Avalon · Body Art · George and Pilgrims · Modelling · Models · Uncategorized

A Splash of Paint

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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!

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A hinged jewellery box made for one of my very good friends

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A hinged scallop shell trinket box, made for my wife

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I quite like doing stained glass mirrors too

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I did four of these panels and backlit them for two alcoves

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This is “Pig”…… my friend asked if I could produce him in stained glass

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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!

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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”.

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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.

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model with top hat

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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.

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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.

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(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!

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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(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.

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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!

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I was wondering where she kept the batteries……

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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…….

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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!

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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!

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(Photo by Mark Pickthall)

Avalon · Bells · Uncategorized

My bell’s a “Dead-Ringer”

My bell’s a “Dead-Ringer” – it really is!

Although this is another blog post, in which, of course, I hope to entertain you, as well as dazzle you with my unparalleled literary genius (my wife often says that I live in a “Dream World”) there is another motive for writing it. Allow me to explain.

As I’m sure you are aware (especially if you managed to read my blog “Getting their Attention”) I have this large bell. It is in fact, a very large, shapely and beautifully shiny bell.  I think my owl friend agrees.

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(Photo by Mark Adler)

It always looks impressive when I am carrying it, upturned, in my right, white-gloved hand, as it rests against my chest, at Civic and ceremonial functions.

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As bells go, with its curvatious lines and ample diameter, it has to be the most handsome bell in Somerset. My wife bought it for me a year or so ago. Its noble-looking profile, as presented on an Amazon web page, clearly seduced my good lady into clicking on a mouse, thus instantly parting with her hard-earned cash to “aid and abet” her husband’s crazy hobby of dressing up in old-fashioned clothes and shouting at the public in the street.

 

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(Photo by Vicki Steward)

There’s only one snag about buying a bell on-line. Yes, you’ve guessed it. You can’t actually hear the sound it makes. And there we have it – the aural equivalent of …..“The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Although the bell looks really splendid, it’s sound just doesn’t “cut the mustard”. OK, I’ll stop being polite…..it makes an absolutely dreadful, noisy din. It is more of an ear-splitting “clang” than a sonorous “dong”. Although the loud sound travels well and it does get me heard, the quality of the sound is just not there. I think there are a combination of reasons for this. I don’t think the metal is actually brass at all; the metal is quite thin and the actual bell is not all that wide for most of its profile.

My wife found a smaller bell in an antique shop in Marlborough. It has a beautifully rich sound with a delightfully higher pitched “tinkle”, but its sound does not carry so far. However, it is very well-suited for inside Town Crier jobs, such as announcing the arrival of the new Mayor at our “Mayor-Making” Council Meeting.

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Right, I really must get to the point:

I NEED YOUR HELP IN FINDING ME A NEW BELL!

If you are passing an antique shop or the like, in the UK (and if you have the time) could you please venture in, look around or better still, ask if there are any large hand bells for sale. If there is one, if you have a chance, please ring it and take a video of it ringing and then send the video to me! Please send me details of the shop’s location and perhaps an idea of how much they are asking for the bell. I’m working on the principle that a few hundred pairs of eyes are better than one!  I do hope you can help Glastonbury’s Town Crier find a truly melodious bell to ring out throughout Avalon.

Happy hunting and my sincere thanks in advance!   Oh…….. and don’t forget to “give me a bell”.   (Sorry!)

David Greenway Glastonbury Town Crier

(Featured image photo by Kelly Malcolm)

 

 

Beltane

Beltane Bliss

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!

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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.

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A solitary hooded Beltane participant looks down from the Tor – photo by Jim Jolliffe

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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!

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We meet at last!   – Photo by Anja van Dijk

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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.

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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.

 

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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!”

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“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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Chalice Well Beltane Bonfire – photo by Linda Griffiths

 

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“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!

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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.

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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.

 

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“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!)

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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 .

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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!

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Songs from the Avalonian Free State Choir – photo by Elita Purcille

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The Glastonbury Border Morris dancers entertain.

Photo by Andrew Carrington-Chappell

 

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My good friend Angela Rogers, entering into the spirit of things! Photo by Monica Bradley

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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.

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Photo by Rosie Foy

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Some locals really do Glastonbury proud with their colourful costumes

Photo by Mandy Stone-Outten

 

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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.

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Cernunnos dominates the Beltane procession – photo by Geoff Corris

 

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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.

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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!

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“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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Pole in the hole!  Photo by Elita Purcille

 

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The May King and Queen enjoy a well-earned mead on Bushy Coombe, posing infront of the “smudging tunnel”

Photo by Mandie Stone-Outten

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Let there be frolicking in Avalon!  Photo by Elita Purcille

 

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“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!

