I like surprises. Laetitia however is not so keen on them. She likes to know what’s happening, when and where. This can make events like birthdays and the like somewhat predictable. This is why it was such a delight for me when a few days ago on my 73rd birthday I was informed that we were to be spending a night away at an unknown destination and to take my best bib and tucker with me. I was intrigued and excited!
The first part of the journey was through a rather brutalist industrial landscape in Cornwall which I found slightly dispiriting – but I had faith that I was maybe being taken via a deliberately misleading route. Fortunately after about 30 minutes the scenery gradually transformed into something more pastoral and it wasn’t too long until we emerged at the pretty fishing village of Mevagissey.
We made an interesting but unnerving unintentional detour along the quayside hoping there would be room enough to turn around our 4×4 vehicle when we ran out of road – fortunately there was. Once we figured out how to find the right road, we drove up the steep hill to where we were staying the night – Honeycombe House.
This turned out to be a delightful guest house situated right up the top of Mevagissey which had uninterrupted views of the harbour and the sea. Our room also had a balcony so we were soon out there with the ubiquitous glass of Cornish mead. Fabulous! 🙂
Our host was a fascinating woman who with her husband and family had been abroad in many different countries in the diplomatic service. This meant that there were many different and wonderful artefacts decorating their house which I couldn’t stop exploring and asking about as everything had a story. You could tell by the furnishings and décor that she had exquisite taste and this extended itself into some lovely little touches as part of the hospitality. The home baked shortbread biscuits on our drinks tray were delicious!
It was so good to get away from it all and just relax and admire the view, watching the fishing boats coming and going. However, this visit meant something quite special to Laetitia as well. Honeycombe House had a meaningful memory from her past. She stayed in the guest house when she was in her teens and there was a very interesting synchronicity that occurred between her and my younger self during that holiday. I won’t spoil the story as you can find it in her book, Be Careful What You Wish For published by Crossed Crow Books.
By this time we were getting quite hungry so we put on our glad rags and walked down the hill to the restaurant where we had a table booked for dinner. We ate at the Shark’s Fin which was right on the waterfront and fortunately we had a table right by the window.
We started with a cocktail made around the theme of passion fruit which we both loved. It had been years since I’d been treated to one of those and I had forgotten how wonderfully potent they can be. It was a bit like being given a warm, well intentioned shove, alcoholically speaking – which is a considerable improvement upon the swipe round the chops that some alcoholic beverages can produce!
Dinner was scrumptious. I had lemon sole fillets with sea herbs and root vegetables, followed by green apple and gin & lemon sorbets all washed down with a crisp Pinot Grigio.
After a wander around the harbour and realising the night was too cold to hang about in, we made our slow ascent back up the hill to our hotel. I had to do this in stages but there was plenty to take in as the Full Moon was shining down adding its own unique magic to our surroundings.
It was the perfect end to an exciting day – and so to sleep, perchance to dream… but I didn’t – dream that is. Now anyone that knows me well realises that I am definitely not a morning person, however I was keen not to waste the opportunity of witnessing the sunrise across the sea from the ‘room with a view’ that we were occupying at that time. I’m so glad I followed my impulse and here are the results of my vigil:
After I had taken all the photos I wanted I returned to the bedroom and watched the whole panorama unfold from the comfort of my bed together with the first cup of tea of the day. Bliss!
Following a shower we traipsed down the stairs for our breakfast – yet another delightful experience as you can see.
Then it was time to pack up the car and say our goodbyes to our lovely host. This is a place where we will definitely visit again and I would highly recommend for the more informed traveller. Then we drove down the hill, parked up and indulged in a few hours of retail therapy and networking, before setting off for home once more.
I’ve reached the time of life when making memories is far more important than the accumulation of possessions. It was a wonderful birthday surprise and I simply loved the experience. Thank you so much Laetitia! 🙂
Thirty years ago Penzance was host to the very first Mazey Day, on Saturday 29th June 1991 to be precise. It’s very difficult to find any photos from that time as mobile phones and the Internet hadn’t really taken off at that point. However, here is a film clip of a documentary made in 2000 about the history of Golowan and Mazey Day by local film maker, Barbara Santi.
