Category: Aethelflaed and All things Anglo-Saxon

May Events 2018 (by )

Bit late to be adding this now considering I have already performed at a few including the Swindon Literature Festival's 25th anniversary extravaganza of a poetry slam (Joy-Amy won!!!) which included people like Tina Sedaholm and other previous winners. I have been to London, Bristol, and Stroud also - but that is the what has been and there is still a lot to come!

Sat 19th May 3-7 pm Food For Thoughts Heroes event in Worcester - poetry, music, spoken word, comedy and story telling - free with charity collection

Tues 22nd May 6-8 pm Gloucester's second Pecha Kucha Night - fast fun Japanese style presentations on various creative and community aspects or the creatives tales themselves - my presentations is From Rocks To Puppets and Back Again - Gloucester - free

Sun 27th May 2-4 pm - Sea Special Villanelles at Waterstones Cafe - I am co-hosting this event with poetry games and open mic, come and share your own work or poems that have inspired you - Gloucester - free and family friendly

Wed 30th May 7:30 pm start - History Showoff Women's Special at the Bishopsgate Institute - a night of comedy and cabaret - come and meet Aethelflaed the Puppet and learn about the Warrior Queen of the Mercians! (psst she's much better than her old dad who only went and burnt the cakes!) - ticketed event ยฃ9

And June isn't looking too shabby either - but more on that later!

Papier Mache Anglo-Saxon Broaches (by )

dry paper mache former waiting to be decorated

One of the things I do for Cuddly Science workshops and sometimes for various themed events is make paper mache stuff. This started with things like props for Jean to take to pre-school for World Book Day and kind of escalated. By her forth birthday I was making paper mache "blanks" for the kids to decorate themselves at her parties (volcanos) but I got carried away and made too many so I took the remainder to various events and based activities on them - I have since had to make more volcanoes! Often with the kids!

extinction workshop at SmashFest Gloucester Library CuddlyScience

When designing my Fantastic Fossils workshops I found some silicon moulds which I used to form mulch or mashed up paper mache - this was a good way to turn old newspapers and office scrap into little fossil replicas that the kids could decorate and take home with them.

So it seemed only natural to do exactly the same for my Aethelflaed Quest. Initially I thought I would have to build the objects out of polymer clay or carve them and then make silicon moulds but I found a lovely mould online though it doesn't have the chunky base of my fossil ones so I can't just flop the finished product out to dry but then it is the same shape repeated so that doesn't matter as much.

tissue mache mush

I delved a little bit into art history for this as well as I was getting a little confused between things we call "Celtic", viking and anglo-saxon not to mention stuff I think of as contemporary Irish! Part of the reason for this is that vikings were not a distinct group as such but rather those who lived in Northern Europe who had decided to become pirates (due to land and resource shortages due to rising seas - present time governance might want to take heed of this!).

Here a couple of books I've been ploughing my way through in research! (A lot of online reading and chatting to people about it all has been happen too!)

So the up shot of this is that there were actually lots of overlapping cultures that had the same sorts of designed both pre and post Roman Britain and though minor things in it change like weather there are people or animals and weather they are whole or dismembered abstractions changes but over all its all got the same feel. I spent ages reading up on various anglo-saxons things and pouring over photographs of finds and artworks showing fashions of the time (and when I say time here were are talking hundreds of years and each region tended to have it's own little arty/fashion thing that then got traded just to make the stories even harder to work out - ie Syrian glass in Britain whilst our cloaks went to Rome). In some aspects our clothing hasn't changed that much since the Iron Age - we are still wearing the plaids/tartan designs or at least buying blankets styled on the same!

mould in Celtic swirls

Anyway with all this taken into account I chose a three lobed swirl to be the base of cloak pins/broaches that the kids can decorate during my workshops. The style was in general for two such fasteners to hold the cloaks in place.

setting up the paper mache

So I got busy with PVA glue, tissue and hot water - I am making a batch from pulverised newspaper as well to be stone replicas but I wanted a specific look for the ones to be decorated.

filled moulds

I squidgy the mush into the moulds and then press down with a towel to remove any excess water - it quickly became apparent that the whole thing would be easier if the shapes weren't in a big sheet so I had to cut my new mould up! This is always a nerve wracking thing to do... what if it doesn't work and you've just destroyed the thing you need?

cut up and stacked Celtic twirl moulds

But it did work and soon I was popping them in the oven on the lowest heat - much to the bewilderment of our poor builders - who have had to put up with me stopping them working so that I could extract clay from the trench they were building.

filled paper mache mould on baking tray

Once the shapes are sufficiently dry I pop them out of the moulds and leave them to fully Harden whilst I start a fresh batch - I often do a bit of paper mache each day when I am at home anyway - funny thing with this lot though... the shape of the moulds means that when I am squeezing the water out it has a tendency to jet outwards! Messy over gear has had to come into play! i.e. my nans' old housecoats, that they used to use for housework. I actually also have one of my own that Al's then work colleague got me when he got Alaric his metal working apron.

The little stock of these is steadily building up and I have gold paint and sticky gems for the kids - they will be having their first outing at the big Aethelflaed Festival in Gloucester this summer ๐Ÿ™‚

papier mache bases for anglo Saxon cloak broaches

Lyra the Lyre (by )

Lyra and the Lyre

Lyra the Lyre would by lying if she said she was Anglo-Saxon but she knows how she is different and is very similar - so she will do.

