Walking and Writing Workshop

Presence 05/07/2022

I’m stepping back into The Sill: National Discovery Centre as past Writer in Residence for Northumberland National Park as well as current position as Creatrix in Residence for Hadrian’s Wall to facilitate a walking and writing workshop.

Taking inspiration from The Lost Spells: Listening to a Landscape of Voices exhibition, and book by Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane, this writing workshop will explore the power, glory and joy of nature.

Starting with the exhibition, we will use Jackie’s images as a field guide as we journey outside (in all weathers) to walk the landscape around The Sill and Hadrian’s Wall. With our sense of wonder stimulated and our creative pots full, we’ll return to The Sill to put pen to paper.

All genres of writing, journaling, imagining and creating are welcome in this workshop which is led by Hadrian’s Wall Creatrix and The Sill’s first writer in Residence, Dr Sheree Mack. The aim is to leave with a renewed sense of awe at nature and ourselves, as are we not all connected with nature as one?

More information and sign up for ticket here.

Intrinsic – a new anthology of writing

It is with great delight that I share with you this forthcoming publication.

Late last year, I submitted a completed mixmoir essay to Eleanor Cheetham, at Creative Countryside. This was the end result of an application submitted on invitation by Eleanor last August.

Now, coming next month, through a successful Indigogo fund raising campaign, Intrinsic will be out in the world. And I’m overjoyed to see this project succeed. It’s been a while in the making, which isn’t a complaint as I am an advocate of ::SLOW:: but it was touch and go if this project was going to come to fruition due to finances. and that would have been a great shame and disservice if this beauty was lost to the world.

An anthology of 12 deep-rooted connections with the more-than-human world, this book is not like any other nature writing text out there. This anthology supports and uplifts the diverse voices which exist within this writing genre at the same time as expanding and redefining what nature writing can be.

I’m one of the twelve writers featured in this anthology. I took the time, and the much needed space, to explore something that I’ve been carrying around within my body and soul for a while; the link to the sea for my ancestors and me.

Seascape- Grief and Grievance and Healings is the title. It’s a narrative mixmoir piece rich in memories and hauntings, voices and references. I’m really proud of this baby and it was such a delightful process of creation throughout it all.

Please consider checking the anthology out, published by Creative Countryside and available to buy next month, July 2022.

Let’s Start with a Poem

Extract from my recent presentation for the Women and Wetlands Panel Discussion

When Petrified Trees Stand Up and March Into the Sea

I carve out solitude to wander
wide open shores

sanddunes, pebbles and
wooden limbs

Submerged
a forest of trees
so tall they flowed
above the clouds

what we cannot control,
we destroy and call it progress.

We advance like the tide
to claim what
we have
no right to claim

concrete blocks,
seaweed and dead seals,
emerge from
frothy waves
and marram grass.

unseasonal storms
uproot ancient trees
while manmade
concrete lines
remain in tact
in place in defence

here a legion of
foreign bodies marched
to expand an empire,
build a wall
then leave it to moss.

Bizzing dragonflies,
shrubs of wax mirtle
and the coconut vanilla
scent of golden gorse

Some day soon
all this will be gone,

gorse, grass, concrete wall,

washed away like blood
as the sea returns to the source,

returns to where it belongs.

There’s a small hamlet, Low Hauxley nestled behind sand dunes along a long and quiet stretch of sandy beach on the Northumberland coast.
Here along the high tide line stumps of an ancient forest are visible.

It is believed the stumps were preserved by peat and sand and are believed to date back to more than 7000 years and are the remains of Doggerland- an area of bogs, marches and forest that connected the British Isles to mainland Europe.

Archaeologists have also uncovered animal footprints and it is believed red deer, wild boar and brown bears would have roamed ancient Doggerland forest.

These petrified trees. This really blew my mind.

My name is Dr. Sheree Mack. I’m Creatrix : she who makes.

My practice manifests through poetry, storytelling, image and the unfolding histories of black people. I engage audiences around black women’s voices and bodies, black feminism, grief and healing, nature, identity and memory.

I advocate for black women’s voices, facilitating national and international creative workshops and retreats in the landscape, encouraging and supporting women on their journey of remembrance back to their bodies and authentic selves. This journey is supported and recognised by Mother Nature.

I’m the founder of Earth Sea Love, which is a social enterprise, offering opportunities to People of the Global Majority living in the north east of England to develop a deeper connection with/in nature.

The Earth Sea Love Podcast has developed out of these experiences and aims to change the narrative around who has a right to have a relationship with nature. I’ve recently been writer in residence for Northumberland National Park Authority. A black-led nature project I will add. At the moment I’m Creatrix in Residence for Hadrian’s Wall part of the 1900 years festival.

