink and earth in his paintings. All were created outside at Chrome Hill.

Mapping Series: In and Around Chrome Hill – Brian Holdcroft

Also on display are Brian’s lead bowls- lead runs through the veins of the hills here- and note books he buried behind the barn they hired. Later exhumed they become objects in themselves that have withstood compression and change – albeit for a short period- as did the giant brachiopod fossils abundant at Chrome Hill. What do they contain?

buried book
Buried Book- Brian Holdcroft

Many would describe both artists’ work as abstract or expressive. Brian’s more so but the colours are naturalistic- and having experienced this area first hand- particular and precise. The work of both artist is lively and not always recognisable or descriptive, preferring to reveal its imagery and topography slowly as you immerse yourself into it, walk along with it, much as a landscape or a view unravels itself on a journey or by simply observing it quietly, in increments. In essence it’s all here.


The exhibition continues at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery until Saturday 23rd November 2019

More information on the artists can be found here:

Brian Holdcroft:

Tony Wild:

Gallery – Wild About Colour





Whispers in the Grass

July 2019

Low Haymeadows 36

These hills,

Buttress the sky,

Green mounds echo the sky,

Draw rain into this deep valley,

Its thirst.


Low Knapweed, 1Part of the BM125 project involved taking ideas about the Collections back into the landscapes a lot of those collections came from. In July, as one of our public events, Creeping Toad teamed up with Borderland Voices to host a poetry and art day at the Dove Valley Centre in the Upper Dove Valley fitting the day into the Buxton Fringe Festival



26 people joined us for a day of walking and wandering, scribbling ideas, sharing words, creating pictures and eating cake. We didn’t tie the day to any particular artefacts but drew upon the historic landscapes of the Moorlands and poems unfolded about the flowers we met, the drystone walls and the agricultural history of the area. The clear night-time skies over the dales inspired solar system pictures while other people focussed in to capture the flowers of traditional haymeadows.

Solar system copy

Poems from the day are being posted on the Creeping Toad blog and some of the shorter pieces, especially the riddles, will be logged onto the Wonders of the Peak app to tempt people out walking to create their own






Have a go yourself?

A quick haiku activity: go outside and sit down on the ground if you can. There, a) look at the sky above, b) touch the ground below, c) reflect on how these sensations make you feel. Turn those three thoughts into 3 lines. You might use the syllable convention ( 5 syllables, 7 then 5 again) but you don’t have to! Go for short, clear images and hold onto room to breathe….(Looking up, reaching down are a good pair of sensations, you could use others!)

Two haiku:

Whispers in the grass

Little rustles through small stems

Wind flowing freely

Low flower strip

Performance begun

Wind playing its instruments

Grass whispers softly


Thanks to our Whispers poets and artists

The opening poem is by Mary King,

for the others we haven’t got notes of the poets names!

*answer: drystone waller

Creeping Toad blogs:

Summer warmth

Echoing the sky

A voice in a field

DVC morning
morning from the Dove Valley Centre


The Derbyshire Open is now … open!

The Derbyshire Open Art Exhibition was officially opened last night and you can see the amazing artwork yourself for free until Friday 13 September 2019. Most of the works are for sale. The overall winner, The Derbyshire Trophy is a purchase prize and joins over a thousand other works in the museum’s collection for future generations to enjoy.

59 DERBYSHIRE TROPHY A Winter Walk by Carl Longmate
A Winter Walk by Carl Longmate

The Derbyshire Open Art Competition is run annually by Derbyshire County Council. In this the competition’s 37th year, 258 entries have been received from across Derbyshire and neighbouring counties.  22 entries from young people under 21 years were included in this year’s selection.

140 DCC YOUNG ARTIST AWARD There's No Better View Than Out of my Window by Kitty Sumner
There’s no Better View Than Out of my Window by Kitty Sumner, aged 7

Three judges had the difficult task of choosing the pictures to exhibit and selecting the award winners. Sandra Orme is a Buxton artist and previous winner of the Buxton Spa Prize, Amanda Penman is the editor of Artbeat Magazine which promotes all sorts of artistic and creative activity in Derbyshire and Chris Walters is a member of The Friends of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. The judges’ selection provides an exhibition celebrating the county and living here:  where we live, the view and how we spend our time. It shows a good feeling about living in Derbyshire: the landscape, the friendliness of the people and the impressive architecture.

The Friends of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery sponsor a purchase prize. Chair of the Friends, Lindsay Crowe presented the award to this year’s winner which will be added to the museum’s collection.

195 FRIENDS PRIZE Seeking the Source- Shooters Clough by Patrick Jones.png
Seeking the Source: Shooter’s Clough by Patrick Jones

One prize has yet to be decided. Visitors are encouraged to help choose the Visitors Choice Prize which will be announced in August. You can plan your visit here.