All Hallows Gathering 2015 – Part Two

Penk & Cass
Penkevyll and her Teazer – Photo credit: John Isaac

I’ve written this blog in two posts as there was so much information to impart and I thought I would do this in more manageable chunks – not to mention that all those photos, photo credits, and videos were beginning to make my head spin!  :O

So on to the evening of the All Hallows Gathering.  First of all we descended as a ravening hoard to the Cobweb Inn for some much-needed victuals and of course, beer!  As is traditional at these Morris beanfeasts, someone started up a rousing and  appropriate tune which we all merrily joined in with.

Once we were all adequately fed and watered, it was time to bring out the Osses and start our visitation of the pubs with our final resting place being the Wellington Hotel.

Penkevyll with Mari Celeste in the Wellington Hotel - Photo credit: Paul Sumner
Penkevyll with Mari Celeste in the Wellington Hotel – Photo credit: Paul Sumner
Penkevyll with Mari Celeste in the Wellington Hotel - Photo credit: Paul Sumner
Penkevyll with Mari Celeste in the Wellington Hotel – Photo credit: Paul Sumner
Performers in the 'Welly' - Photo credit: Dougie Latham
Performers in the ‘Welly’ – Photo credit: Dougie Latham
Y Fari Troellog - Photo credit: Paul Sumner
Y Fari Troellog – Photo credit: Paul Sumner

I had set up an evening’s entertainment of song, dance, music and storytelling – however, it soon became apparent that we had underestimated the sheer volume of people who descended on the pub.  The poor bar stuff were doing their best but they didn’t have a moment’s peace until many hours later.  Without a PA system it was useless even trying to tell a story, so a note for next year should we be in the same venue – book PA early!  There also wasn’t the physical room for everyone to sit down let alone brandish musical instruments as people were sitting on the floor and stairs – so music and dancing was out.  So that left belting out some rousing songs, which is what happened for the rest of the evening.  My apologies to anyone who came along hoping to see a well-ordered evening’s entertainment although Steve Podger was gallant in his continuing role as MC making sure that everyone that wanted to perform got their turn.

The high point of the evening for me was when Will Fox got up to sing Tam Lin.  This is a magical ballad of extraordinary potency.  Although it is specific to Scotland the motif of transformation by the Fair Folk is repeated in many cultures worldwide.  Traditionally, and certainly I have observed this myself, it is very difficult to sing and only certain folk can manage it without recourse to reading the words or stumbling/forgetting the lyrics.  Will Fox managed it superbly.  It was pure magic, I was very impressed and told him so the next day!   I had intended to include an excerpt here as the whole song, although recorded at the time, will take some time to upload to YouTube.  However, it’s not ready yet so in the meantime enjoy this photo of the young man concerned and Watch This Space….!

Will Fox - Photo credit: John Isaac
Will Fox – Photo credit: John Isaac

The evening eventually ended with the organising team having a quiet drink at the other end of the bar and reviewing the day’s events.  We were all a bit staggered at how well it all went, how relaxed the atmosphere and how much so many people enjoyed it.  We then said our farewells and departed for our various hotels and B & Bs.

The next day was spent getting feedback from the local businesses who were without exception delighted with the way that trade picked up at what was usually a very quiet time of year.  So, the Gathering was excellent news for the local economy and the Chairman of Boscastle Chamber of Commerce was very pleased indeed and is looking forward to us coming again next year.  This has also been confirmed by the Museum of Witchcraft and we have decided that it would be best for all concerned that in future the date for the All Hallows Gathering will be the Saturday nearest to Halloween.  This means that next time we shall be doing it all over again on Saturday 29th October 2016.  There will be a few new additions as well so lots to look forward to…!

At this juncture I would like to give a particular vote of thanks to my fellow conspirators who helped so much to get the All Hallows Gathering off the ground.

Angie Latham.

