After a lot of ducking and diving, I’ve eventually got my line-up of performers for the Dark Gathering 2019. Read all about them here:
The sixth annual Dark Gathering has yet again an exciting line-up with something, hopefully, for everyone. So it’s time to give a bit more detail and introduce the performers to you.
The day will kick off with spooky tales from Lisa Schneidau who is an experienced storyteller and environmentalist from Dartmoor. She will bring together her love of nature and the Land with a magical flair that I’m sure will enchant all who attend the session.
Here are the details:
Wise Women and Witches
Stories from the Isles of Britain
The venue will be the library at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. Given the rarity of some of the books, there is an absolute ban on any food and drink being brought into the library with no browsing of books permitted on this occasion.
There will be two shows, 10am and 11am (running time 50 minutes). Suitable…
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This year saw a brief, unexpected and not-to-be-repeated Boscastle Derby which involved the Mari Lwyds in a race down to the harbour!
Even the most well ordered event can suffer from blips, miscommunication and things getting lost in translation. Our Lantern Procession this year managed to include all of these! Fortunately, we were well able to absorb all this and managed to carry on, according to most onlookers, seamlessly(!) – the worst that happened was that timings got mangled.
The Dark Gathering, which has been recently described as Cornwall’s Annual Halloween event, has almost outgrown itself in popularity. Sometimes I think that folk forget that Boscastle is a small fishing village and treat it like a town in some ways. The locals do their level best to accommodate most people’s requirements and I feel that this needs to be remembered when visiting, whether as a performer or an audience member. …
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Over the years the Dark Gathering has gathered momentum and has been supported in its endeavours by generous donations from both the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic and Boscastle Chamber of Commerce. We feel it is time for us to start finding our own ways of funding the event through other means as well so we have begun to look at selling merchandise. This year we set that particular ball rolling by selling badges, and being rather theatrical types, we wanted to produce a specific character to sell them. Enter the Pedlar!
I chose one of our friends who had offered help, Michelle Elliot aka Selkie Shell to be the Pedlar and she was brilliant! She created a wonderful character who I believe met quite a few people over the afternoon as she had sold out in a couple of hours! However, if you wanted to buy some badges as…
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I had a strong feeling that the Dark Gathering 2018 would be an emotional experience, and I wasn’t wrong! There were all sorts of things going on behind the scenes that I won’t bore you with but take my word for it, everyone involved did the very best they could under trying circumstances and limited resources. As a consequence there were a few logistical hiccoughs but nothing that completely ruined the day for others, even though it gave the organisers a few stressful moments.
Just before we were about to set off to Boscastle the day before the Dark Gathering we received the following poignant message:
For the last few years my amazing husband Matt Geoffrey and I have attended the gathering in Boscastle. We were all booked for this year it’s always the highlight of our year. Sadly on Monday Matt lost his battle with cancer, he fought like…
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After months of negotiations with various Boscastle residents I am delighted to announce that this year we will have a Park and Ride scheme in operation. This will go a long way to alleviate the growing problem we have had each year of parking for people wanting to attend the Dark Gathering. The details are as follows:
Above is a screenshot of the field designated for the shuttle service. This service will operate between 10.30 am until 6.30 pm and will leave the field at half past the hour, and return from the main car park at quarter to the hour.
For those wishing to stay on for the evening, there is a break of one hour from the performances from 5 pm until 6 pm for those who wish to move their car and try to park in the main car park. Those who may be staying overnight will…
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There a couple of items that need updating in this year’s line up at the Dark Gathering. Firstly, the Mari Lwyd Workshop will not be taking place this year after all. However, we hope that we can reintroduce this again at a later date.
The other main change to the schedule is that sadly, the Boscastle Buoys are unable to perform for us this year. In their place will be a demonstration of traditional Welsh dancing by Cwmni Gwerin Pontypwl.
Given these changes the Programme of Events will be as follows:
2 pm – Warm up act from the Salt Sisters.
