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In Issue 14, due out on shortly, we have a remarkable, seasoned piece by Tom Hirons, illustrated by Rima Staines, in which they bring us up to date with their Hedgespoken travelling theatre project as they make final preparations for taking to the road. It was way back in Issue 4 that we heard from Rima about her experiences of the wayfaring life and her love for being on the road. You can read that article and enjoy some of her beautiful art here: Wayfaring – A Wheeled and Painted Life.

Who knows how the time flies from a dream to a fully road-ready travelling home-and-theatre with a drop-down stage. Or from Issue 4 to Issue 14 for that matter. But some things, it seems, stay constant. Here is a piece from Tom’s article that looks at why we tell the stories that we do:

“There is a power that changes the world in ways that I don’t understand. There’s a way of action that strikes or strokes the fibres of reality in such a way that they sing, or resonate, or dance … and that song or that dance in its turn makes the fibres of reality nearby begin to follow the tune. In time, something special has occurred. And where there might have been the usual tangle of life, there is instead a symphony or a harmony.

What’s important is that there is a way of telling stories, of performing them, that makes this thing happen. And when it does, I call it good storytelling, because the fibres are singing. For me, that thrum or hum or strum is what I live for. It’s what we’ve tried to bring to our storytelling, to our writing, to our arts. And it’s this we hope to propagate with Hedgespoken.”


hedgespoken by starlight 2000

When Tom Hirons and Rima Staines visited us at our croft up on the far, salt-spattered Atlantic face of Lewis it was like an unexpected change in the weather. A day when the storms abate and a hush falls to set the scene for a gentle southerly breeze, warm and spicy. They came in a live-in van, small and full of nooks and crannies where lived mysteries. There was a small pot-bellied iron stove ready to be set in some sheltered place which thereby became a home-for-the-day. There were spoons, I recall, all different, made with care and craft. All the small, beautiful needs of a simple life. Then there were costumes and a huge cloth stage backdrop, vivid and full of stories as carpets get full of dust. As well there were masks and musical instruments. Because that small red van was actually, I can see now, an early prototype. Even then the pair were travelling players and they came north bringing stories. We cleared a space in our barn and it became, for one summer night, a theatre. People came. Children amazed. Grown people drifted into another world, one that they had almost forgotten. Look at these pictures of a cow-byre and lambing shed become ancient woodland:

When was that? A few years back in another life and another world. Earthlines was just starting out. But even then the Hedgespoken project was on the drawing board, literally. Shortly after that the Bedford lorry that is now the Hedgespoken travelling theatre, family home, receptacle of magic and hope was found and acquired. Of course it was a lorry then. The road that Tom and Rima have travelled to go from a big green truck to Hedgespoken is long and represents an almost unbelievable mountain of work: designing, fund-raising, sourcing, starting a family, building, fettling, living and working through a winter of furious storms.

our bedford rl

As if Hedgespoken isn’t enough Tom and Rima also continue to be artists off-stage. Tom’s extended poem ‘Sometimes a Wild God’ is now in book form, illustrated by Rima. If you have an afternoon free to go to your favourite sanctuary or a sheltered nook somewhere you’d have few better companions than this little book.

Then there is Rima’s collaboration with writer Sylvia Linsteadt which has resulted in Tatterdemalion – a post-apocalyptic novel rooted deep in the folkloric traditions of Old Europe. The book is currently sprinting through the funding process at Unbound: But if you want to say that you were amongst the original funders for this book, well, you’d better hurry. It is two-thirds funded after barely a fortnight.

So, if ever there is a strange whisper spreading through your valley or village or town – a whisper that the travelling show is on its way, somewhere out on the edges of our everyday lives, in a clearing, on a green, set up on a piece of waste ground – you maybe lucky enough to catch a perfomance from Hedgespoken. Don’t miss it.