Basically she is 10 strings and modern built "Celtic" style and the Saxon era ones were 5-8 strings. However culturally the music and things would be close to the Danes/viking stuff were they range from 2 strings (or t least this is my understanding form all the readingI've been doing). The style of harp/lyre used is basically the same as that used in Israel and the Middle East - stretching way back in time. Anglo-Saxon harps are rare finds though and we are lucky to have found the fragments at Sutton Hoo. Gaps in our knowledge are filled in from other parts of Europe - ie places in and around Germany where the Angles and other associated tribes came from.

Finding myself falling down a lovely rabbit whole of music history - and finding myself trying to understand music theory when I can't read music!

So... pentatonic scales are kinds of an ancient thing hidden in British music especially the folk stuff - this is not the 8 note thingy we are taught at school and kind of explains why folk stuff from other places sounds so hauntingly familiar to me. I struggle a bit with the restrictions of conventional music that tries to tell me sounds I can hear don't exist or can't sound good. These I've found are called Demi-tones - but that is another tale and arches back to the end of the nineties and my choir master being awesome in explaining stuff and encouraging people to experiment with music.

Anyway obv. Lyra has the wrong number and type of strings and has a key for turning the pegs for tuning but she is still really really similar to the harps the anglo-saxons used.

I have a book on Lyre history, making and tuning coming - for now I just sort of tightened the strings until they sounded ok to me. At some point I will be making a Sutton Hoo replica but not before the summer festival for Queen Aethelflaed!

Here are some fun links!

Viking Guitar

Guide To Playing a Six String Lyre

This one is an absolutely beautiful blog on The Saxon Hearpe - here is the lady in a vid about it too ๐Ÿ™‚

Aethel in the Park (by )

To commemorate Aethelflaed Queen of Mercia and Mother of England there is a beautiful bench in Gloucester Park - it backs onto the World War One bench so we had a little walk and took some pics ๐Ÿ™‚

Aethelflaed Bench Gloucester Park

I like the fact that it is made of wood - wood is a very Anglo-Saxon material and was utilised for pretty much everything, Aethelflaed and her family which included Alfred the Great of burnt cakes fame, her brother who was King of Wessex and her foster son and nephew Aethstan who was the first "King of England" commissioned building in stone because it was the new fancy stuff and they brought in stone masons from the continent to do so (they also nicked already cut stone from the decaying remnants of various roman buildings) but wood - wood was the main thing. They built with it, ate with it, sailed with it and made their textiles from tools fashioned in it.

Sword Welding Queen bench

The bench has some lovely stylised art work on it showing the Queen with a sword representing her military rule.

Carve Athelflaed head

Of course it is a natural material and they have have very much shaped the bench from the suggestions of nature leaving a huge great hole that Alaric just had to shove his hand into! (Had to think carefully about the phrasing of this sentence!)

Alaric putting his hand in Queen Aethelflaeds hole

Of course wood will weather even if efforts are made to maintain these benches - this is an interesting thing for these benches as they slowly become part of the landscape. There is also a stone statue in the making I believe which will be an interesting contrast and the two pieces will to me represent the juxtaposition of the Warrior Queen herself as she straddled the time of change form wood to stone buildings.

Here are the bits from the other side of the bench.

World War 1 Memorial bench

Close up of coin/medallion wood carving on bench

Close up of carving on WW1 bench Gloucester Park

And though I am pretty sure I have already photographed this bird graffiti by Trix on the Avery - here it is again because I really like it ๐Ÿ™‚

Close up of bird Graffiti

And on that note - why is there a random Avery in the park? And who looks after it? The birds all seem happy and healthy.

Bird Graffiti Gloucester

And last but not least I also found this interesting building on our walk - I've been collecting urban and architectural photos and this one seemed to fit the bill nicely.

Interesting Building in Gloucester

The Quest for Aethelflaed Hots Up!!! (by )

This year is the 1100 yr anniversary of Aethelflaed, the Lady of Mercia and Warrior Queen's death - living in the city she was buried in means that of course I have become involved with the celebrations to mark the occasion!

Here. is a little summary - though it does not yet mention everything that is happening ๐Ÿ™‚

There is so much AWESOME going on for this event - I'm taking Cuddly Science's Histories to the event and have been researching and amassing much stuff for workshops including metallurgy, textiles, music, a new puppet, mud squishing, art history, wood work and more!

I have been privileged to work with the people at the Museum of Gloucester and have been pestering historians everywhere - I might also have high jacked the family holiday and various story telling gigs to slip in some extra research. I've reached the stage of trying to track down copies of various Chronicles (in translation) and have revived my interest in Viking/Saxon et al poetry.

Last year I decided it was time to move Cuddly Science onto phase 2 - Cuddly Histories and so found myself at the Archaeology Festival and even at some digs <3 Being a geologist by training this reminded me of my love for archaeology and history - I went on to take part in the History festival with a talk on Cave Art and so on...

I'd already decided to make the Aethelflaed puppet for this year when the chance of being involved in the festival came up and so my Quest for Aethelflaed and Search for All Things Anglo-Saxon started - I have taken photos of rocks and statues and medallions and fallen down rabbit holes of Norse language roots, I am using my science, technology, art, and craft skills, I am researching and learning and this makes me very happy - I am also meeting lots of interesting people on the way.

I am also learning so much about the city I live in - things I just didn't know.

With only about a month or so to go before the festival it's time to turn the heat up on my Quest - can you work out what I am up to with this little piece of kit?

Silicon mould

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