3 pm – Dark Morris performances from Beltane Border Morris, Domesday Morris and this year’s Guest Side, Wolfshead & Vixen
4 pm – Display of Welsh Dancing
4.30 pm – Dark Morris performances
5 pm – Comfort Break
6 pm – Procession leaves from main car park
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See poster for this year’s line-up:
It was a long and protracted labour but now I am delighted to say that we have at last the All Hallows Gathering website – see link:
Now we have a central point to field all enquiries and share information, so tell all your friends – or anyone else who likes something a little bit different… 😉
If I were a member of the audience at the Dark Gathering I would be in a bit of a dilemma when it comes to deciding where to be at dusk. Join the Torchlight Procession and escort the Mari Lwyds to the Museum – or wait at the Museum and witness the mighty Penkevyll call up the Maris with tribal drumming? I personally don’t get a choice because as organiser I have to stay at Base Camp so to speak! This has proved to be somewhat problematic in the past not knowing what was happening from one end of Boscastle to another – however we’ve solved that problem now by using walkie-talkies. These were carried by a small team of locals who took on the role of marshalling for the Gathering. They all did a simply splendid job and I thank you all and hope you will be available to repeat the experience next year. 🙂 Anyway, whichever choice folks make they all seem to enjoy whatever experience they go for, as they both have their own attendant magic. Here’s some photos and footage to get a flavour of each atmosphere.
After the joyous reunion of Cornish Penkevyll with her Welsh bone sisters, the Mari Lwyds, it was time for the traditional pwnco ceremony. This year, you’ll be delighted to know, I decided that it would be better not to inflict upon anyone else having to hear my voice mangling the pwnco verses! So instead Tia and Sue sang alone the riddles to each other first in Welsh with the responses in Cornish. They were brilliant, and judging by the cheers that went up following this performance it was well received by all, and the Mari Lwyds were successful in their endeavours to gain entry to the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic. Then it was time for some very strange creatures of the night to make their appearance…
A little bit of back story is required here. Back in the summer whilst I was searching around for a Dark Morris side to replace the now sadly defunct Wytchwood I was contacted via my website by the Artistic Director of Mr Fox who are based at Barnsley, Yorkshire. They described themselves as a Street Theatre & Dance Company who worked with fire and stage effects. Initially I wasn’t sure whether this would be suitable for the Dark Gathering but decided to invite them following discussion and perusing their videos. However this meant that there would only be two Morris sides for the afternoon as Mr Fox essentially could only perform in the dark. I was confident that Wreckers and Beltane were more than capable of fulfilling their brief of ‘Morris entertainment’ for two hours as they are both competent sides with many performers amongst them. When I asked for a bio from Mr Fox I received some prose in reply and the opening stanzas of this gave me a great idea of how the enigmatic Mr Fox could make their entrance (or prowl-up as they describe it) at their appointed hour. These were the verses concerned:
When eyes do see the naked flame
and ears do hear the brazen beat of drum
When two worlds meet
then twilight’s winding walk is begun…
Down from on high they come
skirting the undergrowth
and into the square…
Above the Museum is a green lane that runs the full length of the village and I thought Mr Fox could start off from there and make their spooky way down to the square in front of the Museum. It actually turned out even better than I had anticipated! The first the onlookers heard was the skirling of pipes which were joined by vibrant and pounding drums as slowly the performers holding torches made their way down the hill and into the performance space. It was truly magical and very atmospheric.
There then followed a bewitching performance with characters appearing and disappearing at will accompanied by special effects. What added to the haunting quality of this performance was there was no spoken word at any point. There was dance, gesture and movement all orchestrated and directed by the music(ians). Mr Fox were like a tribe as there were small children taking on roles as well and it was impossible to tell what gender anyone was because of how they were kitted out in their smocks and masks. All in all it was an eerie and deeply atmospheric experience – folks loved it! 😀
As the performance came to a close Mr Fox disappeared into the night as mysteriously as they arrived. Time for a change of pace and an acknowledgement of the Samhain energies and spirits that were abroad that night. Sarah and Paul took the stage and sang a beautiful, poignant and evocative song which was composed by Paul. In case you didn’t catch the words on the night, here they are now:
Gather the sticks and gather the stones
The part of the wind that whistles and moans.