Angie
Angie Latham – Photo credit: Paul Sumner
Angie & Dougie
Angie & Dougie Latham – Photo credit: Dougie Latham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was Angie who a year ago persuaded and encouraged me to pursue my idea of creating the All Hallows Gathering as a potential annual event.  I was a bit daunted by the immensity of it, but she said that she would help and suggested that I ask others to do the same.  I’m so grateful for that support,  also not forgetting the skill and hard work in designing our publicity pamphlets and helping me network to get other Morris teams onside.  All this she managed to fit in, as well as taking the big step towards self-employment this year for her newly set-up business of prints and greetings cards.  Angie and her husband Dougie make a powerful and hugely creative partnership – check out their website and Facebook group here:

http://www.celticmystery.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/MorrisMayhem/

Heartfelt thanks to you Angie – awesome work!  😀

 

Steve Podger

Stephen Podger - Photo credit: John Isaac
Stephen Podger – Photo credit: John Isaac
Stephen Podger - Photo credit: Dougie Latham
Stephen Podger – Photo credit: Dougie Latham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve I got to know through Angie as he is the percussionist in Wytchwood Morris and lately Shadow Hunters.  I asked Steve to be our Master of Ceremonies as he not only is a famous raconteur within the Morris world, he also has a resounding voice which carries well in a crowd.  Avidly interested in folklore and strange stories he was the best choice for this role and he produced sterling work; not only throughout the day but also during the evening where he kept perfect order with humour and aplomb.  Many, many thanks Steve – you were fabulous!  😀

 

Phil & Viv Larcher

Viv & Mari Lwyd Larcher - Photo credit: Michelle Elliot
Viv & Mari Lwyd Larcher – Photo credit: Michelle Elliot
Phil Larcher - Photo credit: John Exton
Phil Larcher – Photo credit: John Exton

It was a random message from Viv and Phil suggesting we meet up and bring Penkevyll to meet up with their Mari Lwyd again (they were visiting Cornwall to celebrate their anniversary) that first started all this off.  Little did they know what they were inadvertently setting off!  They are a very creative couple and produce some really unusual works of art some of which are on sale in the Museum of Witchcraft.  Check out their Facebook page here:

https://www.facebook.com/Morydau-Magic-662469490553434/

Thanks for staying with it guys and for giving so much help and support all the way from Wales.

 

John & Sue Exton

John (Mari Celeste) & Sue Exton
John (Mari Celeste) & Sue Exton – Photo credit John Isaac

Although not a member of the organising team, I wanted to mention John and Sue because they are very new to the world of the Mari Lwyds.  Their Mari has only recently been birthed, so to speak, and the All Hallows Gathering was Mari Celeste’s first outing and debut as a fully fledged Mari.  Anyone who was present at the Gathering will agree with me I am sure, that both of them performed splendidly and the crowd loved them.  Well done John and Sue, thank you for travelling down to see us and we hope that this was just the first of many more visits!  🙂

 

Finally, none of this would have been possible without the loyal and loving support of my partner Laetitia.  In fact, if it wasn’t for her brilliant idea in the first place of making ‘a bit of a do’ of the Osses meeting at the Museum of Witchcraft, I wouldn’t be writing this blog and hundreds of people would have been deprived of enjoying such a spectacle that the All Hallows Gathering has become!  Thank you m’dear – we make a formidable team!  😀

Cass & Tia
Laetitia & Cassandra – Photo credit: Angie Latham

 

So at last I have reached the end of this particular blog and believe me I am relieved to do that!  It has been very intense but oh so powerful an experience!  Before we left Boscastle last weekend we were hearing that some people as they were booking out of their accommodation, they were already booking up for next year’s event!

Thank you one and all who came and shared such a magical experience with us.  See you all next year – and remember it’s on Saturday 29th October.

