Arts Council of Wales have funded my next book!

October 19, 2021 at 10:21 am / by

I’m very excited to have been funded by the Arts Council of Wales to write a book exploring the pretty bitterly polarised debate on farming vs rewilding that is going on in Mid-Wales. The book, almost finished, adds nuance to the issue, presenting it through the lens of addled motherhood. The bigger picture – the political – is seen through the personal, as I write about these crazy, intense, joyful-and-sorrowful years of seeing small children go from being mostly wild animal, to little socialised beings, curbed and clipped but also incredibly excited to learn what the world holds for them. And crucially that this process is happening with a backdrop of a move from forest-school nursery, to a very indoors, Welsh language, small-c conservative, straight-laced school. And then there’s an omniscient cuckoo narrator! I’m getting really ready to foist this opus on the world – more news and ETAs coming soon.

In the meantime, here’s some of the application text:


As a writer I base my thinking and writing in a sustained event or journey. I am applying to fund a writing project, the central event of which will be two weeks spent sleeping out in the Cambrian Mountains, moving with sheep and inspired by historic shepherding practice of hefting and transhumance, and their associated landscape-scale cultural networks.

Drawing attention to historic farming practice needs doing right now, in light of:

• fresh relationships that people have with the supermarket supply chain, food growing, food sustainability, and immigrant labour, following the shock of empty shelves due to Covid-19

• the Agriculture Act and lowering of welfare standards in preparation for post-Brexit trade deals

• the ongoing discussion around ‘rewilding’ and landscape-scale conservation projects

In Mid-Wales, as elsewhere, a polarisation is in effect which lays the blame for biodiversity loss and climate change with farmers. Protest organisations are predominantly English-speaking, as are responses to this through the arts and humanities (although this is improving and there are notable exceptions). This bilingual project is designed specifically to cross these battle lines, give context to farming practices, highlight the cultural and social networks lost by the misunderstanding of farming then and now, and add nuance and meaning to the land itself through a slow, mindful, playful encounter with the land. In the words of poet Patrick Kavanagh: “To know fully even one field or one land is a lifetime’s experience. In the world of poetic experience it is depth that counts, not width.”

In addition, I will be taking my two children, Osian (4) and Taliesin (1). This builds on an Artist’s Residency in Motherhood (ARIM) I have been undertaking since 2017, which included residency off-grid on Bardsey Island last year, and a fortnight in the Cambrian Wildwood in 2018. The latter formed the basis of a TedX talk on de-domesticating motherhood in a ‘rewilding’ setting.

Questioning the role of children and the family in working life is very pertinent right now as the closure of schools has left many families trying to home school and work from home.

Farming is one of very few remaining ‘family’ jobs that children are brought up in, understand in action and contribute to.

This project will strive to bring the children further into my written work in a way that genuinely informs and creates it, rather than being tokenistic, sentimental or diluted.

My previous work in this vein has included research and practice in toddler-scale mindful time outside, stories and songlines, exploring the ‘hefting’ of my children to their environment, dériving and psychogeography.

My previous two projects involved writing in situations that would challenge the work itself. No screens, no watches, no childcare – turning from the belief that work can only be done by removing the children, but also allowing natural cycles of light, weather, creatures etc to inform our own rhythms.

Turio is Welsh for burrow, bore, nuzzle, rummage, probe, investigate, which is what we intend to do, deep in our temporary upland home.

Shepherd Peter Godfrey at South Stack, Anglesey

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