Tales of modern nomads, rural communities and creative miracles
23rd May 2018
Quite recently, I was lucky enough to be accepted as one of the first residents of the outstanding, miraculous and extremely beautiful space that is Homade by Nomadways. For those of you not familiar with Nomadways, you can find out more about it here, here or here.
Simplified, Homade is the organisation’s new co-creation space for all sorts of international creatives, ranging from illustrators to social activists to circus artists and anyone and everyone who wants to get involved. Now, while no doubt impressive, I don’t want to list all the accomplishments, values, workshops and amazing ideas behind Nomadways.
Let me tell you instead about the overwhelming night sky, the kind locals, about long talks in a magical space in the middle of the night, about bonfires and French songs. I want to speak of the intimidating challenge of hosting a strongly physical movement workshop for 9 year old kids and 50 year old builders alike and the beauty of finding simplicity in the midst of a unique and inspiring community.
My first brush with Nomadways happened a few years ago when I randomly stumbled upon the nomadways.eu website that, other than a catchy name and some vague workshop descriptions, did not offer too much information at the time. I signed up to their newsletter anyway, drawn in by the captivating title “nomadways” – most of the time, I identified as a modern nomad myself, someone who always had the urge to run away, to explore, to break out of the norm and dream bigger and further.
While I have been semi-settled in London for nearly 4 years now, I still feel like a turtle every now and then, carrying my home in my backpack and still very much convinced that movement is life and stillness to be avoided (freely paraphrased from Hazrat Inayat Khan).
However, sometimes, not having a permanently settled lifestyle can be isolating and a little uncomfortable to say the least – cue late night worries about what I am doing with my life, concerns about having a family and children one day (which I guess is a lot harder as a woman), ongoing financial struggles and never really fitting in or becoming part of that group of friends that have known each other for the last 15 years. Craving community and “normality” in the form of like-minded individuals, Nomadways naturally spoke to me and, looking for a way to get involved, I found their project Homade, which is, ironically, based around the idea of building a home – if a temporary one – the very thing I have been struggling with!
As a circus girl and movement artist, I naturally enjoy physical activities and seek out big spaces in which to practice and develop new routines and when I sent in my application offering a two day handstand workshop for the local community as well as a showcase of my work, they said yes, and now here I am, in a tiny French village called Brivezac sporting one bar, one shop selling fishing supplies, one post office and now an international co-creation space. And so far, it is amazing.
The weekend gone, I had the wonderfully daunting opportunity to teach a handstand workshop. I love handstands and I love teaching, earning my bread and butter as an instructor for rock climbing as well as the odd bit of circus, but I’m used to having a very specific group setting. That can be a school group, a corporate party, a bunch of students in yoga pants, a family… but usually it’s not the challenging melange of international artivists and volunteers, clowns, aging gardeners, young children wanting to play and explore and some folks who have likely never seen the inside of a gym but sport bodies steeled by years of carpentry, farming or building.
So on Saturday morning, I was rather nervous when expected to fill three hours teaching handstands to a small yet incredibly diverse group of people. I credit all my handstand teachers and previous workshop leaders for my making it through and hopefully providing an enjoyable, physically challenging experience to everyone! It definitely gave me more confidence in my movement teaching outside the climbing gym or circus school. Success!
A big thank you goes to Guillermo Justel at this point, who, in his recent transition workshop ‘Hands to Feet to Hands’ inspired me to be more playful with my handstands and transitions and who sponsored the knee pads!
When I’m not training or using the space for my own movement research, there is always something to do – such as gardening, painting signs, cleaning the compost loos or simply hiking up all the French switchbacks…
What amazes me most though aren’t the waterfalls, or even the incredible nightsky, but the involvement of the small local community here. Where I may have imagined some conservative French village folk, suspicious of the English speaking, bare-footed artivists invading their home town, I found instead some of the kindest, quirkiest people and an abundance of joie de vivre.
At the moment I am honoured to share the space with French puppet master, pianist, singer-songwriter, poet, philosopher and highly skilled jack of all trades – Manu Audibert, making my artistic efforts pale in comparison.
He has created intricate marionettes of musicians, playing songs in real-time, moved by hundreds of tiny motors pulling their nearly invisible strings… just look at it!
And then there is Anne, a Danish clown, creator and social activist who works with refugees and has travelled to some of the most awe-inspiring places. She is also a rather talented photographer if the few silks snaps in this blog post are anything to go by… check out her Instagram @ana_nazzzz
When the formerly nomadic creative visionary behind Homade was looking for an international workshop space for artists, educators and social activists a little over a year ago, she could not have anticipated the magic that was about to unfold.
After buying a barn off a Dutch expat in Brivezac, she transformed it in the short span of only a few months with the help of several pairs of strong hands and minds:
There is Alison, the recovering musician and Betty Boop look-alike with the strength of a Canadian lumberjack who arrived last year to help out for a few months and never left;
Valentin, the wood-worker, multi-instrumentalist and African music fan who is always willing to lend a helping hand, cook delicious food or chat about anything and everything until the wee small hours while cracking walnuts with a hammer;
Marise, the elderly neighbour who is grateful for an opportunity to dust off her English (which is so much better than she dares to believe) and knows more about herbs than most of us ever will.
And there are so many more, like the knife maker who pops by every once in a while or the children that always seem to be playing in the garden, happy about the open space, the larger-than-life playground that was built here, if wary, sometimes, of the artsy foreigners dangling of silks, standing on their hands or jumping about in a colourful clown’s costume.
Nomadways gracefully builds a bridge between digital nomadism and the remote rural community. Recruiting international artists and volunteers via social media, Nomadways brings modern nomads to rural France and makes a conscious effort to socialise both ways, offering new cultural experiences to the locals while providing a beautiful space to city dwelling artists and young travellers. Personally, I can feel some of my school French coming back to me and understand more than I would have anticipated. My rushed, London-based time perception is slowing down and some days, I can even get to terms with the fact that lunch can last for three hours and dinner longer and don’t feel too guilty that the final presentation of my work here will be more of an informal barbeque interspersed with small performances.
More pictures and videos will follow at the end of my residency. Check them out here or on Instagram @handstandsontheroad.