Voices of Forest and Fen

Introducing Voices of Forest and Fen, a creative writing project inspired by Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood that explores the richly historic landscapes, stories and lives within Fenland and Forest Heath. Join writer Belona Greenwood in a series of free creative writing workshops to create a verse drama of what it is to live and work here.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced writer, these online and in-person workshops are for all levels of writing experience. Led by writer, screenwriter and creative facilitator Belona Greenwood, the sessions will explore what the Fens and forest mean to you, and help you build a sense of place with words.

You will be guided through the process of research, writing, and editing. At the end of the workshops, participants will have created a narrative of voices and portrayals of the land, culminating in a final performance piece. We hope that some of the writing will become public readings at festivals and events around the region.

Read Belona’s introduction to Voices of Forest and Fen here.

Future workshop dates to be announced.

Writer Belona Greenwood introduces Voices of Forest and Fen

Marketplace’s area of operations stretches from the fens to forest and heath, strongly atmospheric, richly historic landscapes full of stories. Nature writer Robert Macfarlane describes entering the Fens like ‘crossing a border into another world.’ Equally, walk into the forest and you can listen to the trees bearing witness to all that has occurred around them. 

Capturing and writing creatively with the community about these unique worlds is what a new Marketplace community project, Voices of Forest and Fen is all about. Inspired by Dylan Thomas’ 1954 verse drama Under Milk Wood, our text will embody the special nature of our landscapes and the lives lived there past and present.

Those of us of an older generation might remember Under Milk Wood narrated by the hypnotic voice of Richard Burton full of strong, lyrical description of place and the comic, compassionate deeply human voices of the local population. It was a complete portrait haunted by the spirits of the dead. This is what we aim to achieve, to invite members of Fenland and Forest Heath communities to come together in a series of writing workshops to create our own verse drama of what it is to live and work here. 

The workshops are open to members of the community who want to help create this picture of where we live. We will explore what the fens and forest mean to you as individuals and build a sense of place with words – researching lives from the past who haunt our landscapes still, figures who do not have to be famous, it could be that you write about a great grandfather who had to leave to go off to war or an aunt who never set foot outside a village. We will write about the lives of people in the past, and how they lived, as well as to capture the voices of the present. We will also create monologues and dialogues from water, trees, and sky. After all this shifting land so altered over time should have a voice too. 

The workshops are open to beginners and those with experience of writing. In six two hour sessions, I will lead you through the process of research, and writing and finally, will edit everything together. There are two groups, one for the fens and one for forest and heath. 

The content of the project is very much guided by you who know the stories, have smelt the changes in the wind, and walked the paths.

We hope that some of the writing on the way to the creation of a final performance piece will become public readings at festivals and events around the region. In the end we will have our own version of Under Milk Wood – a frieze of voices over time and descriptions of the land we share that no one will ever be able to forget. 

Belona Greenwood, Writer, Scriptwriter and Creative Facilitator

Teen Chill and MarketPlace Celebrate as mural is displayed in Newmarket

To mark the end of the project, artists from Teen Chill youth club were invited by MarketPlace for a celebration buffet at Newmarket’s Abbeycroft Leisure Centre to celebrate The Human Race mural. The co-created mural is part of the Newmarket in Colour project by Discover Newmarket and is now displayed in the leisure centre’s foyer where it can be enjoyed by the public.

Lead artist – Hilary Cox Condron – also attended along with the young artist’s family members to celebrate their achievement and hard work. The mural was inspired by the Mutiny in Colour exhibition at the National Horse Racing Museum. As part of the project, MarketPlace took members of Teen Chill to the exhibition where they were particularly inspired by artists Banksy, KAWS and My Dog Sighs, and were keen to have their voices heard in the piece. Over the course of several sessions with the young people, their voices came forwards and we discussed and experimented with ideas, themes and visuals.

MarketPlace Programme Director Susie Batchelor says: “We were delighted at how deeply committed the young artists at Teen Chill were to the project, and at the thoughtfulness of their creative responses. Hilary and everyone at the MarketPlace team loved their energy and enthusiasm. We are very proud that they have now formed an arts collective and look forward to working with them again on other initiatives including the Rivers of Light lantern parade which will take place in Newmarket in February 2024”.

Louise Eatock, Creative Producer

Case study: Rivers of Light

The ‘Rivers of Light’ Lantern Parade in Newmarket, Forest Heath, was a co-delivered event in partnership with Newmarket Community Arts, Newmarket Community Nature Reserve and Newmarket Town Council.

Residents walked the route of the chalk stream carrying their handmade lanterns before experiencing a finale of local musicians, choirs and dance performances.

Read the full Rivers of Light case study here

(This case study was prepared by We Are Frilly as part of our Phase 3 Year 1 Evaluation Report.)

‘Absolutely brilliant event from start to finish. The parade led by the samba band was awesome, the lanterns and crowd were brilliant, and so was Coventina. Newmarket choir were spot on with a great rendition of the Rivers of Light song‘ – Audience feedback

Brandon Country Park performance space opening

We were joined by the public at Brandon Country Park to celebrate the opening of the new performance space – the FireCrest Theatre. The space was made possible through a collaboration between Brandon Creative Forum, Brandon Country Park and MarketPlace, working alongside an incredible team of volunteers led by Mike Willett who worked to bring this vision to life.