Photo credit: John Issac
Photo credit: John Isaac

Figures of Fun and Folklore

It’s hard to believe that there hasn’t been a Museum of Folklore before in Britain.  I just imagined that there would be one somewhere tucked into a little side street off Kensington.  I remember vividly being taken to most of the main museums in this area when I was a child.  I used to gaze in awe and wonder at extraordinary things in the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, British Museum and so on and so forth.  Even in later years when I was employed in London as a teenager, I used to spend most of my lunch hours trailing round the more little known establishments and curiosities near where I worked.  I have a fascination for such places…

Now there are plans afoot for the first Museum of British Folklore and rather than write reams here on this blog, it’s probably better – and more concise to guide you towards this promotional video:

https://player.vimeo.com/video/86265188“>

Exciting stuff!  One of the ongoing projects that caught my attention in the early days of meeting Simon Costin, Director of the Museum of British Folklore, was the ambitious Morris Doll collection.  The aim is as follows:

The museum has launched a new initiative to represent the wide variety of Morris sides within the UK. Any teams wishing to take part will be sent a blank figure to decorate with their team kit. The idea being that over time, the collection will grow into an original and unique visual record created by the people who participate in the dance. For any teams wishing to receive a figure, please email us – mofbf@clara.co.uk

Morris Doll

Morris doll poster

Story posted on September 21, 2013 from the Museum of British Folklore’s website:

http://www.museumofbritishfolklore.com

I have belonged to a Morris side for about five years now, so had a special interest in creating a doll that would be part of a display in a museum.  The side I’m with is called Boekka (Cornish for Scarecrow) and I’m a founder member.  Myself and Laetitia along with her son Rhys first formed this group following the departure of our Obby Oss, who used to be a Penglaz, from the Golowan Festival.  We changed her appearance, her name and title – she then transformed into Penkevyll the Lands End Obby Oss appearing alongside Boekka.

Following many months of pestering the beleagured Simon (a notoriously busy man!) eventually a large package arrived at our cottage containing not one, but two dolls.  This lead us to believe that maybe they wanted us to create not just a doll representing our side’s Morris dancer, but also our famous (or should that be infamous?) Obby Oss as well!  Simon had seen our Oss, Penkevyll in 2012 at Charms Day in Boscastle when Boekka gave a performance to wind the day’s events up.

Boekka & Oss3
Boekka & Penkevyll Charms Day Boscastle 2012
Boekka & Penkevyll Charms Day Boscastle 2012
Boekka & Penkevyll Charms Day Boscastle 2012
Boekka & Penkevyll Charms Day Boscastle 2012
Boekka & Penkevyll Charms Day Boscastle 2012

So it was time to start making the dolls.  First job was to assign who was going to do what – always a tricky one!  We started on the Teazer doll first. Laetitia drew the short straw and was lumbered with all of the sewing.  She has small hands and produced neat work creating the T shirt, tailcoat tatters, trousers and boots.  (This is what comes from being really good at something, you become the victim of your own success – a lesson I have found out many times to my cost!)  Whereas, I have large hands for my size and am very clumsy with tiny, meticulous work.  I sourced materials, created and cut out templates and was a general ‘gofer’ (go for this, go for that etc).

We were trying to think of how to make a snapper for the doll.  This is what we were trying to replicate:

Teazer Snapper
Teazer Snapper

I asked a good friend of mine, Chris White for advice on how to make this as he is into model making; and before I knew it he had kindly offered to help us out by creating it himself – and what he created was superb!

Model Snapper

Chris is an amazing guy who we have meet only via the Internet/Facebook.  He used to be a Beast Rider with a Morris side and has a really fine sense of what is required of someone who dares ride these fabulous creatures.  Sadly he no longer is able to do this as he has a progressive medical condition that has rendered him seriously disabled.  However, he has an indomitable, cheerful spirit and a delightful sense of the absurd and ridiculous.  He often has Laetitia and me crying with laughter over something he’s written – he’s particularly good at finding the right caption for many photos, especially ones that include Obby Osses and the like.   One day we would love to meet him.  🙂

After several weeks of sporadic work on our Teazer doll in between work and gigs, we finally had our completed doll:

Boekka Doll 023

Then it was time to consider the Oss doll.  We had approached a local lady who makes, amongst many other things, marionettes and puppets.  We knew she would do a very good job but we weren’t too sure whether we could afford her services, even though we were offered ‘mates’ rates’.  As Chris had already alluded to the possibility before, I tentatively approached him and asked whether he was interested in attempting the unusual modelling project of making a mini sized Penkevyll head for our doll, although we insisted on paying him for materials.  Chris said he would be honoured and to offer him money for the privilege would be tantamount to offending him – so we quickly agreed!  😉

Between me and Laetitia we created another T shirt, trousers and boots, plus the Riders skirt for the doll and then waited for the necessarily long process of creating Little Penk’s model skull.  It was such a fascinating process, and so many folks have asked us, that I think it best if Chris himself takes over the story at this point:

The Construction of Little Penk
Chris White

I’ve been asked to write about how I did the construction of what all involved came to call ‘Little Penk’.

I’d just like to stress a couple of things. I’m disabled and this took months rather than days. Secondly I’ve never done anything like this before. Although my background is in art and design I have no skill in symmetrical sculpture and had to work out just how to do this from scratch. What I came up with was a combination of hybrid techniques that would give me a guide to work to as it progressed.

Living halfway up the country I didn’t have direct access to Penkevyll so I bought a digital model of a horse’s skull. I was lucky that one was available! I brought this into Cinema 4D, a program I’ve used in the past for digital modelling. It was used for the dragons in the Harry Potter films so it’s a really versatile program. I scaled the skull to size using photographs of Penk’s skull next to her ‘Rider’ so the small one would be the appropriate size next to the Teazer doll.
The important first stage was to build the basic skull from a series of cross sections taken from the digital model, printed out of the computer then cut from a material called ‘Plasticard’. I found out about this from a friend who does a lot of model railway modelling. I hadn’t a clue what materials I’d need so this was the first step of many like this. All the cross sections had to be kept in careful order obviously until I could put them together. I used three different kinds of adhesives until I found one that did what I wanted too!

So now we have a rather fragile basic construct that gives us and accurate 3D reference to work on to. That’s the hardest part over. Very scary and very slow, that bit.

Penk1
Next I used expanding insulation filling. This comes in an aerosol can and is a pig to use! It’s sticky and sloppy and risks distorting the flexible cross sections as it expands between them so I had to scrape some of this gloop out as it started to dry.

Penk2

It expands so much it pretty much buries the form. However, weight is a major problem with man-animals of any scale and insulation foam gives you form with minimum weight. The adhesive property of the stuff bonds the Plasticard sections together very nicely.

Disgusting isn’t it? So now I could cut and sand the foam away back down to the surface of the cross sections without distorting the base of the shape. Now I had an accurate, symmetrical 3D shape.

Penk3

Although I had a stable form it was still quite fragile so I had to coat it with something to give it strength. I opted for something like polyfiller. This was quite heavy at first but, being water based, it dried much lighter. I skinned this one and sanded it back as much as I could to retain the outline of the underlying form.

I’d been looking forward to this part. I love the delicate, architectural form of skulls, especially rodent and bird skulls.

The orbits of the eye sockets are particularly lovely and as the form refined I spent a lot of time just enjoying running my hands over the emerging shape. The more I did though, the more there seemed to be that needed doing! It’s just as well I didn’t have a deadline for this.

The fine point at the top of the nose was another piece of Plasticard which I embedded.

Penk4
This brings me to the final ‘skin’. It had to be strong and light while being smooth, being able to take detail well and giving a good surface for paint. I found the perfect material. Called ‘Miliput’, it’s a two-part epoxy putty. Once I got it stretched onto the surface, working it carefully across the form, flattening and smoothing, I found that working with wet fingers makes it very smooth, taking out any finger marks and smoothing out irregularities in thickness beautifully! Once cured, it’s very hard; sands well and takes detail very well.

