4am. What kind of silly time is that? As the Mozart cheerily emanated from my clock radio, I started to regret my rash decision to inform all my friends on Instagroan and Farcebook that I was “going to climb the Tor, in full Town Crier regalia and perform a proclamation at sunrise”. Whilst enjoying the last few remaining minutes of warmth and comfort in my bed, before what was going to be a very busy day, I checked the rain radar images for the area on my iPad. There was no rain in the area; important when you’re wearing nearly £2000 worth of regalia. I hurriedly got up, visited the bathroom, put on my regalia, grabbed my scroll, bell and tricorn and made my way to the car. I didn’t allow any time for breakfast at all and even refrained from my early morning cuppa, so concerned was I that the rotation of the Earth would bring the sun to The Tor before me! How foolish was that!
I parked the car near the base of the Tor and started walking briskly Tor-ward. I soon began to regret forgetting the drink bottle I’d left in the boot of the car. Compounded with a zero breakfast intake, I was probably attempting this stiff climb in a state of mild dehydration – no wonder my legs felt so listless! However, during the ascent, one of the early morning revellers climbing nearby, kindly offered me a swig of Mead. Worryingly, it tasted so very good at 5:00am!
Glastonbury Tor before Sunrise – photo by Leah Rudrani
With broken cloud behind the Tor, I was hopeful of seeing a sunrise. This would be a “first” for me. I’d never been on the Tor at sunrise before. The ascent was the usual breathless event that it always is with me.
A solitary hooded Beltane participant looks down from the Tor – photo by Jim Jolliffe
Participants gathering on the Tor before sunrise – photo by Anja van Dijk
As I reached St Michael’s Tower, there were about 60 or 70 people ready assembled. It was good to meet some of my overseas friends made through Farcebook and some for the very first time!
We meet at last! – Photo by Anja van Dijk
Lovely to meet my dear Dutch friends, visiting Glastonbury for Beltane 2019 – photo by Anja van Dijk
A lone piper struck up a lament, which massively added to the atmosphere on that rather cool and slightly misty morning.
Photo by Jim Jolliffe
As the time of sunrise approached and the Morris Dancers started assembling for their first dance, I unrolled my scroll, stepped forward, and faced the East. The sun was still hiding uncooperatively, behind a cloud. At precisely 05:45, the time of sunrise, with well over a hundred eager souls now assembled, I stepped forward, took a few deep breaths and gave them a long blast on my horn. I launched into my sunrise proclamation, thus beginning Glastonbury’s Beltane Festivities for 2019.
Beltane Cry – photo by Kelly Malcolm
“OYEZ, OYEZ, OYEZ!
Citizens of Glastonbury and visitors to this fine Town from near and afar.
It is now sunrise; ‘tis 05:45 and “All’s Well”.
As Town Crier of this fair Town, I would like to wish all the goode people, here gathered, a Happy Beltane in Avalon.
You are cordially invited to the Town’s Beltane Celebrations commencing at 10:30 at the Market Cross, followed by the Maypole Procession to Bushy Coombe at 12:45.
May you all have a joyous day, filled with merriment, feasting and celebration.
Long May Glastonbury Flourish!
God Save The Queen!”
“God Save The Queen!” – photo by Jason Bryant
It was well-received and warmly applauded. Reward indeed for climbing the Tor, part of which was filmed by one of my friends from the top, earlier. It still baffles me to this day why well-over three thousand people have actually bothered to watch a video of me, in my robes, staggering up the Tor, through the medium of Farcebook.
Although we didn’t see the sun at the instant of sunrise, we did catch a few glimpses of the sun from the Tor a few minutes later. We all enjoyed an impressive and comical display of Morris Dancing.
Morris Dancers on the Tor at sunrise – photo by Nick Owen
Unfortunately, I had to leave them to it, for I had the 7:00am Beltane Ceremony to attend in the Chalice Well Gardens. The descent from the Tor was somewhat swifter; you really do use a completely different set of muscles on the way down!
