Holly Stoppit

Hawkwood opened its loving arms to me and two collaborators in the first week of January 2022. We spent 4 days diving into my continuing exploration of body-based and natured-inspired approaches to writing, adding our shared practice of ’Fooling’ into the mix.

Fooling is a form of authentic solo improvisation, where the performer embodies all the voices in their heads (ie the inner critic, the inner child, the inner diva). My collaborators, Chez and Dominique are both performers, facilitators and members of my live performance company, Beyond The Ridiculous. All three of us were working on individual writing projects.

Our plan was to have no plan. In our performance practice, we walk onto an empty stage and follow our impulses to create short pieces of instant theatre. We decided to apply the rules of fooling to our week at Hawkwood and to create the process as we moved through it.

We started the mornings with movement and meditation in the spacious sitting room, tuning into our bodies, our breath and our hearts before connecting with each other through play. We rolled on the carpet, danced with the furniture and sang for the view outside the window. We paused for elevensies, then felt into what happens next.

Some days we ventured out into the woods, exploring the environment through our senses, embodying the trees, the birds, the mud and the sunlight before taking it in turns to find our “stage” and Fool for each other amongst the trees. Themes began to emerge – boundaries and compassion, anger and softening, masculine and feminine, grief and joy, knowing and not knowing, the present and the past. We sat on tree stumps and transported our embodied discoveries to our journals.

Other days we stayed in the sanctuary of the sitting room, exploring deeper, more vulnerable topics through longer improvised solo performances, rituals and writing.

In the afternoons, we went for long walks, following our hearts up and down hills, through bogs, over styles, along tracks, across fields. We leant on gates to do the voices for the cows, lamas, pigs and horses that we met, we swang on swings, sang three part harmonies, played with our long shadows and found spontaneous characters in the landscapes.

On the day the rain came, we decamped to the roundhouse and lit a fire. We told stories and discussed our themes, finding the places where they overlapped and exploring how our investigations fit into the current political / social landscape.

At dinner time, we were nourished by the delicious, nutritious food and the company of the other artists, swapping stories about our days, finding out about each other’s practices and lives.

In the evenings we sat by the fire in the library and played music and on our final night, we invited the other artists for an evening of parlour games.

As people who hold space for other people, the three of us are incredibly grateful for having had this rare time and space to reconnect with our practice and to play, discover, learn and grow. What a way to start a year!

Full credit to Holly Stoppit, with thanks to the DCMS & Arts Council England for their funding.


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