I’ve always been rubbish at art. At school, my earnest attempts at painting were contemptuously dismissed by the art master as “Greenway’s Daubs”. Not to be disheartened, at various times in my life, I have tried to persevere with: watercolours, oils, acrylics, charcoal sticks and even pencil – all to no avail. Perhaps I never had the right teacher to encourage me. But quite honestly, I’m just not good at it. Having said that, I do remember once trying to paint a sea view from a beach in Corfu. A lady came up to me, looked over my shoulder and said: “Wow! That’s fantastic – I wish I could do that sort of thing”. I was so shocked and flattered, that I quickly signed the painting and gave it to her with my sincerest compliments. She left me, in a state of elation, clutching my “masterpiece” against her very ample bosom. Luckily for my ego, I guess she wasn’t wearing her glasses that day. Nevertheless, in latter years, I have successfully taken to doing stained glass work and have been quite successful – I’ve even had a few commissions!
A hinged jewellery box made for one of my very good friends
A hinged scallop shell trinket box, made for my wife
I quite like doing stained glass mirrors too
I did four of these panels and backlit them for two alcoves
This is “Pig”…… my friend asked if I could produce him in stained glass
He turned out quite well, I think. The owner was pleased with the final result.
I love colour. My colourful, “loud” shirts are testament to that. I often wear them in the summer; they seem to have become my “trade mark” with many of my friends. They make a bold statement – even when the Town Crier is off duty!
I was therefore delighted to be asked to be involved with the Glastonbury Body Art Festival again this year. This annual event, held in the Town Hall early-on in January, provides Glastonbury with a welcome splash of colour and gaiety at a time of year when it is often grey and depressing, especially after all those Christmas decorations have been packed away.
The format for this yearly event is now well-established. Primarily, it’s a fund-raising festival for the very worthy “Children’s World” charity. It is also a wonderful opportunity for about thirty artists to let their imaginations run wild as they set about painting skin, with this year’s theme, “The Realm of Psychedelia”.
During the morning, the models and their artists start creating their masterpieces. The Town Hall caretaker is instructed to stoke the boilers in order to produce the maximum heat (rather difficult in a big hall in early January) to provide reasonably comfortable conditions for the scantily-clad models who, for obvious reasons, have to stand very still as the artwork progresses. Then at 1pm, for a small fee, the hall is thrown open to the general public, who come from far and wide to marvel at the art work taking shape before them. The event always attracts not only superb artists but also serious photographers – both professional and amateur. The next group of photos were taken by Geoff Corris, a very good photographer friend.
Then at 4pm, the public leave and the doors are once again closed. The Town Hall then has to be converted from art-studio to catwalk in just a matter of hours.
The evening catwalk show is the culmination of the day’s efforts, with models “strutting their stuff” to the accompaniment of individually chosen music, whilst a sea of flash guns fire away like one of those electrical storms that you might encounter in the tropics!
I was booked to publicise and open the event about a year ago, after last year’s involvement with the Body Art Festival. A few days before this year’s festival, I was contacted by Stephen, one of the creative geniuses behind Glastonbury’s winter skin-art extravaganza and was asked if they could “paint me under my regalia” so that, as first-out on the catwalk, at the appropriate time, I could unbutton my eighteenth century Great-Coat and henceforth, the Honourable Town Crier would perform some kind of “Civic Flash” in front of a packed Town Hall and, in the words of the late and great Kenny Everett, “all in the best possible taste”. I politely declined his very kind offer, explaining that, at my age, the more of my body that is covered up, the better it is for all! Even the briefest glimpse of my uncovered body – however much it might be plastered with paint – would surely send the assembled masses rushing for the exit doors faster than in a fire emergency!
I was once painted-up as a Town Crier Zombie in another fund-raising event in Glastonbury, a few years ago. A good friend once whispered to me, after: “Dignity in Office, .…….remember, Dignity in Office, Dave”. I’ve never forgotten his words of caution.
However, I did suggest a compromise. I proposed that during my evening appearance on the catwalk, I’d perform my usual “Cry” to start off the proceedings and then remove my tricorn, shouting my customary “GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!” On bowing, with head lowered, the assembled could then perhaps admire a piece of glorious artwork on the top of my bald head? Not much more was said about my suggestion at the time and I assumed it had been dismissed out of hand…….
On the day of the Body Art Show, I arrived in Glastonbury a few hours before the opening at 1pm. I like to publicise events both before and during. I cried the length of the High Street – at all my usual spots. My good friend Michael Alexander Law took this photo of me outside the celebrated fifteenth century “George and Pilgrims” Hotel.
He came over to tell me that he could hear me, INSIDE the “Winking Turtle Café” about a hundred yards away. That’s music to a Town Crier’s ears, I have to say!
I’m very lucky to have such beautiful, historic backdrops for photographs in Glastonbury.
(Photograph by June Greenway)
On this morning, these were my first cries in well-over a month. I find that my throat dries out during the initial run of cries. Seeing that I was struggling, my dear friend Ria (seen above, filming me outside the G&P) took pity on me and dragged me off for some refreshments. But before that, she couldn’t resist a little photo-fun with “T.C.” as she now affectionately calls me!
