“All my work had gone but I had the hills”
A Yorkshire artist has turned to nature as a means of recovering from the effects of the pandemic. Covid-19 has not been “the great leveller”, as Michael Gove notoriously suggested in April 2020. Different groups have been hit harder than others. For people who made a living in the arts, most of whom are self-employed, the effects have been devastating.
Emma Decent: Land Speaks, Heart Writes
Emma Decent, from West Yorkshire, is a highly regarded writer and performer whose works have featured on Radio 4, who has won poetry slams on both sides of the Atlantic, and whose one-woman shows have featured at The Lowry.
Faced with the total loss of audiences, potential workshop attendees and opportunities to work, she did what good artists always do: she looked around her, responded to what she saw, and created something new.
Land Speaks, Heart Writes is a one-day workshop bringing vision quest in nature together with creative writing. Participants will spend time out in the landscape, seeking insight and inspiration from nature. They will then return and write using journalling, story or poetry. The day is completed with the powerful experience of sharing words in circle under the sky.
This will all take place in the poetically rich landscape of the Calder Valley around Todmorden, where Emma lives. Most famously home, at different times, to Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath (whose grave is at Heptonstall), Ed Sheeran and Simon Armitage, Emma is another artist inspired by the area’s isolated yet connected ambience. This seems to bring out the best in people.
Wilderness therapy in Yorkshire
Emma’s many years of experience as a facilitator and workshop leader also mean this will be a cut above simply escaping to the words with a notebook; participants can expect good-quality outcomes.
It will be the first time Emma has had the opportunity to ply her trade since Covid-19 swung a wrecking ball at the UK arts scene. Like many artists, the last 16 months have been a struggle like never before.
“I thought, what can I do? All my work had gone but I had the hills where I walk every day, and my poetry, much of which is rooted in the landscape, and I am a performer. It seemed to hit the spot”, she says.
Last year, during a break in the lockdowns, she created a unique event Words in the Wild, a performance of her poetry on a guided walk in Cornholme, Todmorden. This proved there was still a demand for the therapeutic effect creativity can have in traumatic times.
“A lot of people came. It seemed to provide a moment of calm and inspiration at a difficult time.”Emma Decent, 2021
Emma has been facilitating writing workshops in Calderdale for several years. She has also trained in and been practising wilderness therapy and Celtic shamanism for over ten years.
“I think a lot of people are looking for ‘a vision’ or way forward after this long strange time. Connecting with nature and accessing oneself through creativity and writing can be a gateway to that.”
Land Speaks, Heart Writes takes place from Vale Baptist Church, Cornholme, Todmorden on Saturday 11 Sept 10am-4pm, and from Hebden Bridge Hostel on Saturday 25 Sept 10am-4pm. Booking essential. For more information and to book please see emmadecent.co.uk or email [email protected].