We all celebrated the new space in style in the afternoon sun, with live music, poetry, storytelling and singing.

Local artist Flaming June, (led by marvellous our Creative Producer Louise Eatock) kicked off the afternoon. They performed a number of original songs which resonated beautifully within the space, showcasing the impressive acoustics that the venue offers.

Claire Sawford, Programme Manager at MarketPlace, opened up the rest of the performances by saying a few words. She spoke about MarketPlace’s work with local communities in Forest Heath (and Fenland) to help develop and support innovative and fun creative experiences. 

She went on to give a big thanks to everyone involved in creating the FireCrest Theatre including: Jill, Mike, members and volunteers at Brandon Creative Forum; Head Ranger Sarah Austin and Jackie, Paula and Malcolm and their volunteer helpers at the Country Park; West Suffolk Council for permission to create this space; and Louise Eatock AKA Flaming June, MarketPlace lead on this project.

Claire said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be a part of this great project which encourages people to come to such a beautiful spot and get creative in nature.”

Brandon Poetry Group stepped into the performance space next. They read from ‘Lovely as a Tree: Poems of the Forest‘ which was created from a recent poetry writing workshop with Melinda Appleby earlier this year. One poem ‘Plum Tree’ was written about the poet’s neighbour, who spent hours stewing the fruit from a plum tree while her husband was recovering from illness.

Celtic Essence performed by Diane Jackman
Plum Tree performed by Rosemary Appleton

Brandon’s Happy to Sing community choir took to the stage next. They performed upbeat songs such as ‘Top of the World’ and ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’.

The mic was handed back to Louise who wrapped up the day by thanking everyone involved, the performers and the members of the public who came to give their support.

What a great addition for the Brandon community. We look forward to witnessing the performances and experiences that will take place in this remarkable space in the future!

Brandon Country Park performance space opening

Get ready for the grand opening of the new performance space at Brandon Country Park. The brand-new performance space is a result of a collaboration between Brandon Creative Forum and MarketPlace, and is soon to be opening its doors. Join us on Saturday 29 July from 2 to 4:30pm, as we celebrate the new space in style with live music from local artist Flaming June (AKA our Creative Producer, Louise!). Plus poetry, storytelling and more.

We’ve been hard at work alongside Brandon Creative Forum and the dedicated volunteers from Brandon Country Park, digging foundations and preparing the space. Leading the project are Mike Willett and Jill Blanchard of Brandon Creative Forum, with an incredible team of volunteers supporting them every step of the way. The performance space was skillfully designed by Mike, who is a retired engineer. 

Brandon Creative Forum is part of the creative collective, established in the first phase of MarketPlace. They are composed of individuals and volunteers from local community groups. Back in Autumn 2022, they approached MarketPlace with their idea for the performance area. They have delivered some wonderful projects over the past few years including Ferry Tales, Tails and Trails as well as stained glass window and lantern projects around Brandon. Brandon Creative Forum hope that the space will prove to be a valuable asset and are looking forward to seeing how it grows within the community.

In the future, this space will be available for hire, opening up even more creative opportunities for the area. Exciting times lie ahead, so mark your calendars and get ready to celebrate with us!

Rivers of Light

Newmarket’s community lantern parade ‘Rivers of Light’ took place in February 2023, bringing some cheer to the winter nights for almost 600 local residents. The community gathered to celebrate the origins of Newmarket, the chalk streams that run through the town, and the local community groups. Inspired by ancient light festivals and the history of the Newmarket, residents paraded along The Yellow Brick Road with beautiful handmade lanterns.

Newmarket Community Arts and Newmarket Community Nature Reserve looked at previous research about the Newmarket Watercourse. Through investigation and talking to ecologist Kevin Hand, it became clear that Newmarket has chalk streams running through the town. Chalk streams are now listed as a priority habitat by the Environment Agency.  Newmarket had a lantern parade a few years ago which was very popular, so Newmarket Community Arts and Newmarket Community Nature Reserve felt that another lantern parade would work well to bring people together and raise awareness about this unique habitat in Newmarket.

In the lead up to the event, Newmarket Community Arts worked with arts educator and illustrator Penny Sobr to deliver willow lantern making workshops to local groups including the Rainbows, Brownies and Guides, and the International Women’s Group organised by Sharing Parenting. There were six workshops in total with almost 200 people taking part. This included two free public drop-in workshops at The Racing Centre, to support the community in making their own willow lanterns for the parade.

Willow Lantern created at a worskshop

“Brilliant, fun, great community spirit and turnout”

There was almost 80 people performing, including musicians, dancers, and singers. With performances from Newmarket School of Dance and Slack McGirdle Morris Dancers, there was lots of entertainment along the way. A new song was also performed which was especially commissioned for the project.

