Mark’s landscape of Voices and Stories

Mark with friends Arthur and Iggy at Harboro’ Rocks. Picture by Louise Swain.

Barrie Farnsworth meets a local man who is quite the all-rounder… he’s a poet, a performer, a video-maker and a recording artist.

FEW people have hitch-hiked from Matlock Bath to Florence in Italy – several times – or lived in a van while touring the nation’s stone circles… but these are just some of the experiences that led Mark Gwynne Jones to write, record, and perform.

Now living in Two Dales, Mark first hitch-hiked to Italy when he was 17 – and enjoyed it so much did it some more. Once doing the whole trip on just £100. “We slept under the stars,” said Mark. “I can’t remember what we ate, but it wasn’t much!”

Later, with a friend, he toured the stones circles of England and Wales and wrote about his experiences on the road: “I always felt the need to write. I’m fascinated by the sounds of words and the music of language. On first writing, I told my poems to friends and through surreal humour found ways of making them want to listen. I started getting bookings, supporting bands mainly; which led me to perform at festivals and theatres throughout the country and abroad, including residencies in the Netherlands, Germany, Cyprus, and India. For a time, I regularly performed at Ronnie Scott’s and was resident poet for London’s Regents Park. 

“My first national press review was in the Daily Mail, following an Edinburgh Festival Fringe gig. In a back-handed compliment, the journalist wrote: ‘Meanwhile the astonishing poetry of Mark Gwynne Jones makes even the more exotic lyrics of Bob Dylan seem perfectly comprehensible. If you like that sort of thing, you’ll love this show!’ It made me laugh, but I was chuffed to be mentioned in the same breath as Bob Dylan.”

Mark has spent the last four years creating a series of six audio-artworks, ‘Voices from the Peak’.  “Each audio follows a different storyline through the Peak District,” says Mark, “drawing on the voices of people who live and work here, and combining that with the atmospheres, wildlife and weather of this strange and beautiful region. I like to think of them as works of magical-realism. Drawing on the poetry of everyday speech and lived experience.” 

The first, ‘Burning Drake’, reveals how the landscape shapes us, and tells the story of lead mining, including how ancient miners found lead through plant-lore, dowsing, and sometimes by more mysterious means such as a ‘burning drake’ or shooting star. 

In ‘Snow!’, which has been set to a video of spectacular old photographs, we hear people’s memories of big winters in the Peak District, including the spoken recollections of retired hill farmers. Mark says about his interviews: “Shepherds have told me our vintage breed of sheep, the Derbyshire Gritstone, know if a heavy snow-storm is coming three days before it arrives, and will clear off high ground to safety. I think that’s remarkable.”

Mark’s audio ‘Kinder Scout’, is an evocative re-telling of the history of the Peak District, from the world’s first water-powered cotton mill, through the Kinder Trespass to the creation of the UK’s first national park. 

Mark particularly enjoyed creating Audio 4, ‘Nine Ladies’, recalling the legend that the Stanton Moor circle was created when nine ladies were turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath. 

“I have recorded gatherings at the Nine Ladies on the solstices and equinoxes. People feel a strong connection to prehistoric circles. I believe it is something deep within our psyche that draws us to such places. Even though the churches have discouraged it for centuries –people are still drawn to them,” Mark said.

Audio Five is ‘The Blessing of Water’, which brings in the ancient Derbyshire art of well dressing, and Audio Six is ‘Raven Tor’. In the Peak District, ravens inspired numerous place names: Ravensnest, Raven Tor, Raven’s Clough – yet by the 1850s they were hunted to extinction. In this audio we hear first-hand accounts of their return; vivid descriptions from local young poets; thoughts on the wider ecology of the Peak District; and the voice of Fable the Raven.

The new audios are available to hear online (, and Mark is now performing a live show of Voices From The Peak. The show, which won an award at the Buxton Festival Fringe, mixes spoken word, soundscape, and film. It is both funny and thought provoking, and evokes a landscape rich with voices and stories.

T’Owd Man 

Welcome… says the cool moistness of the cloistered air,
the ages of darkness, the hardness
of the rock – beneath
the rock,
the swallowing of light
and sound…

Welcome underground… and your flame flinches
at the monstrous shadows
of its own

What dwells in those deeps? Where feather stars and sea lilies
now dance in stone, and the slow veins
of the living rock
pulse and flow with fluorspar and lead…
Shhh!.. Listen…
say the living dead.

And, in the silence between the drip…
drop… drip…
you can hear him:
T’owd man,

Bing, bouse, cackle mackle,
Foudenheads knocking
It’ s dirty work, it’ s thirsty work
Its dirty, thirsty
work in the dark! 

Wild Garlic by Mark Gwynne Jones 

Through the sandstone bridge, she said the river sings all day
where the wild garlic grows
won’t you come and play? 

Let’s play tickled trout, she sighed, whispering like the river.
I would said I, but… can’t be late
back home for me dinner…. 

Yet homewards over the mossy wall beneath the weeping beech:
Why not stay and rest awhile?
her blue eyes did beseech. 

Her blue eyes did beseech, and she handed me some fruit –
a Granny Smith that began to blush…
at all her talk of juice! 

All her talk of juice was like
a potion drunk at bed
it made me dream a freckled trout
was standing there instead. 

A freckled trout, standing there, androgynous, divine,
singing of the liquid bliss together we would find: 

Together we would find, she sang
fluttering her gills,
the love that breathes in silver streams,
a love for which you’d kill. 

A love for which you’d kill… I mused
it filled me full of doubt,
sung beneath the weeping beech
by a brown and freckled trout. 

A brown and freckled trout she was
in a sequin dress
that shimmered round her swinging hips
in whisperings of bliss… 

Whisperings of bliss that told
how – on the other side
things are more than they seem
girl river trout. 

You can catch Voices From The Peak – Live! on:

Sat 23rd March at Baslow Village Hall – Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm show. Tickets £12 (call 07754 176 362 or email

Voices From The Peak is supported by the Peak District National Park, Derbyshire County Council, Cromford Mills, and Arts Council England.

Editor’s Note: Find our more about Mark, and his forthcoming events, at his website: 

NOTES: Derbyshire lead mining terms:

T’owd Man (term for when miners broke into old workings, where the old man or ancient miner had been before them. Also a name for the spirit of the mine, or the spirit of lead.)

Bing (high grade ore), bouse (undressed ore), cackle mackle (inferior ore), foudenheads (small picks), knocking (breaking ore) and woughs (the walls of a vein). Stowce (winch) kibble (basket) boles (hilltop furnace) scrin (vein) corfes (trolleys).