Dark Gathering 2020 – The Unexpected

So here we are at Samhain and our thoughts gravitate towards the turning of the year – from Summer’s End and into the Dark of the Year.  We look inward, we honour our ancestors, and traditionally we would attend the Dark Gathering in some shape or form.  This year most of us can only gather together in spirit and not in person due to the pandemic that persists in our lands.

It’s been quite moving reading so many folks’ comments of the impact the Gathering has upon so many.  It’s grown from just a few dozen like-minded friends gathering together, to a full scale celebration of Hallowtide with all the associated pageantry that accompanies it nowadays.  I feel that the Gathering has captured the imagination and powerfully stirs an ancient race memory, especially as night falls.  To experience the sound of hundreds of people joining in the Ancestor Chant to the rhythm of the drums by the light of flaming torches, is to be transported back in time to the Elder Ways.  It’s very cathartic and deeply healing.

As the Dark Gathering is primarily cross cultural between Wales and Cornwall involving the meeting of the Mari Lwyds with the Cornish Osses, some of them wanted to send a message to each other.  Here is a bizarre, but quite charming, virtual meet up of them.  Many thanks to Eleanor Greenwood who edited this short video.

We hope that you enjoyed that brief interchange with our equine Celtic cousins!  Moving on….

As we can no longer gather together physically this year, we thought we would compile a special video for you all dedicated to the spirit of Samhain and the Dark Gathering.  It has taken many months to create and I have been like demented sheepdog endeavouring to round up all the submissions in time.  Rather predictably, a lot of them only arrived at the very last minute, and as a consequence stress levels have been fluctuating wildly…!

I am indebted to the hard work and sheer determination of our editor and compiler – Hedj Dollman.  Not only has he spent countless hours of his precious spare time on this video, but he has willing done this whilst also working full time as a key worker.  Having seen the finished product I can assure you that Hedj has put his heart and soul into this project.  A standing ovation for this young man if you please!

So what can you expect from this 90 mins of dark entertainment?  Basically, expect the unexpected!  It has song, past film footage (some of which hasn’t seen the light of day before), new material, storytelling and messages from our performers – all of which showcases brilliantly how multi-skilled and talented our Dark Gathering Team is.  All of this wondrously woven together by Hedj.

So, get yourselves settled in and comfy, preferably with your favourite tipple and enjoy our version of the Dark Gathering 2020.  Enjoy!

We wish everyone a wildly magical Hallowtide wherever you may be.  Here’s to the Old Ones and the Ancestors!

New merchandise

Thanks to a good idea of one of our Gathering attendees, Karen Harmer, and following a brief poll on our Facebook Group, we have decided to add masks printed with the Dark Gathering logo to our merchandise.

We may not be able to have a Dark Gathering this year (2020) but we can be there in spirit with our DG masks.

For more details go to our Merchandise page.

All proceeds from these sales will go to the All Hallows Dark Gathering.

To Be or Not To Be

2020 is turning out to be memorable for all the wrong reasons.  We were so looking forward to our special year when we could celebrate seven years that sealed the Dark Gathering as a tradition, on Halloween with a blue full moon rising upon some superb Morris sides and blessed by the Mari Lwyds and Obby Osses.  Then the virus reached our shores and the whole country went into lockdown.

We watched and waited and hoped, but to no avail as it became apparent that we had to cancel the Dark Gathering for this year.  What a huge disappointment for so many people.  😦

Now there may be many folk who may be wondering why we have cancelled when it is still over four months until the event.  There are five important reasons why we had to take this decision, and in no particular order I shall explain what they are.

Licences

I used to think rather naively that small festivals and events just needed getting a few people together and organising them loosely and away you go – if only it were that straight forward!  Possibly you might get away with gatherings of up to about 50 people, but once the numbers start climbing into the hundreds then you have to apply for an appropriate entertainment licence from the Council.  This complex document has to be applied for well in advance up to 12 weeks before the planned event.  There are other licences we have to obtain but this is the main one – without it the event cannot by law go ahead.

Insurances

Not too surprisingly given the present national situation the premiums on all the insurances that are required have soared astronomically, and I won’t even start on describing how much of a minefield it would be creating risk assessments for Health & Safety – I’ll leave that to your imagination!

Government Regulations

At the time of writing the government guidelines state that no more than 6 people can meet up together, and although there may be an increase to that number in the next few months I really think it unlikely that this would reach the hundreds – but even if that happened then they would have to be socially distanced and there is simply not the space for that to happen in the small village of Boscastle.

Funding

Due to the virus adversely impacting workers and businesses alike, many folk are seriously struggling to keep on an even financial keel.  As a direct result of this, any funding from sponsors for the Gathering is way down the list of their priorities and cannot be anticipated for the foreseeable future.  This would considerably restrict future payments and subsidies that have up until now been given to various performers.

Permissions

Due to the government guidelines the owners of the areas where we have traditionally performed are unable to grant permission for their use as a performance area.  Once again, this is a situation that I can’t see changing any time soon.