Chalice Well Garden’s upper field Beltane Ceremony – photo by Nick Owen
I’d only intended to drop by and watch – my attendance at this event was a “first” as well. However, it wasn’t long before I was asked by the charming young lady organising the event, to perform a “Cry” to begin the ceremony. I’d forgotten – you just can’t stand there and be inconspicuous, whilst wearing a Town Crier’s Livery! But how could their Town Crier possibly refuse? I’m getting quite good at scribbling out impromptu cries these days! I found the Beltane Ceremony, that took place in the upper field, particularly moving in a quite magical setting.
Chalice Well Beltane Ceremony – photo by Linda Griffiths
About two hundred people were assembled, all surrounding a central, level, grass ring. Many had climbed onto the slopes surrounding it to gain a better view. At 7:00am I was called into the ring to do my second Beltane Cry of the morning. All went well. I was again cordially thanked and applauded. I hope I’m asked back there next year – it was such a lovely event. After walking out to the edge to mingle with the crowd, I also tried to climb the bank to gain a better view of the proceedings. Big mistake! My shoes slipped from under me on the damp grass and down I went, planting two grassy, muddy patches in the knee areas of my brand-new white tights! A fire was lit at the culmination of the ceremony, which, after burning down, was used as a focal point for some “fire-jumping” – a traditional part of Beltane.
Chalice Well Beltane Bonfire – photo by Linda Griffiths
“Fire Jumping” at the Chalice Well Beltane Celebrations – photo by Anja van Dijk
I decided not to participate. After all, if I couldn’t be trusted to walk a few paces up a slope, then jumping over glowing embers, I felt, would not be a sound move. After alI, I didn’t wish to give the local newspapers the headline: “Local Town Crier throws himself onto Beltane Fire!”. Anyway, after meeting up with Linda Griffiths from Bridgend, for whom I was planning to give a cry of welcome later, I slipped away to do breakfast, before the next stage of my day. However, a marvellous opportunity for a photobomb presented itself that I could not miss!
A quick photobomb before breakfast! – photo by Linda Griffiths
Trying to find a cafe open in Glastonbury at 8am is not easy surprisingly, even during Beltane. However, the Winking Turtle Cafe came to a hungry Town Crier’s gastronomic rescue. I ordered “Eggs Royale” – a great favourite of mine. After a long wait, a waitress tentatively approached and apologetically announced that my breakfast order had been served to someone else by mistake! I thought to myself, I’m starving hungry, I’ve got muddy tights, one buckle had fallen off my shoe and now my breakfast had been given away! Oh great! Not a good start.
But things looked up a little on the breakfast front. For the same price, the waitress offered me a full English Breakfast, with toast thrown in……and, more tea. I was so hungry, that sounded an even better option! I chatted with all the locals and visitors there, including one pretty young lady who had come over from California especially! There are times when we feel very humble in Glastonbury.
As soon as breakfast was over, it was time to hit the streets again with cries about the further events of the day.
The walking, talking Beltane Newspaper – photo by Sheila Freeman
Besides giving updates on the day, in my best “Town Crier-speak”, it was lovely to receive a big hug from Sheila (see above photo) – an incredibly talented photographer, who I had not seen down this way for quite a while. So good to catch up.
A most pleasant diversion was the opportunity to perform a “Cry of Welcome” to Glastonbury for the lovely Linda Griffiths from South Wales and also to meet her charming partner, Mark. (They’d set out at 4am!) The Lady Archdruid of Avalon joined us for this, whilst Mark took on the role of cameraman.
“Bell’s up!” A Cry of Welcome – Photo by Linda Griffiths
It was lovely to be able to hand over a replica Cry of Welcome, tied up with green ribbon, at the end of the cry. (This Town Crier is a great believer in random acts of kindness!)
Linda, feeling well-and-truly welcomed with a replica scroll – photo by Linda Griffiths
(Kindly note, both brass buckles had fallen off my shoes by this stage!)