I am one of a dwindling number of people locally who have had some sort of input into the Golowan Festival from it’s conception. For close on 20 years I split my time at the festival between two street performance roles.
I was one of the dancers who performed out front of the Golowan Band each year. My personal reason for this was energy raising to stop any further raining on the children’s parades following the first year’s deluge – this was quite apart from thoroughly enjoying the catchy tunes of the Band. Weather magic does require huge amounts of energy to maintain it’s efficacy and this was the technique that worked best for me.
My other role was as Teazer to the Penzance Obby Oss, Penglaz. This was always very challenging as you had to be able to maintain a clear performing space for the Oss in spite of masses of people weaving in and out in what is known as the Serpent dance. At the same time you were this liminal character that created a bridge between the Oss and the crowd – so the role was two-fold – functional and magical. Subsequent Teazers have re-interpreted the role as they saw fit, but that is how I experienced it.
Given the sheer intensive labour involved each year, I knew that as I got older I would have to forego these roles for something a little more laid back. It was therefore my ambition when the time came, to become part of the Golowan Band which I duly became when I applied as a drummer – incidentally, another interesting way to raise energy.
Fast forward a few decades and we have just celebrated the 30th anniversary of Mazey Day in Penzance. However, this was a very different occasion because we were struggling to maintain a valid community festival, all due to the ever-shifting Covid regulations that have bedevilled our land for the last couple of years. At the time of writing I had taken on the role of Administrator for the Golowan Band and we had hoped to at least have a small St John’s Eve celebration, but this too fell foul of the increased vigilance of the Health & Safety dept. and the police, which meant that the event wasn’t granted the necessary insurance and licence and the Golowan Band was unable to perform.
However, one of the musicians of the Band mentioned that they were going to walk down Chapel Street playing a few tunes that evening purely as a member of the public in celebration of St John’s Eve. A few others also joined him and an impromptu music session started, then unexpectedly they were joined from another nearby street by the present Penglaz who was accompanied by a trio of local musicians. It appeared that they had similar ideas to celebrate the evening and joined forces so to speak, albeit unofficially.
So what were we, the Golowan Band going to do in order to keep alive the spirit of Mazey Day despite restrictions? I had been studying the Covid regulations at that time and found that we could perform as a Band as long as we maintained social distancing and didn’t travel in a group of more than 30 people. This gave me an idea of what might be achievable…
Many years ago, one of our long standing members of the Golowan Band came up with a very good idea that was taken on board by the Band and has remained as an annual custom since – Dawn Raids. That member is called Mike Sagar-Fenton and he has written a very good description of what it was like in the Golowan Band in the early days so let him tell you about it all in his own words:
Golowan Band Memories
Along with lots of local people I watched with curiosity as Anna (with a banner) led the first procession of schoolchildren down Market Jew St, then ached in sympathy as the unkind clouds emptied themselves on them. What was wonderful was seeing the street full of people, with traffic banned for the day. It felt like a different town.
One day the following spring I bumped into my friend and ex singing partner Steve Hall and we talked about all things Golowan. Then he said “You used to be a drummer didn’t you? Why don’t you join the Golowan Band. We’re practising some tunes now.”
The band clearly took its influences from the only traditional sources still going, especially Padstow’s May Day. The plain white clothes surely came from there. We didn’t copy their musical instrumentation of all-reed instruments, squeeze-boxes of every kind, but after year two we did follow their drum sound, abandoning the snare drum and all others like it to create the deep throb of unsnared side drums, naval drums, which carry for miles.
Year two was a bit of a shambles. We quickly gained the reputation of the band with one tune, often mentioned by Mock Mayor David White, but I can remember at least three from the outset: St John’s (of course), Quay Fair and Zeke Waltz. The main reason for our reputation was the fact that it took, well, decades for us to devise a way of changing tune en route, so when we started that’s what we played until we got to where we could stop. I once timed – I swear – and hour and a quarter playing nothing but “Quay Fair”. The players’ fingers were numb. Membership in year two was pretty loose too and my son Tom made his one and only appearance as a shy don’t-look-at-me 12-year old on tambourine, and my daughter Beth – now regular member on fiddle – joined the band on the Sunday playing recorder.