So there you have it.  No Dark Gathering this year sadly.  However, we will still be travelling up to visit Boscastle on the day to spend time enjoying the uniquely powerful energy of the place on such a special night.  We believe that several folk have decided to do the same if some accommodation is available and people are allowed to stay overnight by then.

We will now be focusing on the Dark Gathering 2021 which will be held on Saturday October 30th when we intend to have the same line-up of performers as were arranged for this year.  Given that, as elsewhere, many hospitality businesses are seriously struggling in Boscastle, if you are planning to attend the 2021 Gathering you may wish to consider simply transferring your booking from this year to the next if possible.

We will miss you all this year but I’m sure we’ll all meet up again soon.  Keep watching for any more updates and most of all stay safe!  🙂

 

 

Important News on the Dark Gathering 2020

It is with real regret that I have to announce that the Dark Gathering 2020 has to be cancelled. We are now focusing our energies on producing the next Gathering which is now set for Saturday October 30th 2021. It is our intention to maintain the same excellent line up of performers, and consequently we hope that anyone who has booked their accommodation for this year in Boscastle will simply transfer their bookings to next year if possible. Till we all meet again, stay safe!

Dark Gathering 2019 – Part Two

So to the second half of the Dark Gathering – the arrival of the Mari Lwyds and the Honouring of the Ancestors.  Following a quick and much needed mulled cider it was time to line-up the drummers ready to send the signal to the Procession to commence.  This is a part of the proceedings where the general public, if they have the ability, can join in with the tribal drumming.

Also this was the time for Penkevyll to emerge from her stable with her Teazers to call the Mari Lwyds to the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic.  As anticipated the Teazers led by Laetitia Latham-Jones danced and wove their magic upon the crowd and Penkevyll to the sound of trance-like tribal drumming.

Shortly after 6 pm the Lantern Procession headed off for the Museum led ably by Laura Marshall from Beltane accompanied by many differing characters including the famous Mari Lwyds.

Another new Mari was spotted this year, Mari Diemnt Du.  Apparently this Mari has been specially created to appear at the Dark Gathering only.  What an honour!

Penkevyll was delighted to greet her bone sisters again who she hadn’t seen for 10 months since her last visit to Wales in January.

She got very excited, bless her!  🙂

After meeting and greeting, Penkevyll with her Teazers disappeared inside the Museum and gradually the Mari Lwyds made their way to the door where they beseeched entry.   Thus the Pwnco Ceremony began:

The Welsh verses are responded to in Cornish.

Once successful in their endeavours the Mari Lwyd party entered the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic and began to the bless the premises for another year.  They were rewarded with the traditional libations of cake and ale.

Meanwhile outside in the dimpsey (West Country term for twilight) we were treated to a entrancing and salutary tale by two storytellers known as Stone Soup.  It was hugely entertaining and required audience participation which it received with gusto.

As the final chants of “Chop, chop, chop!  Feed, feed, feed!  Bubble, bubble, bubble!  Sweep, sweep, sweep!” died away, the night was shattered by three sinister drum beats.  Our MC Steve started to explain about a ghostly apparition that could appear in deepest, darkest Dorset when an eerie, unholy rhythm involving drums, fiddle and voice commenced – what on earth was happening…?

High above the performance space red smoke appeared and from within this a vast horned head appeared – the otherworldly denizen had arrived!

Down the slope led incrementally by a gloriously creepy attendant was the Darkest Ooser!

Once the Ooser had toured the edges of the audience, delightfully scaring a few children in the process, it finally came to rest to watch the rest of the evening’s proceedings.

Sadly our usual singer at this point,  Sarah Emery was unable to attend this year.  However, her place was taken by Annie Douglas from Beltane Border Morris who sang the Traveller’s Prayer.  Annie deserves particular praise as not only did she sing well but she did so in spite of an heavy cold and sore throat.  What a trouper!  Unfortunately I had not been able to obtain either a photo or footage of this until quite recently.  Annie can now be heard on the final video of edited highlights at the end of this blog.  🙂

Now the scene had been set, Will Fox stepped forward and called up the spirits by the often not recognised or forgotten method of whistling.

Will offered his invitation to all present to acknowledge and honour the Ancestors, the most emotional and moving part of the event.  Then it was straight into the singing of the Ancestor Chant in which most of the drummers took the beat and the words to the audience.  Once started it is very difficult to bring things to a halt as you feel you could carry on for hours with that pulsating and compelling chant.

As expected we moved on to the famous Beltane Fire Dance.  Each year we chose someone special to get to stand in the middle of this dance and this year the choice fell upon two young men who run an occult shop in New Orleans and travelled all that way just to attend the Dark Gathering.  Their names were Jason Fawaz and Arkie Ring and I think it’s safe to say that they were ‘over the moon’ to be picked for this!  Judge for yourselves in this photo.  🙂

Now it was time for the all important thanks and the announcement of the Guest Side for next year.

