Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Raree Man

Back when God was a boy I went to University and 'did' a degree in Theatre Arts and English.  You can tell, can't you, by the exquisite eloquence with which I write ;-).  Within the hallowed halls of the Theatre Arts building I first encountered the word Shamanism (it wasn't where I first encountered Spirits - they had been there all along) and I learned to look at the magical liminal space betwixt and between.

I was fortunate that Baz Kershaw was my tutor, fresh into teaching having been working with 'Welfare State International' - a nomadic collective of artists, musicians, performers, poets and engineers who set up site-specific multi-media performances and ritual performances that sought to be celebratory in nature. They were called "dream weavers, purveyors of images, sculptors of visual poetry, civic magicians and engineers of the imagination" by Baz in his fantastic book 'Engineers of The Imagination - The Welfare State Handbook'; a total must read for anyone wanting to create that kind of performance.  One of their stated aims was to "advocate a role for art that weaves it more fully into the fabric of our lives; that allows us to be collaborators rather than spectators".

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to meet another past member of Welfare State International and to be invited into the wonderland that is his home.  Tony Lidington, otherwise known as 'Uncle Tacko' is a man who calls himself a Showman because it's the nearest term he can find to Shaman - which in his words is "a spiritual guide , who's performative persona provides access to other worlds."

He's also the man who made this wonderful little film.

Visiting his home was like stepping into a land where all wonders at the back of my imagination had come into being, it reminded me of all the things I thought I was going to do with my life and inspired me to realise that I am doing them, in a different costume, on a different stage....

I have always been interested in that liminal space - where transformation takes place, where healing can occur, where truth can be found - and in who resides either side of it and who looks into it.  How can we collaborate to make it better, more inclusive?

Theatre is the way we present ourselves to ourselves.  It can obviously also be many other things and different things to different people - that is part of it's power.  What I love are the ways in which we explore 'otherness' and the opportunity to provide a forum for new ways of presenting old but seemingly unheard ideas, a way of attempting to provoke cultural change; both personal and communal.

Our world view is here - all our worlds contained in the space between the audience and the performer.

All the questions we ask about how we perceive ourselves and how we are perceived are here - between the worlds of the real and the not-real.

The questions we ask when we engage with performance are the very one's that we need to be asking when we engage with anything - imagine if we lived in a world where we thought for a moment about who might be watching what we do?

Where we might be accountable?  Because we realised that we are not in fact the only ones here.

Who inhabits the space with us?  Have we noticed who's footsteps mark the ground beside our own?

Imagine a world where we sought to collaborate; create a consensual reality for the benefit of ALL. Accepting of the magic - the life that lives in all things.  Knowing that everything is connected. That would be a fine world indeed.

Monday, 2 February 2015


Bright blessings on this most beautiful of days.

Yesterday was Imbolc, or alternatively today is Imbolc - it depends who's calendar you are looking in.  Either way it's a day to celebrate the turning of the year - Spring is starting to un-wind from the frozen winter earth.  The snowdrops are out, the catkins are hanging in the Hazel trees.  Traditionally this is a day to 'break the ground' ready for the earliest seeds to be planted - the one's that relish a bit of ice and frost.  It began with the kind of blazing sunrise that seems to set the trees on fire and bring every spirit of every living thing loud and lively to the fore, dancing in the winter sun.

 It is said that the Cailleach  gathers her winter wood on Imbolc.  If the day is bright and sunny then winter is far from over, she has made the day fine so that she can go out and gather wood for the fires that she's going to need to keep herself warm for in the continuing cold.  If the day is misty or dull then she's sleeping - winter is over and spring will be here in earnest soon.  Yesterday was exquisite.

We celebrated Imbolc with a little family ritual. It goes like this - Brid (her feminine energy symbolised by a doll made of sticks for the purposes of this endeavour) is the guardian of the land hereabouts and of our house in particular.  She is dressed in a beautiful robe and ribbons and she is put to bed (a willow basked made years ago by me with the first willow I had ever grown for myself) with a carved phallus - this is Bres, he is the masculine half of that energy.  In the bed with them go offerings from each member of the household.  These are usually a 'thing of beauty' that has either been made or found and also a small rolled up piece of paper.  On our pieces of paper each of us writes what they would like to bring to birth in the coming spring; our dreams, our ambitions. These things all spend the night in the bed together in front of the heart fire which is kindled afresh for the occasion.  In the morning the offerings and the wishings - or more accurately willings - are burned in the fire.

It was incredibly beautiful for me to watch my tall loose-limbed sons bend knee and head to this little ceremony, something we've been doing since they were children but something that has never lost it's magic or it's power to transform. There is no Father Christmas here to give up believing in, only the heart-full acknowledgement of the Spirit That Lives In All Things.

Today the Cailleach's wood gathering was over and the day was full of sprinkley showers of snow which brought the endless preparing of drum skins to a frozen halt while I laughed by the fire inside making drums with a lovely woman from 'not far away'.

When she had gone, drum happily in hand, I took to the fields with my camera.....

May what you wish to bring to birth this spring be yours, and may it be for the good of all of us.