After that the band was taken in hand. Steve was very firm in its management, introducing more tunes, settling on a specific sound, rehearsing us. The instruments were of a wider variety than today. I can remember Grevis on banjo, the occasional saxophone, and most memorably Roger White. Long before he became our leader and mascot he longed to join the band, the snag being that he only played the cello. Undaunted he created a wide belt and strapped the thing to his stomach, sawing away happily through the streets. The percussion was under the even firmer hand of Dave Trahair, easy-going in every other way but a strict disciplinarian where drums were concerned.
At first we were the only music to be heard on Mazey Day. We led the processions on every parade, clocking up a respectable mileage by the end of the weekend. However as the processions grew longer people complained that with only one band at the head, most of the children were processing in silence. More and more street bands joined us. One summer the Golowan band were having a drink in Alverton’s when another parade went past, and to our surprise and joy we heard the strains of “St John’s” going past, played by one of the school’s own bands. We’d become a tradition of our own. It felt really good.
Gradually the routes we took became more regular. Just as well – one Mazey Eve when the Mock Mayor elections were held in St John’s Hall the band processed to the Barbican, but for some reason chose to go down Alexandra Road and along the prom in the dark. That is a very long march at the end of a day and seemed to take hours. The reward when we reached the prom was the sight of the fair in the (far) distance, a fabulous full moon over the calm sea, and the bobbing lights of the “Scillonian” which had taken to doing trips to watch the fireworks.
A word or two about Mazey Eve. Drawn by the fair and the fireworks half the population of the area comes down to the Barbican, most of them young, and by the end of the evening many of them are roaring drunk. The wisdom of adding to this mix a marching band and a wild pagan ‘oss was never questioned and playing in it is an experience of its own. When I was Director of Golowan I watched proceedings from the top of the Barbican and was quite horrified. From above it looks like a mixture of a riot and a free fight, and all my H & S training was appalled. But it’s different when you’re in it. It’s a blast of adrenalin, a whiff of danger, with the solidarity of the band to support you and a sturdy instrument or a sharp elbow to clear the ways when you need to defend yourself. It is in the true unruly tradition of the ancient festival.
I’m to blame for the only other addition to our schedule. Years ago I was on holiday in Spain and woke up early one morning in a strange town to the sound of music outside. I was just in time to see the backs of two musicians and a drummer skipping down the middle of the empty road making a joyful sound. When I asked at the hotel what was happening I was told it was their Fiesta day and the musicians went around town early to remind everyone. This stuck in my mind and one year I finally plucked up courage to suggest it to the band. It wasn’t a small ask as it meant rising early after the wildness of Mazey Eve, but the band took it on and the Dawn Raids were born. It’s still one of my favourite bits, the sight of bedroom windows opening down the street, families coming to the door in their PJs, often holding babies and toddlers, smiles everywhere. The Mazey Day breakfast which follows it is a pretty good tradition too…
The Golowan Band, and indeed the Golowan Festival lit a fuse in many other Cornish towns, who started to recreate celebrations of their own traditions. To begin with they had no marching bands of their own so they invited us instead. It’s been one of the great privileges of membership that I’ve marched down the main streets of almost every town in Cornwall, not just fun but a unique perspective of towns seen from the middle of the road.
My own perspective of course is from the rear of the band, often trying to hear the musicians over the sounds of the crowd or – grrr – the sounds of a blasted samba band which organisers may have placed directly behind us. But it has its advantages. One Murdoch Day we were following Roger who was as usual mostly walking backwards. This meant he was the only one who couldn’t see the bollard behind him (though we all could) until it hit him in the arse. He took it well…
When I was director and not playing I once stood and watched the band march past. To a drummer it was a revelation, a gorgeous blend of music and colour as I heard for the first time what we actually sound like. We were good!
