Monday, 4 April 2011

Apple Villages project 2004

The Apple Villages work was part of a Heritage Lottery funded project that involved over 120 school children in 5 apple-growing parishes on the Somerset Levels & Moors in Somerset. Led by artist Kate Lynch and author James Crowden, the aim was to encourage the children not only to write original and lively poetry, but also to draw and illustrate their very personal observations of orchards, apples and Cider making.  Inspired by the work of Common Ground, it was hoped this project will act as a catalyst for similar initiatives. I was asked to document the work and it was my first commission after returning home to Somerset.  I loved it. It was like they were emancipating schoolchildren from the stuffiness of the curriculum by creating art and poetry to teach them about cider! I remember kneeling in the orchard on that first day behind the school in Kingsbury Episcopi and being astonished by the quality of the light, the smell of the apples, the sense of history and the ways the kids were reacting to it all, it was marvelous. I was really excited, that day really inspired me. It was like a new world opened up to me and I fell in love with it, truly.

I was sad when the project that made me feel that way had to end. The concept was sound and it had a continued application, I was so at home in the orchard and was frustrated at the thought of having to stop. I felt dutybound to I carry on, so I did. The end of this project became the starting point for IAMCIDER.

Cider is a huge part of what makes Somerset what it is now, its our heritage and its strong. Historically, as important as grapes are to the French, olives are to Italians, cider apples are to the English. In this part of the world we have grown them for centuries and they grow particularly well.

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