I was quite centrally involved in the main ceremony, in welcoming the huge crowds that had now assembled at the Market Cross, introducing the various entertainers, thanking them for their contributions and generally keeping folks fully updated on proceedings .
Enjoying my role as Master of Ceremonies at the Market Cross – photo by Tatomir
Glastonbury always impresses me at such times with its seemingly limitless capacity for putting on spectacular shows. Glastonbury always does it with style!
Songs from the Avalonian Free State Choir – photo by Elita Purcille
The Glastonbury Border Morris dancers entertain.
Photo by Andrew Carrington-Chappell
My good friend Angela Rogers, entering into the spirit of things! Photo by Monica Bradley
Ash, putting in a spectacular performance, as always – photo by Elita Purcille
If the very fact of being in such a renowned place was not enough, the artists, costumiers, poets, drummers, singers, musicians and dancers enthralled both locals and visitors alike. It seemed like half of the town had arrived wearing exquisite costumes, inventively painted faces and all sporting eye-catching adornments of one sort or another.
Photo by Rosie Foy
Some locals really do Glastonbury proud with their colourful costumes
Photo by Mandy Stone-Outten
Aelph’s Beltane costume is always spectacular – photo by Geoff Corris
As a show-stealing diversion, body-painted Ceilidh Ap-Farendar on stilts, who went by the name of “Cernunnos”, covered by long hairy legs, staggered through the crowd blowing her hunting horn.
Cernunnos dominates the Beltane procession – photo by Geoff Corris
Cernunnos!- photo by Rosie Foy
Then, after making her grand entrance, she slowly lurched up the High Street in search of Greenmen and a carved May Pole.
After the various entertainments, the important crowning of the May King and Queen took place.
The Greenmen were a little delayed in bringing the May pole down to the Market Cross. Probably, Mead had something to do with it! As part of the theatre, the May Queen had to find her May King, who had been hidden earlier under a tarpaulin, covered with ivy.
The May Queen uncovers her May King – photo by Elita Purcille
Poor chap – he was sat there for ages due to all the delays…..I hope they brought food and drink in for him!
“Hail the May King and Queen!”, duly crowned. Photo by Leah Rudrani
With the coronation out of the way, the procession, complete with the long red and white dragons, made its way up Glastonbury High Street and on to Bushy Coombe.
Traffic always has to stop when Glastonbury gets “Ceremonial”! The bus drivers, trying to keep to some semblance of a timetable, must curse us. There was a stop at the White Spring for further Mead refreshment and for a blessing of the Maypole.
On arrival at Bushy Coombe, we had to walk through what is known as “smudging tunnel” made from bent over branches in the form of archways. A line of costumed ladies, burning various substances, were busy energetically wafting smoke around. I’m not quite sure what the purpose of it was – somebody did tell me – but the smell I can only describe as something akin to burning socks; it made my nose itch.
Morgy and Sandie, two ladies always centrally involved in Avalon ritual!
Photo by Mandie Stone-Outten
There was further ceremony, before, eventually, the Maypole was placed in a hole previously dug, with yes, you’ve guessed it, even more ceremony, by a group of ladies a few days earlier. It’s all terribly symbolic, you know.
Pole in the hole! Photo by Elita Purcille
The May King and Queen enjoy a well-earned mead on Bushy Coombe, posing infront of the “smudging tunnel”
Photo by Mandie Stone-Outten
Let there be frolicking in Avalon! Photo by Elita Purcille
“They came, they saw, they danced.” Photo by Elita Purcille
Because of the multitudinous ceremonies this year, I didn’t get the chance to enjoy the Maypole dancing since I was due at the Glastonbury FM radio station for my little radio presentation, later on that afternoon. My throat was crying out for a cuppa too!
Town Crier “on air”. No time to get changed. At least I didn’t have to shout!
Photo by Steve Lee
All in all, a blissful and busy day. I loved every minute of it. I was glad to be involved in a little of the magic that is Glastonbury. I was also relieved to get my feet up and enjoy a Tequila when I finally got home.