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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.

Engagement · Glastonbury · Glastonbury Abbey · Town Crier · Uncategorized

Appearances at the Abbey

Since moving to Glastonbury in 1980, I’ve always enjoyed my visits to the Glastonbury Abbey and long before I became Town Crier of this lovely town. Actually, there isn’t a complete Abbey there now, only ruins. After the carnage and mayhem seen here in 1539, presided over by King Henry VIII, clinically referred to in the history books as “The Dissolution”, Glastonbury Abbey was targeted for state robbery and destruction, its last Abbot, Abbot Richard Whiting meeting a most miserable end. He and two others, after sham “trials”, were dragged up the Glastonbury Tor and executed on the top of it. He was later “hung, drawn and quartered”. In November every year, we remember him, usually with a short service on the Tor with the laying of flowers. The last one I attended, as Town Crier, was quite moving.
But the ruins nevertheless have a great appeal to tourists the world over.

The massive grounds are home to quite a lot of wildlife too.

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My wife and I have bought yearly membership to the Abbey. We often drop in, sometimes with our grandson, and enjoy the peace and space of this historic location.  Guides, in costume, are available to show visitors around.

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As happens every year, the Mayor, Town Clerk, Macebearers, Town Councillors and myself are invited to attend two big Pilgrimages.

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One is a Roman Catholic Pilgrimage the other, an Anglican one. Sometimes they occur in the same weekend. My parade associates refer to these as “Back-to-back” Pilgrimages! They are significant events in the Glastonbury Calendar and attract thousands of worshippers and spectators. Slow processions through the streets of Glastonbury also take place.

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The macebearers and I often share our little joke at these times. At Pilgrimages, we either find ourselves sitting in puddles of rain (usually) or very occasionally, in puddles of sweat (as happened this time, during our exceptionally hot summer!)

But this year, I had two other Town Crier jobs in the Abbey. Firstly, I was contacted by a gentleman called Nico, who wanted me to “cry” at his engagement. His plan was to “pop the question” to his good lady in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey and then to have the local Town Crier, standing by, to shout out the glad tidings, if she said “Yes”. What an inspired decision, I might add, to utilize the Town Crier!
After the initial contact and explanation had been made, a flurry of secret text messages followed concerning the date, timing, exact location and my “choreography” before crying.

When the big day came, I parked in my usual spot that’s reserved for me when on “Civic Duties”, just behind the Town Hall, which is conveniently next door to the abbey. As I was climbing into my regalia, a lady passed by and said, “You’re hear for the engagement then?” I nodded. Clearly, Nico’s plans were not entirely top secret.
Once robed up, I flashed my yearly entrance card at the girl in the foyer, before making my way towards the outdoor café in the Abbey grounds to try and be as inconspicuous as possible – well as much as a man wearing frilly lace, white tights, buckles on shoes, triangular feathered hat, an eighteenth century great coat, yards of gold braid and shining brass buttons can be! It was a good spot with a clear view of the planned “Engagement Zone”. I stood and watched. My good friend Ali passed by -she happened to be visiting the Abbey at the same time – and she kindly agreed to take a few photos of the events as they unfolded. We took the obligatory selfie.
Ali

We watched carefully. After about ten minutes I was beginning to feel that the Vicky had decided to shun married life with Nico by replying negatively to his question.
Then suddenly, in the distance, there was a flurry of activity.

I could hear and later see a solo violin playing near some steps, joined shortly after by a lone guitarist. The melodious music wafted across the lush green grounds. Then I saw the couple. He was reaching for the ring!!
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I said to myself: “This guy will go far! He’s chosen Glastonbury Abbey, arranged some live background music and even booked a Town Crier….this chap has got it well and truly sorted!” Ali felt much the same. The big question was this. When do I advance prior to a Town Crier announcement being made? We waited and watched. Then I saw the smiles, hugs and long passionate embraces – all the clues I needed to step forward and introduce myself to the blissfully happy couple.
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It was a delight to be the first to congratulate the newly-engaged couple and to kiss the lucky bride-to-be. I spun round, took a few paces forward, unrolled my scroll, took a deep breath and announced their good news to passing visitors and a professional photographer who had also clearly been hired, to photographically capture the event!
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As I said, this chap did it with style!

A rather similar secretive stream of messages and texts between myself and my very good friend, Heidi, preceded my appearance at the Abbey to “Cry” at a 25th Wedding Anniversary party a few months later. Again, I lurked in the grounds of the Abbey until being summoned to spring a surprise on the couple and their guests with a “Proclamation”!
25th

That’s one of the terrific things about being a Town Crier – I’m often able to share in the happiness and joy of others. It’s the best job in the world!