Being in the Golowan Band is exhausting but such a totally happy experience. As eleven o’clock strikes, as we play a quiet chorus of “St John’s”, then thump the drums for the first time as we step off, there are few sensations in life to compare. I look forward to return of the rehearsals which so perplex passers-by, the inevitable rehearsal of the counter-marching we’ve only ever done once in 30 years, the anticipation and excitement, the aching legs, and the matchless experience of playing through a densely packed crowd with smiles on every face. Thank you Steve and all who’ve ever been involved in the band, and long may it continue.
I can particularly relate to playing of the St John’s tune at the start of Mazey Day that Mike mentioned. As one lady of advanced years said within my hearing “Mazey, isn’t Mazey until you hear the Golowan Band strike up with St John’s! That’s when I know it’s truly begun..”. I remembered this along with the idea of Dawn Raids. I thought, usually the people come to Mazey, so why don’t we take Mazey to the people? So that is exactly what we did. 🙂
We started with the usual Dawn Raids.
Then at 11 am on Mazey Day the Golowan Band congregated on the steps of St John’s Hall, Penzance ready to play our St John’s Medley.
So off we went on the Golowan Band Mazey Day Raid 2021!
Next we processed to Penlee Park where we performed a few static tunes before exiting on to Morrab Road.
We decided to visit a care home on the way down the road which was greatly appreciated by residents and staff alike.
Off we processed and it was very uplifting to see folk waving, and in some cases, dancing to our Mazey tunes.
The Golowan Band, once it had reached the bottom of Morrab Road, decided to make an important detour.
Our detour was to visit Les Rowe, an important and much missed musician from the Band. Les had been gravely ill for many months and we had wondered whether he would survive or not. Thankfully he was now home recuperating with his beloved wife, Ginny – so we thought we’d brighten up his day with a tune or two. 😀
I made sure, because of the government regulations, that we performed in open spaces, which is why we visited Penlee Park, briefly commandeered Morrab Road and were about to storm the one and only promenade in Cornwall with our music. We managed to get across the road in spite of busy traffic – in fact, although we momentarily held up a few cars in our wanderings, we had no signs of impatience or aggression from any drivers – many hooted their horns and waved, with big smiles on their faces.
Once we reached the Arcade end of the Prom we were meant to break for lunch. However, this was overruled as it seemed that the majority preferred to continue to finish our parading back down the Prom and then call it a day. It was beginning to turn into a bit of a marathon…
So off we set on the last leg down towards the Barbican.
We were nearly at our destination when a small boy was introduced to the joys of holding the Bandmaster’s baton. Got to start them young! Which reminds me that we are looking for young recruits, and hopefully our weekly practices in St Antony’s Gardens every Tues at 7 pm might attract some budding youngsters to our motely Band. 🙂
Our Golowan Band Mazey Day Raid ended in St Antony’s Gardens when Tom, our Bandmaster brought his baton down with a great flourish. Unfortunately it caused the end of the baton to dislodge itself and it rolled away on the ground. Needless to say I couldn’t resist calling out, “Oh dear Tom – your knob’s fallen off!” much to the amusement of everyone. 😀
So that was it. We’d done it. We’d brought Mazey to many folk and we didn’t have any real problems, thank goodness. My thanks to Howard Blundy who took film footage of the Band and to Greg Huckfield as photographer. Both worked tirelessly to produce a wonderful visual story of Mazey Day 2021 with the Golowan Band. My personal thanks to all Band musicians who gave their all, the Golowan Band committee and Rosie Reast our Band Leader who worked very hard to make our flash mob version of Mazey Day such a success.
I leave you with the 30th Anniversary film made by Barbara Santi of the Golowan Festival:
Have a great summer and the Golowan Band look forward to be bringing some musical joy to you all next Mazey!
I guess it’ll always be a difficult decision to make for the audience at the Dark Gathering. ‘Shall I be in the procession with the Welsh Mari Lwyds – or shall I wait by the Museum with the Cornish Penkevyll?’ Hopefully folks in time will take it in turns to be in the torchlight procession or wait amidst the tribal drumming at the Museum. Either way I feel there is a certain magic awaiting for the performer and onlooker alike. There was quite a breeze this year so the torches were blazing and crackling fiercely as the Procession slowly made it’s way through the streets of Boscastle until eventually it came to the bridge by the Museum.