My Practice is a Healing Practice.

The Practice of ::SLOW:: is how I engage with my work and the world. Living within White Supremacy Culture, we are indoctrinated into certain principles and practices which benefit the few rather than the many.

Leaving aside racism and the systematic destruction of Black, brown and indigenous peoples, White Supremacy Culture, perpetuates the pursuit of perfectionism, product over process, and quantity over quality, to name but a few.

This means that the majority of us live our lives at speed, with a greater sense of urgency, with feelings of never being or doing enough, resulting in reduced contact to ourselves, our intuition and inner wisdom.

Slowing down supports me on my journey back to self and ultimately self-love and healing. Being and walking with/in nature teaches me how to slowdown and pay attention and just be.

Nature shows me that there is an abundance rather than a scarcity. It is through these practices that I fell in love with nature.

Nature and I are connected. We are one, therefore falling in love with nature, I fell in love with myself. This in turn means I turn up in life, in connection with others not only as a better version of myself but in a better place to offer love to other people.

Women and Wetlands

Last night I was part of a panel discussion which tackled the subject of women and wetlands.

Crag Lough, seen from Peel Crags, Hadrian’s Wall

I was asked by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett at Northumbria University to be part of this event and share my work around my residence at Northumberland National Park and my explorations of peat bogs.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect about this event or what I was going to share. But on reflection now, I’m so glad that I was invited to take part because I learned so much about peatlands within the UK, around the world and the special place they hold within the global climate crisis.

So much of my language around nature and the environment has been formed through white supremacy culture which has been biased on colonialism and imperialism and capitalist consumption. And of which I am at great pains now to unlearn and find a new language or it is just a re-memory of the language of my ancestors where there is no separation between us and nature.

Something that was raised last night by Khairani Barokka, which was totally new to my knowledge and way of thinking was that within indigenous communities gender was much more fluid and diverse. The binary system of male and female/ he and she which we take as a given now, as the norm, is a construction and part of the colonist program.

That the idea of “the coloniality of gender,” which might have seen the binary gender system in Europe but was not the case for indigenous populations around the world who were brutalised, moved off the lands and eliminated through genocide. This is going to require more reading on my part but it will be completed eagerly as it’s more evidence of how this system to live and breathe is a construct of power for a few white people over the rest of us all.

I share an extract of my presentation here.

roots, culture, identity virtual art exhibition, 2022

Roots, Culture, Identity Virtual Art Exhibition, 2022

It gives me great pleasure to share a virtual exhibition which I’m part of.

Running from May until August 2022, you have the opportunity to visit a virtual exhibition to coincide with the TUC Black Workers’ Conference, 2022.

Marking the 10th anniversary of the beginning of this exhibition which came out from one of the recommendations of the TUC Stephen Lawrence Task Group, the exhibition aims to provide an opportunity for Black, Asian and ethnic artists with a focus on young people, who are marginalised and face discrimination in the arts and culture sector, to showcase their work.

For years, I’m been meaning to submit my work for consideration, however due to other commitments, or not even having the finances in order to ship/ take my artwork down to Marble Hall of TUC Headquarters, London, I’ve never completed the application process.

However, with the pandemic offering a different way of working and exhibiting artwork, this year, due to an extended deadline, I was able to find the time and space to submit something.

The theme for this year’s exhibition is Collective Action for Race Equality. The
inspiration for the theme comes from the horrific impacts of racism we face today globally
from climate injustice to the disproportionate impact of contracting and dying from
coronavirus.

I submitted photography that I felt reflected my connection with nature as well as the work I carry out with Earth Sea Love; to offer opportunity for developing a deeper connection with nature for People of the Global Majority (PGM). I took Community/ Collective Healing as my focus and hope my images offer moments of tranquility and healing, grace and hope.

Creatrix in Residence @ HOME

visual journaling spread

The rain pours down, the temperatures drop. And we’re inside.

Miss Ella has Covid again so we self-isolate. We do our bit to keep the infection rates down even if no one else does.

Forced to stay in door could play on my mind, could make me frustrated and resentful if I let it.

What I’ve been doing is getting creative. Creatrix in Residence @ HOME is me allowing my imagination to wander while my hands are busy. Even my body as I continue to knock out my 4 miles a day of walking, indoors. It takes a whole heap longer than when outdoors. So I mix things up with a bit singing and dancing to Silk Sonic.

Things could be a lot worse. But poor Miss Ella. Just getting better after her stay in hospital and now this is just another set back. She’s taking it well as she gets creative too with video games, you tube, make up and singing.

Apart from writing a poem a day for the month of April here, I’ve also been making a ZINE a day as I’ve been accepted to present at the Edinburgh Zine Festival 2022 in May. Getting all my creations ready to share, swap and sell hopefully.

