#RochdaleStoryTrail: soon soon soon

A summer of stories, hand made, secretly placed. Writing inspired by tales and maps of the borough. Join me in this exciting project funded by Manchester Metropolitan University.

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What and why…

Over the next couple of months, I’ll be making a number of zines and hiding copies of them around the borough using various geocache locations. The aims for this summer project are to:

  1. Challenge common assumptions about Rochdale using folk tales and maps focussed on specific locations around the borough.
  2. Produce a story trail using geocaching.com official cache locations for people to find (see below for the caveat on geocaching).
  3. Provoke reflection through: writing, making the zine, finding the sites, and, hopefully, encouraging debate and new work inspired by this process. I will use this space to produce other short pieces of writing  – non-fiction, fiction, poetry.  These thoughts will be recorded on this blog.  (They’ll also form part of the discussion in Chapter 5 and feature in Chapter 6 of the PhD thesis if you’re interested!)
  4. Encourage new writing and making around the borough – there will be practical guides on this blog including bookmaking techniques and writing exercises.
  5. To add “gaming” and sensory elements that are enjoyable and encourage people to pay attention to their environment.

Location location locations

I will release the geolocations of each spot on this blog as soon as the zines have been cached. All blog posts sync to Twitter too, if you follow me there (@WritingRochdale) and please use hashtag #RochdaleStoryTrail.  As I will be using official geocaching.com sites I can’t promise that the zines will be there for long; geocaching is a popular activity! This will last from mid-July until the end of August.

What’s geocaching then?

In a nutshell, it’s a global game; a digital “hide and seek” with the added bonus of seeing a place in a different way and getting out into nature. You can learn more from the official geocaching sites that I’m using: geocaching.com – you will know when I’ve posted as I’m using the name “Boggart_Woman” (here’s a boggart story via this link).

The Rochdale Story Trail is a little bit like Pokémon Go but with the bonus of finding an actual physical object rather than Jigglypuff.  I am not collecting contact details nor will I leave any details about myself or the project.  This is partly to honour one of geocaching.com’s rules.  I will be using existing caches rather than creating new ones  – I think the council might view that as littering!  You can read about similar projects such as the rather wonderful Tales from the Towpath  immersive story trail for the 2014 Manchester Literature Festival.

You can use a satnav or a smartphone – signal permitting, however, you will need to sign up with geocaching.com to find the locations, see what’s near you, and keep to the spirit of the game. The rules are that if you find a cache and take an item then you need to return another in its place – hopefully, some stories!  I will, however, put some clues down too on this site.

I will not be using premium geocache sites as I want this to be accessible so that as many as possible can participate. It is free to sign up to the geocaching.com website. I am using the Android c:geo app (it’s free), however, there are other geocaching apps out there for Android users.  As for iPhone there is Geo Bucket which does have in-app purchasing to remove adverts (if you’re a geocaching iPhone user do let me know if there are better apps).  The official geocaching.com app is available from GooglePlay and iTunes too.

Who are you?

I’m not really called “Boggart Woman”. I’m Jennie, a writer and researcher (see this ‘about’ link here). I’m currently completing a PhD project which is inspired by Rochdale’s literary texts, maps and new writing (because literature is alive!). When I was researching stories for Lancashire Folk Talesa book co-authored by David England and me, I discovered that there were more stories from Rochdale then we could feasibly fit in! I was lucky enough to receive a studentship from Manchester Metropolitan University (Cheshire) which has funded further research.

I was runner-up in the 2016  Three Minute Thesis competition institutional heat and won £150. This funding has allowed me to cover the costs of this project. Any materials I produce for this will go into my thesis, but rest assured, I will not reproduce any work created during this project without permission and attribution.  This includes comments on this blog.

Incidentally, I’m not from Rochdale but was born about 20ish miles south of there.

Who gave you this idea?

I was inspired by Tales from the Towpath and at a zine workshop facilitated by Dr Jen Bagelman during the Geohumanities in Practice Workshop held at the beginning of June. The practice of ‘creating and sharing‘ is powerful; it works as creative activism – or craftivism – and demonstrates the potential arts, crafts, and making have for working towards positive social change.  Yes I’m a writer but I am also an educator, by training and ideology, and love to share my skills as well as learn new ones.  (Some of the latter will certainly be happening during this project!)

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Detail from a zine made at the Geohumanties in Practice workshop.

So what happens after summer? Further activities. . .

During this project, I am writing up my PhD  – which is the priority.  However, I am investigating whether future activities such as a display and workshop would be feasible later in the year.  Besides, I love a good treasure hunt – who doesn’t?! – so if there is time to make a few more stories then I will carry on contributing to various geocaches afterwards 😉

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