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Geese and Aurora Borealis

In Scotland the aurora borealis are sometimes called the mirrie dancers, subjects of an epic battle raging in the sky. In many cultures these coloured lights are thought of as the spirits of the ancestors making their presence felt. Well, when we came out of the first day of our Creative Ensemble @ Saviours event in Glasgow last Friday to the presence of these merry dancers gracing the skies over these islands, it felt true to me that wonder, ancestral support and battle were all present in the mix of what we were working with.

Becoming Geese is the name of the research project which I worked with in the creation of the film Parallel Realms. The question I held was if as Producer/Director I were to set up a holding structure for filmmaking using the pluralistic counselling framework I was trained in and still adhere to in all of my therapeutic work, would this foster conditions for more inclusivity and well-being? The geese came through as a metaphor for what naturally evolved from this experiment: A filming experience where cast and crew looked out for one another, took on well-being roles for each other and held their given roles with focus and power. Geese take it in turns to lead and they encourage one another with their shaping a V to create maximum lift and their incessant honking.

On the first evening of the event, we created a piece of theatre. In this spectacle, the golden choral ancestors of the land and the ancestors of deeper animistic traditions were embodied, voiced and brought together by Mother Goose and her golden egg, In her basket, Mother Goose bore flowers and badges saying 'I saw Parallel Realms'. The golden people and geese took these to gift to the audience members. Well we watched Parallel Realms both on the screen and in the skies that night!

I am extremely grateful to everyone who joined in. Thank you my geese and golden friends, Maureen, Maggie, Janine, Vivienne, Louise, Hazel, Elise, Jackie and Roberta. Special thanks go to Claire Gorman for leading the singing organisation with such fun and talent and for introducing me to the subject of feral choir. Also huge thanks to Karen Caddell Walker for overseeing the artistic direction and creating the golden egg. And to Brian, Maggie and Anton for the safe delivery from Fife to Glasgow and back to Fife of the giant golden egg. Who knows where its next appearance may be!

The second day of the event was a showing of several short films. I really wanted the event to continue with its geese theme and be about generating energy for including more story makers and their films which could in turn facilitate deeper discussion on important themes. I was blown away by the generosity of the filmmakers I asked to show their films. Those who were able to came along brought the filmic stories even more alive:  Ewan McPherson, Callum Rice, Lewis Blakely, Hannah Wood and Martine Robertson stirred our spirits deeper with a recounting of the making of their film and audio pieces. I was surprised by the conversations that flowed through the evening that followed to find out how many meaningful thoughts were provoked in people from viewing the selection, what had been brought up in their own stories and how many of us had been moved to tears.

These are the films. The feedback was that they made a circle and wove in and out with one another. My sense is that we excavated an ancestral and poetic landscape that tapped into each of our ancestral veins, unleashing new longing and power for creative expression.

Parallel Realms DIr. Carrle Day 2024

My FIrst Punk Glg DIr Ewan McPherson 2023

Mining Poems or Odes DIr. Callum Rice 2016

Small Lines on the Great Earth. DIr. Ed O 'Donnelly 2018

A Walk In Scotland - recorded live set by Lewis Blakely

What a Voice DIr. Hannah Wood and Martine Robertson 2022

Blg Moves DIr. Sarah Grant 2023

You Land DIr. Debora Malté Bottlno 2023

Now onto the battle bit! When I was taught about script writing at uni, and when I previously studied mythology under the virtual guidance of the books and filmed interviews of Joseph Campbell, I learnt that most scripts have a protagonist and a challenge to overcome. Most of our great stories have a fight in them. The subject of my script for Parallel Realms was my fight to stay alive when I lost my life force overnight, shortly after a supernatural experience which followed the death of my maternal grandmother. The remedy for this was the writing of a novel which I later called 'Mood Singer'. I found a map and a path back to life with a mythical and ancestral orchestra of characters who seemed to write through me. I felt like the experience had plunged me into another realm and that it was only through going in there through what we call an 'imaginary' story, that I could find the threads to bring myself back to the world. It took a lot of years. Twenty seven years after beginning the Mood Singer novel, its story has become the material for a sequence of films, including Parallel Realms.

It is since this initiatory occurrence in 1996 that I have been unable to work inside man-made systems. For over twenty years I lived in the countryside and chose a quiet life bringing up my children. I ran a studio gallery and shamanic practice in rural Fife. I managed some insertion into university life to study an MSc in Counselling for which I did an autoethnographic research study on treating a mood disorder with mindfulness, nature and the pluralistic counselling model, especially focusing on the theme of the importance of client agency in preference choices. My preference was to incorporate a creative project through writing and performance in my process. It was a surprise to find how it excavated a trauma and gave it context and a level of closure which allowed me to move forwards in a way I hadn't been able to before. I do believe this self-research enabled me to move to the city and have strength to find ways to hold myself in harsh or busy environments.

When I look back I can see that my battle has been exacerbated by human made systems that are created by industrial and imperial drivers and all kinds of rigid rules. All of this can mean that many people are excluded and/or made to feel inadequate for a task at hand. This includes the creative industries.

My personal goal now is to be a part of a movement that builds environments for people that bring meaning and care for others to the centre of our lives. I know deep inside myself that it is the provision of these spaces that will also take art and creative practice back to its true place again: a transformative space where lives are changed and a communion with the wider realms of what we are operating inside is understood. Story is shaped by us. Humans are shapeshifters and magicians inside a vast web of time and energy. Unless we get ourselves into an alignment with the conditions for this, we will lose the power to affect change and free suffering. I think the key to finding our way to this aligned place is to listen to what isn;t working in each of us and find out how to meet each of our needs.

Neurodiversity and the right to have preferences to ensure we can be ourselves more easily could be key forces to help uncover a movement that will transform the industry. A majority are calling for change. I am happy to be moving onto a PhD in October that will help me to create research that I anticipate will help bring one of many tested models into the field to contribute to greater levels of inclusivity. My hypothesis is that providing these conditions actually improves creative potential and performance.

Through 32 years of working with people of all ages and listening to their stories, I know that when we listen and provide permission to have what is needed a new story can evolve. I have never felt myself as an individual, I sense myself as a part of something bigger. My inability to work within systems has meant that synchronicities and desperation have led me to find connection with a force at work that is far more holding and true than human intention. This part is human too, but it is the magician part of the human.

Mag(h) is root in the words magic, imaginary and magician. Mag(h) simply means 'to be able'. I reckon the more we listen to what is difficult and the more we bring in the mag(h), then the bigger and more incredible what we do can be. This is what the project Becoming Geese taught me. This is what working with people in the countryside for twenty years with nature and group process taught me. This is what anyone who works in creative environments with a story to tell really knows. When we pause with what is difficult and listen for the way, something is able to enter the process that is transformative. How cool it is that we are getting to uncover a new way for holding space because of the battle we may each have with life!

Aurora borealis, if you are ancestors showing up and letting us know you are a mirror for us, or if you are the mirrie dancers of battling clans mirroring the stories on earth, we hear you. You show us the magic that is what we bring in when we sit down and listen and find new ways.

Geese, perhaps we will learn a lot from you!

If you would like to get in touch with me about any of this please do. I am building some programmes and events which I will be advertising over the next couple of weeks.

Photos by Sweeneypix

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