Hopefully, all will be well by the time this comes along as Miss Ella is going to be my assistant, sharing in the non- profits.

Dry January – Coming Late to the Party

If you receive our Studio Notes, then you would have read that the beginning of 2021 did not go as planned. Miss Ella got sick, real sick, having to go into hospital for a few weeks to recover from an infection. We didn’t know what was happening and it was worrying.

At the same time, our local hospital trusts brought in stricter restrictions in terms of visitors to hospital. They brought in the rule of one parent per child, 24/7. So swapping out of parents to give some respite and relief. No sharing the load.

It made sense that Miss Ella’s dad stayed in hospital with her as then I’d be available to run around, bringing in food and changes of clothes, as I drive while Miss Ella’s dad doesn’t.

Not being able to see her, cuddle her and tell her everything was going to be alright was so frustrating and painful. For a few weeks there I was self medicating with wine and binge eating crap just to numb the pain and worry. For a few blissful hours each night, I could switch off and forget everything. But the worry and fears were still there to face me the next day.

We’d decided that when Miss Ella was discharged from hospital she’d come stay with me to recover. I hadn’t been with her for so long and it also gave her dad a break after his hospital stay. I needed to be there for her, be switched on and watched her like her hawk. Therefore, alcohol was out of the question.

I’m so pleased that I’d made this decision because within 24 hours of being out of hospital, I had to rush Miss Ella back in with the same symptoms as before. This time, I was the parent to stay in hospital for a few days while they worked out what was wrong and treat Miss Ella again.

By the time we got home again out of hospital, I was 5 days into not drinking. And even though we’d been on another rollercoaster of a ride and alcohol was offered as a means of unwinding and forgetting the recent health scares, I abstained. Again I wanted to be alert and on standby just in case of another emergency with Miss Ella.

So that’s the long story. The short story is Dry January is happening and it wasn’t on my radar. And I’m not really following it as I’ve said, I’ve been drinking this month. But today, I’m 8 days dry.

Sobriety is something I tried last January and completed the month. This year, I’m planning on going beyond the month.

I think my drinking became an issue for me in terms of my behaviours and actions and go-to during 2020 lockdown, marriage breakdown, separation and new home period of my life. It became easy to reach for the wine bottle and forget my worries and concerns. But I just can’t accept the excuses any more. It’s not really worth it as our recent health scares and hospital stays have illustrated.

Throughout, 2022, I intend to share my journey with sobriety here as I realise writing about my struggles is part of the cure. I

have a choice and I chose me, authentic me.

Nature Writing Workshop

I’m finishing up my residency with Northumberland National Park this year with a Nature Writing Workshop.

Filled with readings and prompts, writings and sharings, we aim to generate new creations inspired by nature.

Happening Thursday 25 November from 10am – 12pm (GMT) all on zoom. and for free.

Head on over here to grab a ticket before they’re all gone.

An Alternative Narrative

As mentioned in my last post, we have the Black Nature In Residence Showcase coming up on the evening of 28 October.

This is the first event in a series that identity on tyne through their Earth Sea Love project are collaborating with Northumberland National Park to host.

Other events offered as an alternative to the Future Landscape Programme that will run at the same tine at COP26 in Glasgow, will provide diverse voices to the environmental and conservation movement and makes those all important links between the local and global in terms of the climate crisis.

Starting on 11 November, 7.30-8.30pm – Decolonising the Environmental Movement

I’ll be hosting a conversation with Sarah Hussain and Serayna Solanki

Through their projects and research, both Sarah Hussain and Serayna
Solanki are providing spaces for marginalised communities and people of
colour to engage with nature as a means of changing the narrative around
who has a say in the Climate Change Movement. They are working within
education and research, community and organisational partnerships, to create
and highlight dialogue around climate justice through personal and community
storytelling.

Then 18 November, 7-8pm, Nature Writing Reading

Join me , as host again, with Jo Clement and Zakiya McKenzie for a reading and discussion of literature which explores place, environment, belonging and identity as both writers read from and talk about their recent collections.

Then on 22 November, 7-8pm – A keynote lecture with Grace Hull, Holistic Sustainability

What is holistic sustainability?

Grace Hull created Green Grace Soul to share her journey to living sustainably in a holistic way. Grace attempts to balance the food she eats, the products she uses and the things she buys with the most beneficial outcomes for her health, the health of the planet, and the others living on it.

Sustainable living and Climate Change activism have many faces, and by centring holistic sustainability Grace engages with intersectionality and the social and historical context of climate change through the reflections of her journey that she shares on her website, podcast and DIY projects.

This will be a keynote lecture followed by a Q and A.