The route started on the green on the Yellow Brick Road behind Frampton Close, where it took around 40 minutes for the parade to complete the journey. A shorter route of 20 minutes was also available for those who wished to join part way through. The parade then culminated at Studlands Park Social Club where there was food and live music to enjoy. 

Next year please!

Rivers of Light was presented by Newmarket Community Arts in partnership with MarketPlace – Creative People and Places and Newmarket Community Nature Reserve.

#TinyDance comes to Fenland and Forest Heath

Casson & Friends, an award-winning dance company based in London spent early Summer 2021 bringing their own unique style of dance and ‘people powered performance’ to our area. The goal? To speak to as many people as possible to create a dance inspired by what people love about where they live.

Dancers engaging with community members, especially young people, to create a bespoke dance for their towns and districts resulting in a Collaborative Choreography

The Community Producer POV

We asked Jodie Hicks, our Community Producer, to give her point of view about her summer worling with Casson & Friends.

Events in March, Wisbech, Brandon and Newmarket

Across four events in Fenland and West Suffolk two teams of dancers had the chance to engage with people of all ages, to dig deep and mine their thoughts and memories for choreography ideas and inspiration. It was a real joy to observe someone, with great animation, describe a cherished memory about their town or a certain place within it, and then to see the dancers transform these words into fluid movements. 

A moment which stood out for me was at National Play Day at The Spinney Adventure Playground in Wisbech. Not only did the parents and children speak to the dancers, but they actually got involved physically to help create these moves alongside them.

On a couple of occasions, some of the children would correct the dancers and suggest their own alterations to more accurately capture what they loved about their hometown. The connections and collaborative process was a truly wonderful watch after we have all spent the past two years keeping distance from each other.

Slowly but surely, as each day would draw to a close, singular movements would grow into short sequences and in turn develop into a dance performance lasting a few minutes long. Alongside this, MarketPlace was  on hand to invite people to also write down thoughts, feelings and also  provide some suggestions for filming locations for the final stage of the project, producing a dance film. 

Bringing the moves together…

After our days in March, Wisbech, Brandon and Newmarket the dance teams went away and explored all of the information they’d gathered, narrowed down the filming locations to just three in each town, (no easy task) and put all of the choreographed motions together to create two distinct dances for Fenland and Forest Heath. 

All that was left to do was film it. Our travels took us to all sorts of places from racetracks to mausoleums, and even a castle. The #TinyDance teams accomplished the astonishing feat of filming in 6 locations per day and performing the Tiny Dances a staggering 18 times over the course of each day!

It was exhausting just watching them! Not only this, but in true East Anglia fashion, the dancers and filmmakers had to compete with weather ranging from sunshine to wind and rain and back again and often in the space of an hour (which could be a little detail to look out for in the Forest Heath film). 

Clips from the Casson & Friends performers creating the final video on location in Brandon, Suffolk (Forest Heath).

What was never lost was the sense of fun and wonder from the Casson & Friends team. They had the chance to visit all of these little gems we have in our towns, and really experience for themselves; what we are proud of and what is distinctively unique about living in Fenland and Forest Heath.

The #TinyDance films will be ready very soon so be sure to keep an out on our social media pages or sign up for our newsletter to have it sent direct to your inbox. 

With all that said, where’s my popcorn…?

Written by MarketPlace Young Producer, Jodie Hicks.

Read about Casson & Friends’ Tiny Dance project and watch the final videos here.

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MarketPlace in a Minute

In Summer 2021, Creative People and Places launched a project called 60 Second Stories. A series of mini films from each of the 30 CPP projects. Giving insight into how we co-create with individuals and communities and explore creative activity.

We contributed two videos for the series sharing the Local Voice of community members, artists and performers and what creativity means to them.

You can watch our two videos below.

Scary is Art


Sometimes it’s the small moments that matter, finding a new way to express your thoughts, the act of doing something creative, coming together to share and feeling safe enough to do so. A group of Mildenhall residents met up regularly for Meet Up Mondays cuppa and chat at the Barleycorn Café, brought together by owner Shelby Foord. Together we tried out creative activities including Art Journaling led by artist Marian Savill. We saw the positive effects of art in small moments and we think Susan Feary’s words sum it up nicely.

Watch our first video ‘Scary is Art’ here.

Film: Colin Stevens, Creative Agent.
With thanks to: Susan Feary (speaking), Barleycorn Cafe, Shelby Foord, Marian Savill, Meet Up Mondays, Arts Council, CPP

Space to Create


Why does art matter? We asked some of our creative collaborators what they thought. Filmed at St George’s Fayre and Christmas Market in March, Fenland.

Watch our second video ‘Space to Create’ here.

Filming of March Market (1st half): David Johnson (Dmj Imagery Ltd)
Filming of St Georges Day (2nd half): Rydian Cook and Mariana Vaz

Edited by Creative Agent, Colin Stevens

With thanks to: Marian Savill, Hilary Cox Condron, Dan Donovan, Caitlin Howells, Dan Walsingham & Richard Alan, March Town Council, Fenland District Council, CPP and Arts Council England.

See the other CPP projects’ videos in the 60 Second Stories series visit CPP’s YouTube page here.

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