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
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.
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! 🙂
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. 😉
Only a few weeks to go now and all sorts of exciting things are afoot…!
Responding to a need for more retail outlets to be available to folks after the festivities, many of the local establishments in Boscastle will be open later in the day. Also we have secured the presence of Woody’s Pizza Van who are well known locally for delicious wood-fired pizzas. They will be stationed outside the Spar shop from 5pm – 8 pm. They come highly recommended!
Both options require membership – there is no charge. Of course if you’re an avid fan you could watch both! 😉
It’s startling to consider how our original spontaneous creation has now reached a global audience in just a few years. Well done everyone! 😀
Lastly for now, on this night of the powerful Harvest Moon I send the call out to all of goodwill and merriment. Come join with us at the All Hallows Gathering on Saturday 28th October 2017 to honour our ancestors and celebrate Summer’s end in the ancient village of Boscastle. Help us a-conjure in the eldritch time of Halloween!
To say that organising the Dark Gathering this year has been challenging would be an understatement! All sorts of spanners have been thrown into the works, but amazingly where a person or a side have departed, there have been folks who are only too eager to step into the breech and fill the void. I thank you all! 🙂
As you can see from the poster, we have a very full line-up of activities and performers this year. Whilst on the subject of the poster I want to personally thank Chris White who designed it at very short notice. Even more amazing is the fact, and I hope he doesn’t mind me mentioning this, that Chris is disabled and is more or less housebound being a full time carer for his beloved wife. Chris sadly will never be able to attend the Dark Gathering, but has given his full support to the event from it’s inception. Chris is a unassuming, generous and talented guy who has a passion and curiosity for the absurdities of life – who definitely has a soft spot for Osses, Maris and other assorted beasties. Take a bow Chris White! 😀
This seems a good moment to state that provision will be made this year for a live recording of the Dark Gathering. This means that the housebound and people abroad will be able to share in the atmosphere of the event as it happens. So performers and audience be aware – you will be on camera most of the time!
The day will start early this year with a Mari Lwyd Workshop led by David Pitt. In the workshop you can make and decorate your own mini Mari Lwyd shaker to join in with the festivities – and meet some Maris too. It is open to all ages and I really hope I get the time and opportunity to attend myself. If not, can someone make one for me please? 😉 There is no charge for this workshop, although donations are welcome to cover costs. Here’s more information on David: The Crowman – Storyteller
Joining Beltane and Wreckers this year was going to be a new Dark Morris side, Emanon. This happened through a chance remark at Teignmouth Folk festival and as a result, a new Dark Morris side was born. Emanon were to be giving their debut performance at this year’s Gathering – I’m sure everyone would have welcomed their input with interest as they came with a great CV. So new are they that they didn’t even have a photo I could have shown you yet!
I know that taking on a new untried and untested side who I haven’t even seen in action was a bit of a risk – but hey, it keeps things vital and interesting. So much of the organising and arranging of the Dark Gathering is a risk, a gamble, but in a sense you have to accept that it’s all in the lap of the gods how well (or not) plans turn out. So many times now there have been instances of realising that there are gods who care what happens at the Gathering and the community of Boscastle because of amazing interventions, just at the right time. It is said that Fortune favours the brave – however, it doesn’t pay to be too blasé either! All we can do is prepare for the worst and anticipate the best. 🙂
To laugh is to risk appearing the fool To weep is to risk being called sentimental To reach out to another is to risk involvement To expose feelings is to risk showing your true self To place your ideas and your dreams before the crowd is to risk being called naïve To love is to risk not being loved in return To live is to risk dying To hope is to risk despair To try is to risk failure But risks must be taken, because the greatest risk in life is to risk nothing The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow or love Chained by his certitude, he is a slave; he has forfeited his freedom Only the person who risks is truly free
Ironically, and just to prove my point about the unpredictability of this year I have been informed by Emanon that sadly, due to the ill health of one of their key members, they are unable to perform this year. 😦
We all hope that the person concerned recovers swiftly and we look forward to Emanon making their appearance another year.