Gather the water from out of the stream
And out of the wells where witches have been.
Gather the wheat, the barley and corn
The bones of the things that are yet to be born.
Gather the birds, the raven and rook
I will decide where they shall be took
Bring me the heather, the view from the bluff
The moss on the moors and the fragile stuff
The mid day of winter, the sun where it shone
Find for me this before it is gone.
(softly: before… it is…… gone. )
Gather the clouds from out of the sky
It will not be easy but please you must try
Gather the future and gather the past
And all of those moments that just did not last
Gather the words that no one has spoken
The well meaning thoughts, the promises broken.
Gather the many and gather the few
If they are unwilling, then gather them too
All that are present and all that are here
Stand and be silent, stand and draw near
When all this is done. When all this shall be
Set them before me. Then set them all free
It was now nearly time for Will Fox’s now traditional Samhain Blessing, but just to set the scene we decided to honour the genius loci (spirits of place) by utilising bullroarers. So three wisewomen were employed to achieve this; myself, Tia and Michelle (aka Selkie).
The time for the Ancestors was upon us and Will Fox took us on a journey to them honouring the darkness and the outcasts on his way. He can truly weave magic with his words and cast a spell upon the audience. 🙂
The Dark Gathering calls all sorts of people to itself. It attracts folks from not only all over Britain, but also from other countries. This year we had people from the Netherlands, Germany and even had a couple who travelled all the way from Maine, USA just to attend the Gathering! It was lovely to see this couple, Ken and Mary, in particular as we had handfasted them earlier in the year at the Men an Tol. 🙂
I had a word with our MC Steve who then had a chat with Ant from Beltane, and as a consequence, Ken was given the place of honour holding the centre torch in the now famous Beltane Fire Dance.
Normally proceedings would have come to a reluctant halt at this point but there was still something important to do. The much deserved thanks to all who helped so much to make this Gathering so successful.
Steve read out the list of people concerned:
The Museum of Witchcraft & Magic
Simon Costin – Owner
Judith & Peter Hewitt – Managers
Boscastle Chamber of Commerce
Also thanks to:
The National Trust
The people of Boscastle
All volunteers including: Nathan, Daniel, Claire and Dreads
John Isaac – Photographer
Kieran Sweederz – Videographer
Beltane Border Morris
Special thanks to:
Sarah Emery & Paul Sumner
All Mari Lwyds
Penkevyll the Lands End Oss
Also I would like to mention donations we received from Beltane Border Morris and Woody’s Pizza which we’re very grateful for and will put to good use in next year’s Gathering. So much of what the All Hallows Gathering is nowadays is reliant on goodwill and volunteers who give of their time and energy for free. I would love to be able to offer everyone something towards their costs but our funds are quite limited at present. We are always open to offers of help and donations towards this unique event though.
Kieran who has filmed and crafted our archive footage for the last few years is a case in point. At present he is a University student and he would love to be sponsored in some way for his superb work each year. So if anyone out there is willing to offer patronage to him then please get in touch – camera and editing equipment does not come cheap.
I feel it is crucial to any event like this to make sure there is adequate acknowledgement to the volunteers’ endeavours. I have in the past been part of various voluntary organisations where occasionally the volunteers have not been treated very well or have been taken for granted. I personally cannot understand this attitude as, quite frankly, without them you’d be stuffed! So much goes on behind the scenes that others are blissfully unaware of. Just to snatch an example out of the air – torches. They look great don’t they? However, someone has to bear the responsibility of creating them, carrying them, keeping them primed and so on and so forth. I know for a fact that Paul Sumner made the magnificent tall torches that light up the parade and performance space so well and his partner Sarah Emery helps with the management of them. Ant Veal I believe sorts out the torches for Beltane Border Morris. Let’s hear it for all the folks behind the scenes who help create the wonderful spectacle that is the Dark Gathering! 🙂
Before we knew it, it was all over and everyone wended their weary way to the welcome hospitality of the Wellington Hotel.
