ArtSmarts 2017 Project: Wind Over Dark Tickle – Examining the cod moratorium through drama, songs and images
In October-November 2017 actor Greg Blumer, singer Michel Dove and musician Eric West worked with 21 students and their teachers from Sandstone Elementary in Ladle Cove to adapt the storybook/CD Wind Over Dark Tickle as a musical play which they performed for the community. In preparation for the production singer/author Heather Walter read from the book, performed songs and discussed the environmental and social science issues raised by the story. Audio-visual artist Patrick McCloskey presented a film related to the project, The Children of Fogo (NFB, 1967) and conducted a photography workshop.
Wind Over Dark Tickle (Breakwater Books, 1996) is a storybook/CD for children by Heather Walter and Eric West with illustrations by Sylvia Ficken. The book and CD contain 5 original songs by Eric West as well as a traditional Newfoundland ditty. Wind Over Dark Tickle is listed as ‘Authorized Children’s Literature’ in the Department of Education’s English Language Arts curriculum. The book won a Canadian Children’s Book Centre Choice Award.
Although it has been 25 years since the moratorium, many of the issues surrounding fisheries depletion and marine environment degradation are still with us. The project involved adapting Wind Over Dark Tickle – a storybook/CD about the Newfoundland cod moratorium – into a musical play. In the process of developing a dramatic script students examined how their community has been affected by the moratorium and related environmental issues. Sandstone students interviewed local people involved in the fisheries and took photographs relating to the project.
The story unfolds through the perspective of Peter, a young boy from Dark Tickle. He is longing for change in his community and is bored by the ocean life. He changes his opinion after discovering the biggest shell he has ever seen. The shell asks “Where have the fish all gone?” and teaches him the song of the sea. Peter learns how to answer the question of the shell and starts to understand the ocean through his dreams.
Actor/writer Greg Blumer worked with students and teachers in a series of drama workshops and assisted them in developing a dramatic script. Vocal instructor Michel Dove conducted vocal workshops with the students and taught them to sing the six songs from the book/CD as well as an extra one which students requested to be added for the production. Eric West accompanied Michele on guitar and helped adapt the songs for the final production, incorporating a variety of instruments (guitars, ukuleles, recorders and piano) which he and community musician Claudia Karrasch taught in separate workshops.
After a series of bi-weekly workshops and rehearsals with the students and teachers of Sandstone Elementary, the final production was presented to the communities of Ladle Cove and Aspen Cove on November 24 and was warmly received by the audience. A video of The Sun is Rising, the final song in the show, can be found here.
The Wind Over Dark Tickle ArtSmarts project was funded by a grant from ArtsNL and the Newfoundland and Labrador Dept of Education. The production was a partnership between the Soundbone Foundation and Sandstone Elementary.