Writers vs Father Christmas


10 local writers including myself will be facing stiff competition for audiences from Father Christmas in a sleigh pulled by tiny ponies on Sunday 6 December in the Salon du Livres in Laguépie’s Salle des Fêtes (in France) 9am – 4pm. The Local Writers event coincides with the village’s Christmas Market.

The Viking Hostage, Impress Books, 2014

If you are in the vicinity do come in and support us. You can’t sit on our knees and we won’t give you any presents but books do make fine gifts for your family and friends. I will be there with my historical novels Almodis the Peaceweaver and The Viking Hostage, both partly set in early medieval France.

Llansteffan Castle, overlooking the triple river estuary of Carmarthen Bay

Llansteffan Castle, overlooking the triple river estuary of Carmarthen Bay (Photo: Visit Wales)

I’m currently working on my third novel set in 12th century Wales and focussed on the life of Nest ferch Rhys, the daughter of the last Welsh King. Her father Rhys ap Tewdr and most of her brothers were killed by invading Normans. The action begins at Llansteffan Castle. I keep changing the title of the new book but I think it might be called The Bees’ Book and will be published by Impress Books next summer.

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M for Mycelium

Mycelium bowls.  Photo: Nomeda Urbonas

Mycelium bowls.
Photo: Nomeda Urbonas

Zooetics is a five year research project by art collaboration Jutempus*, exploring the possibility of bringing human knowledge, technologies and processes into closer collaboration and understanding with the knowledge, technologies and processes of other life that we are co-existing with on the planet.

This month the Zooetics Pavilion is in the Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius in Lithuania. It was inspired by British novelist J.G. Ballard writing about living plant technologies in his collection of short stories Vermilion Sands (1971). In his fictional world Ballard describes a psychotropic house that interacts with its inhabitants and bio-clothes made from hypersensitive plants that respond to their wearers. Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas created a laboratory in the gallery making living material by mixing mycelium (mushroom root) with agricultural waste (sawdust, straw etc). Every week high school students and gallery visitors can work directly with the mycelium themselves. The material is strong and waterproof and can be used to create many forms: bowls, bricks, packaging, houses, perhaps boats. It is sustainable and could replace plastics, polystyrene and cardboard. Some of the mycelium was allowed to continue living and flourishing with its mushroom fruits. What would happen if we built our houses and other objects out of living material? What would happen if we engaged in more than human collaboration? What do we still have to learn from nature’s own technologies, especially from its systems of balances and symbiosis?

*Jutempus consists of artists Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas and writers / researchers Viktorija Siaulyte and Tracey Warr.

For more details see:




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SAÓ Festival in the Catalan Pyrenees

110 people attended the SAÓ Festival on 11 October 2015 organised by the Centre d’Art i Natura in the vicinity of the village of Farrera in the Catalan Pyrenees.

In the morning the audience saw Joanès Simon-Perret’s tree caressing machine and his mountain mirrors greeting the midday sun. Next they passed by my writing on water at the ford. Then Quelic Berga presented his comparative circles designating the amount of landuse to produce one meal with meat, one vegetarian and one vegan. And the audience could also view Quelic Berga’s GOD installation.

At lunchtime documentation of Jutempus’s Mycomorph Laboratory was on display using living mycelium (mushroom roots) to create a new material.

In the afternoon the audience made their way along the narrow vertiginous path to the ruined chapel of Santa Maria de la Serra where Anna Rubio worked with musician Carola Ortiz. Josep Maria Mallarach gave a talk on the history of the chapel responding to Anna Rubio’s presentation. In the guise of an archaeologist from the future Meritxell Romanos presented her project with Blai Mesa, to paint the chapel with brilliant blue and gold representations of the universe. Finally Anna Rubio and Quelic Berga’s haunting film shot in the chapel and featuring the voice of Carola Ortiz was shown, and provoked a spontaneous finale of collective singing from the audience.

You can find more information on the artists and their projects on the SAÓ Artists Blogs.

Centre d’Art i Natura, Jutempus, Joanès Simon-Perret, Tracey Warr, Quelic Berga and Anna Rubio are partners and artists contributing to the Frontiers in Retreat five year art and ecology research programme.

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the little river tributaries number more than your eyelashes


Hydra Map of Pallars Sobira in the Catalan Pyrenees

On Sunday 11 October I will make an action in the landscape concerning water for the SAO Festival organised by the Centre d’Art i Natura in Farrera in the Catalan Pyrenees. The other artists presenting work are Joanes Simon-Perret, Quelic Berga, Anna Rubio and Meritxell Romanos and Blai Mesa.

[The post title is adapted from a poem by Keats.]

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navigating islands


Just spent a few days on Uto, the outermost island amongst 50,000 in the Finnish Turku Archipelago. I was there with a group of artists from the Frontiers in Retreat network and students and professors from Aalto University and Helsinki University of the Arts. On the long ferry journey I ran a workshop on ‘Viking Readings of the Marine Environment’ and was delighted by two participants’ intimate childhood knowledge of navigating in kayaks in the brackish Baltic sea and by another participant’s attempt to use her hair as a sensing/navigating tool. Many aspects of the island, including the boathouses were inspiring for The Water Age novel I am currently working on.

On the island Bruce Gilchrist and I ran another workshop considering how we process experience of a site through language, drawing, and mapping.



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Zoo Stories – Creative Writers – Call for participation

Writers including Karen Joy Fowler, Franz Kafka and Ian McEwan have used fiction to reach across the human/non-human life divide. As part of the Zooetics project, we are developing radio broadcasts inspired by Kaunas Zoo, incorporating short fiction texts by creative writers based in Lithuania. Engaging with animals at the zoo, talking with zookeepers and other staff with an intimate knowledge of the zoo inhabitants, the writers might consider animal sensorium, extinction, animal architectures and other topics inspired by the zoo. Texts can be written in Lithuanian or English.

The first part of the project will take place on Saturday 3 October 2015 10am – 12 noon at the zoo. If you are interested in participating please email zooetics@gmail.com, with ZOO STORIES as the subject of your email, no later than 28 September 2015.

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Remote Performances in Nature and Architecture

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Remote Performances in Nature and Architecture is published at the beginning of October. It explores the relationship between place and creativity, with contributions from twenty-one artists and writers.

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