Ria also introduced me to a beneficial honey and ginger drink that really works wonders on the vocal cords! I am very grateful to her for that.
I was much heartened, when I attended the Town Hall later on in the day, to hear from my good friend, Grant, who was “on the door”, that many people had paid to come to view the Body Art Festival because of hearing me cry in the High Street. Such is the nature of Town Crying…… we really do inform the “passing trade” in our towns – not everyone reads local newspapers, listens to the radio or follows social media. Sometimes, you just can’t beat the spoken (or should I say, shouted) word! Just like the “Good Old (eighteenth century) Days”.
It was a delight to meet up with old friends – models, artists, photographers and many members of the public that I’ve come to know since becoming Town Crier. I wandered around the busy, bustling and by now, rather steamy Town Hall, magically transformed into one massive art studio.
Besides the viewing and photographing public, there were also the artists and their essentially statuesque models, surrounded by discarded clothes, bags, cases, paints, brushes, half eaten meals, mugs, head-dresses, bulbs, wires, paper tissues and all manner of props.
Inevitably, a gang of photographers – all well-known to me – persuaded me to take part in a set-up shot, depicting me painting one of the models. We found a willing model who looked pretty well-advanced in her percentage of body paint coverage. I was given a clean paintbrush by a rather anxious artist and proceeded to pose, in artist mode. If only my school art teacher was still alive to see this photo! “Look Sir, I’ve done another Daub!”
(Photo by Geoff Corris)
I continued to wander around, marvelling at the diverse way in which the artists had interpreted this year’s theme, until I could contain myself no longer. It was 3:30pm and the doors were going to close at 4:00pm. My “inner photographer” could not stand it any longer, so I made a quick exit to the car park to remove my green coat and tricorn, swapping my brass bell for a Nikon! I returned to take a few hurried snaps in the failing light but at least I now had some sort of photographic record of this amazing event.
From 4:00 p.m. I decided to stay in the warm Town Hall, as my publicity job was now done. I was needed to make a proclamation at the start of the Catwalk Show, so had a few hours to kill. As I sat in a corner, at the back of the hall, I watched the models as they grabbed a bite to eat, practiced their routines, tested their light displays and photographed each other using their phones prior to a frenzy of social media publishing!
I was wondering where she kept the batteries……
The detritus of a day’s creative outpouring was swept up and cleared away in no time; I watched the hall’s rapid transformation in preparation for the evening show. The catwalk was soon assembled, surrounded by as many chairs as could be legally squeezed around it, for the evening show had been a “sell-out”. Men clambered up ladders, as spotlights were set up and sound systems tested. Helpful choreographic instructions were relayed to all the assembled models. Whilst all this was going on, I grabbed a bowl of delicious potato ‘n leek soup and a crusty roll. I returned to the hall to watch the rehearsal. The models were told that on the catwalk there were three “sweet spots” – the name given to areas of brightest illumination. These were the areas where the models should obviously linger to best show off the efforts of the day. This year they were trying out some ultraviolet lights as well. Given the right sort of paint, colours could be made to fluoresce very brightly under these sorts of lights.
As I sat there watching all this, a lady with rather painty arms came up to me and said: “Right, OK we’ve got some time to paint your head.” Her plan was to use invisible, ultraviolet-sensitive paint on my rather expansive bald patch, so that when I removed my tricorn and bowed, I would…….well…… sort of….. “glow in the dark”! The paint felt very cold as it went on but it soon dried.
There was a photo-call in the lower hall of the town hall for all the models to be photographed professionally. My good friend Mark Pickthall, a truly gifted Somerset photographer had been given the job and he had set up his photo studio there. A giant black backcloth and untold numbers of flash lights, spotlights and reflectors had all been painstakingly set up during the afternoon. I went down to watch. Mark wanted to test out his lights and so I stepped up and obliged…….
Thirty models (some with huge sticky-out bits) had to be squeezed into the hall and each one, in turn, was photographed in a variety of poses. At the very end, before they disbanded, I got to stand with the assembled models and tested out the art work on my bald patch, under the U-V light. It worked!
Infront of a full house, as the Town Hall clock stuck eight, I strutted forward onto the catwalk and after carefully locating the first ultraviolet “sweet spot”, took a few deep breaths, rang my bell and launched into my Opening Cry:
OYEZ, OYEZ, OYEZ!
Citizens of Glastonbury and visitors to this fine Town from near and afar…….
On behalf of the organisers, may I extend to you all, a warm “Glastonbury Welcome” to the Catwalk Show of the 3rd Glastonbury Body Art Festival, whereupon, I guarantee you will be enthralled by the creative, polychromatic, culmination of today’s hard work, by an incredible team of talented artists and models from around the country. Backstage, right now, it looks just like an explosion in a paint factory!
Thank you for attending “The Realm of Psychedelia” and for generously supporting Children’s World.
Enjoy your evening…….and take lots of photographs!
Long May Glastonbury Flourish!
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!
I removed my tricorn, took my bow……….. and fluoresced!
(Photo by Mark Pickthall)