The teeth posed a bit of a problem. I opted for Plasticard again. To bend the teeth around the curve of the skull I heated the ‘denture’ in very hot water. Fortunately Plasticard is a thermoplastic so once heated and shaped, it will cool to that new shape and can be glued in position without it trying to flex back again.

Penk5
To my delight the jaw fitted perfectly! All that slavish measuring and cutting at the beginning had paid off. Just as well, because to correct something like that in three dimensions would have been a nightmare. I drilled and hinged the jaw using a piece of coat hanger wire. All the usual bits and bobs that Animal keepers end up resorting to!

Penk6

When it came to the eyes I decided to print directly from the photos of Penkevyll. Cassandra and Laetitia took such good pictures that I was able, correcting for distortion, to copy and scale the eyes straight from those. They were glued onto disks of Miliput and varnished to keep them bright and lively.

Since my fine art days I’ve always preferred alkyd paints. They have the depth and transparency of oils but dry much, much faster. They’ll go onto practically any surface and can be layered and glazed for depth and subtlety. Perfect for bone, then, as it’s such a tricky colour and changeable under different lights. Alkyd can take care of all that.

Finally the ears. I carefully copied the profile (thanks again to lots of rapid feedback from Cassandra!) for the ears and cut them from black leather.

Then came the support for the head. Tricky. Traditionally I’d always kept the internal bits of my Animal in my Green Oak days, strictly schtum. So it goes a bit against the grain. Nevertheless, this is essentially an archive piece so on we go. Although Penkevyll has a harness support, the doll would not be able to support this Animal so I had to think of an alternative. Pole mounted heads are traditional so I went with that option as it could be set to take the weight off the doll. I nobly sacrificed one of my metal walking poles. Let me tell you, aircraft aluminium is a pain to saw!!

Penk7

Ears, jaw strung and working and staff mounted. Ready for the off! It’s been a long project but very enjoyable. I was able to test some ideas and see how much I’d retained of my skills. Truth to tell it was hard on the hands (as I’d suspected) and when I occasionally overdid it I had to take a few days off. But in the end I got a result that I was very happy with.

Next she was shipped to Cornwall to be properly dressed and coiffed by Latham-Jones Haute Couture. And a magnificent job they did too! See Cassandra’s pictures.

Photos in a moment.  Once we’d got over oohing and ahhing over Chris’s remarkable work we set to finishing off the dolls.  Together we managed to lash the doll to its accompanying pole, secured the ears and the mane that I had painstakingly woven loads of tatters into, and then Laetitia sewed on her gown which was lovingly covered in tatters.

Here’s a close-up of Little Penk’s head showing the skill of Chris’s work:

LittlePenk 014

Then we introduced Little Penk to Penkevyll…

Little Penk 005

This is when we realised that Little Penk was looking far too neat, so I set to with a pair of scissors and made her tatters more ragged and more in keeping with the ethos of Boekka.  Here are the final photos of all the dolls and Penkevyll together.

LittlePenk 034

LittlePenk 010

LittlePenk 001

LittlePenk 006

At last we were finished!  Both me and Laetitia agreed that we didn’t want to trust the Post Office with delivering our finely crafted Oss & Teazer dolls – we had awful visions of them throwing the parcels across the room and ruining all that hard work.  So I sent a deliberately tantalising email to Simon Costin and asked him when was he next down to the Museum of Witchcraft at Boscastle, as we had something very delicate and fragile with a guaranteed ‘Wow’ factor to deliver to him.  It worked beautifully and we successfully delivered the dolls (which we had become quite attached to over the months) to the Museum.  Here we are presenting Simon with them:

Little Penk2 004

To directly quote Simon, ” Thank you so much for coming over with your wonderful creations! They really are spectacular.”  It was well worth all the hard work and we look forward to seeing the dolls displayed within the next exhibition of the Museum of British Folklore.  It’s good to know that you are producing something that will be preserved for prosperity and displayed within a museum environment.

What a Team – Well Done to All!  🙂

 

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