I end this post on a definite high knowing that this year’s Dark Gathering brought so much to so many people in spite of many setbacks. There was fabulous feedback from the many folk who came, and others who could not who watched the live footage. It was a great boost to the local economy as it was estimated that 1,200 people attended, and the Museum said they had their best day’s takings ever!
Now it’s time to settle back, make yourself comfortable and enjoy the next 2 hrs 40 mins of Kieran’s archive footage of the All Hallows Gathering 2017.
See you all next year on October 27th 2018! 🙂
I think it is fair to say that 2017 has been my most demanding year yet as organiser of the Dark Gathering. Speaking now from the other side of the event I can safely say that this year has also been ultimately the most satisfying for all sorts of reasons. There’s nothing like striving in the face of adversity and despite that, succeeding to give you a real buzz! However, this most definitely could not have happened without the goodwill and co-operation of many good-hearted folks who seemed to go out of their way to help when unexpected problems occurred. Peter, one of the Museum’s managers, said that it was a real pleasure to work with people on the Dark Gathering because there were no egos inferring with the work in hand. Certainly it was refreshing for me to work with folk who worked well using their own initiative and flair for whatever role that they were performing. Thank you guys and gals! 😀
The day kicked off to a fascinating start with the talented David Pitt holding a Mari Lwyd Workshop in Boscastle Village Hall. Everyone who showed up during the day thoroughly enjoyed the experience and there was evidence of many Mari Lwyd rattles in the crowd later on! 🙂
David is a multi-talented artisan and a gifted storyteller. Here is his website: David Pitt
Once again we were fortunate with the weather and it didn’t seem too long before people started to gather outside the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic, eager to get a good view of the afternoon’s performances. The Salt Sisters, a duet who sang a cappella was a lovely warm-up act to listen to whilst waiting.
The air was full of the buzz of anticipation as performers and audience began to arrive. There was even a raven called Branwen who had turned up for the occasion! 🙂
Plus a little owl who flew in for the experience!
Finally it was time for our irrepressible MC Steve Podger to start off the proceedings and the All Hallows Gathering 2017 was under way!
Our local side this year was Wreckers, resplendent in Cornish gold and black who delighted the crowd with their light-hearted and fun entertainment. It was very enjoyable playing in the band with them and I learnt very quickly to expect the unexpected! 😉
Beltane Border Morris who are part of the backbone of the Dark Gathering were magnificent once again with some new faces spotted amongst them. They never fail to thrill the audience with their theatrical dancing skills and raw vigour.
As a surprise component there was a visitation seawards of a young Sea Oss, Morvargh and a Mari Lwyd, Seren who moved amongst the watching crowd during the afternoon. Young Morvargh was particularly entranced by the music and needed no further encouragement when ask by Wreckers to dance along to their music! 🙂
During the break in the afternoon’s Morris dancing we had the local male voice choir, The Boscastle Buoys giving us all lively renditions of many popular Cornish songs and shanties. Rather wonderfully they raised a total of £160 for the Cornwall Hospice by passing a bucket around to the crowd. 😀
Meanwhile, making their way down the old part of Boscastle was another Mari Lwyd contingent complete with a set of talented musicians who had travelled from Penzance to play with the Maris. This Mari Party was calling upon some of the inhabitants of Boscastle where they, once they had gained admittance, duly blessed their houses. Needless to say following some generous hospitality, they were well fed and watered by the time they made their slightly unsteady way to the bottom of the hill – where they had a well-earned rest…in the Cobweb Inn! 😉
By this time the light was fading rapidly and it was time for the creatures of the night to emerge from the shadows! Which I will relate to you in my next blog. 😉
And so the anticipation built…