Moving on, I am delighted to announce that we will have a local choir singing in the afternoon at the break (around 4 pm) – the Boscastle Buoys. They collect for charity and this time it will be for Cornwall Hospice Care so make sure you have your change ready when the bucket comes round!
You may have heard that Wytchwood Morris have taken a sabbatical, but some individual members of Wytchwood will be attending the event in a supporting role – and given the collective talents of that side, it will be well worth looking forward to any input from them! 🙂
Finally regarding performers, we have the enigmatic Mr Fox. When asked for a bio I was sent this – make of it what you will:
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…
The dancing ground is old as time
But before that time was bound
The black morass of earth was lit
And the shining star was found…
With smoking clouds and tendrils flare
Amid eternities brilliant glare
the hooded shadows flit…
They crouch and prowl, they run and fight,
They tend the braziers’ fiery heart
With flames that flash as bursts of light
And this is but the start…
As giant, feathered footsteps bound,
Seek to rule the dancing ground
Beneath a moonlit sky…
A blaze of flame, a fire flower
Wrought with magic for the task
Is summoned with unearthly power
By a silent, Silver mask….
Darkness and tears are cast aside
Shadows banished far to hide
Beyond the dancing glow…
A timeless story is evoked
Written in flame upon the night,
Blazing colour, curling smoke…
A battle danced twixt dark and bright.
Hear the drums and seek the flame
The nameless ones who share a name…
The inimitable Mister Fox.
This year the Mari Lwyds will be visiting establishments and households throughout the village during late afternoon, culminating with some steeds joining the procession; and others making their own slow but steady progress to attend the ancient pwnco ceremony at the threshold of the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic. There are a couple of new additions to our equine friends who may make an appearance – so keep alert as they may appear where you least expect them!
Given the growing popularity of the Dark Gathering it has become necessary to make some logistical decisions regarding crowd control and the like. There will be volunteers who will act as marshals, moving folk around when necessary to avoid bottle-necks and to ensure that everyone has a fair chance of viewing the day’s activities. Please try and co-operate with these necessary measures which have to be brought in for health and safety purposes. Also parking became an issue last year so you need to know that there is also a car park at the top of Boscastle near the Napoleon Inn – see map for details.
That’s all for now folks and I look forward, as I hope you do, to this year’s All Hallow’s Gathering. See you all there – here’s last year’s footage just to remind you of how brilliant it all is!
Our 4th All Hallows Gathering will contain a few changes. A fortnight ago I received an email from Angie Latham that said that she was stepping down from a few roles she held due to health reasons, and that this would include being Morris organiser for the Dark Gathering. Although I was saddened to hear of her health issues, I understood the need for her to cut down on her responsibilities. I want to take this opportunity of publicly acknowledging Angie’s hard work and commitment to the Gathering, and I personally thank her for her support and enthusiasm for this event from its small beginnings to the hugely popular happening we enjoy now. Take a bow Angie! 😀
Moving on… Catseye Morris are unable to perform at the All Hallows Gathering for what appears to be the foreseeable future. I am sure I am not alone in thanking the Catseye team for their unique contribution to the Gathering in the last couple of years. In their place this year will be another Cornish side, Wreckers Border Morris. Wreckers are an inclusive and energetic Morris side who are a lot of fun and we look forward to their performance alongside Beltane Border Morris and Wytchwood.
Finally, it has been decided that it would be a good idea to have, if possible, a Guest Side each year. So, the following invitation is going out to any side that would like to perform at our All Hallows Gathering:
We are sending an open invitation to any sides that consider themselves to be dark and edgy and preferably of Pagan persuasion (although not essential) to perform alongside Beltane Border Morris and Wytchwood Morris at the annual All Hallows Gathering at the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic. If you are interested please apply to Event Organiser
At the end of each Gathering we will make an announcement about which side has been chosen as Guest Side for the following year. Make sure you submit any offers early as we already have had interest shown from some Dark Morris sides.
There are several things planned for this year’s event but I will fill you in on those details nearer the time. In the meantime, enjoy a taste of Wreckers performing Evesham Wheel at Restomel Castle.