On the night and now as I write this blog I have reason to especially thank some amazing folk who have helped me immeasurably over the year and on the day of the Dark Gathering in particular.  Let’s start with the businesses who generously gave us donations:

Boscastle Chamber of Commerce

Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

Kind permission for performing on their land from National Trust

I especially wish to personally thank Simon Costin and the Museum’s Events Manager (who wishes to remain nameless) for their invaluable help, guidance and assistance through what has been a very fraught year’s planning.

Grateful thanks also to the Performers, in no particular order:

Beltane Border Morris

You were hugely supportive and good humoured throughout.

Cwmni Gwerin Pontypwl

Your willingness to help and your generosity was heart-warming – thank you so much.

Boekka and Penkevyll the Land’s End Oss

Bagas an Werin Mari Lwyd

Mari Sol

Mari Diemnt Du

Mari Afon Lwyd

Morvargh the Sea Oss

Our Guests:

Lisa Schneidau Storyteller

Wreckers Morris

Huginn and Muninn

Stone Soup

Darkest Ooser

To all performers – you were fabulous and gave memorable performances – thank you!

Warm thanks to all our volunteers who were worth their weight in gold.  🙂

A special mention to our Pedlar, Michelle Elliot who sold many badges and worked tirelessly in cold and draughty weather.  🙂

Kim Shadowland who performed the vital function of filming live for all those who couldn’t attend for whatever reason.  It was invaluable to all those folk up and down the country and around the world who love to watch the Dark Gathering as it happens – it also makes for great archive footage.  🙂

Thanks to Steve Podger who gave his very best despite difficult personal circumstances.

Finally the one person who has witnessed the whole, frustrating at times, process and given solid support and much needed assistance – Laetitia Latham-Jones.  Bless you m’dear!  🙂

People thank me for my input but my reward is seeing so many people benefiting and enjoying what has turned out to be a wonderful community event.  It’s a real team effort and it’s so uplifting to see people-power and goodwill in action at each Dark Gathering.  Long may it continue!

Here’s a few random snapshots of this year’s Gathering:

It was time for the last dance – Haccombe to Death by Beltane Border Morris.

Amidst wild applause Beltane then lined up for a farewell song of Leave her Johnny.

So that was it.  We’d made it despite setbacks and wild weather – the old gods were honoured and the Dark Gathering was over for another year.

Next year is going to be very special for a variety of reasons.  Firstly the Dark Gathering will fall on Samhain.  Secondly it will also be a Full Moon.  Thirdly it will be a Blue Moon.  Importantly it will be the seventh Dark Gathering which will mean, according to the folk world, it will be officially a Tradition!  Yay!  😀

Incidentally it will also be the 60th Anniversary of the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle.

In order to celebrate all this we have decided to have two Guest Sides next year.   They will be:

Mythago Morris

and…

Boggart’s Breakfast

There will be other exciting additions to our line-up which I will share with you next year.

For now I will leave you with this rather wonderful video from William Hedj Breed with highlights from this year’s Dark Gathering.  Enjoy!

See you all next year – I’m off for a well earned rest now!  😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark Gathering 2019 – Part One

There is an ancient Chinese curse which goes: “May you live in interesting times.”  There have been times this past year when I have wondered whether I had unknowingly offended someone of oriental persuasion when it came to the Dark Gathering!  There has also been the odd occasion when I wondered whether it was actually going to happen or not, especially when it came to wrangling with the dead hand of bureaucracy.  Indeed as the date of this year’s Dark Gathering approached there was a last minute flurry of obstacles, cancellations and complications – not to mention wet weather that seemed to take on biblical proportions!

Undaunted we soldiered on…

On the day, we had to put out a disclaimer on the website and social media that there was a police warning of a yellow flood alert on some of the roads approaching Boscastle and for folks to be aware of this.

Despite the heavy rain there was full attendance to both storytelling sessions run by Lisa Schneidau.  By all accounts everyone loved the experience – well done Lisa!  I wished I could have been there.  🙂

Then 40 minutes before we were due to start the afternoon’s proceedings, the torrential rain stopped – for the next 36 hours!  😀

Now, I could fall back on the cliched ‘As if by magic’ but that’s a bit hackneyed now – this was bordering on the miraculous.  Well Done to all those witches who were spinning their weather magic for the Dark Gathering!  Given the sheer amount of rainfall over the last 6 weeks, I still can’t quite believe we got away with yet another dry Gathering.

So the sixth Dark Gathering began with gusto with Steve Podger, our enduring MC, introducing the wonderful Beltane Border Morris, who have over the years become the backbone to the Dark Gathering.

Next were the fun-loving and ever ebullient Wreckers Morris from North Cornwall.

What came next was a bit of a gamble as far as I was concerned.  Earlier in the summer I learnt that regrettably Wild Hunt Bedlam Morris were unable to attend after all, and I was left to search for a replacement.  Quite by chance I happened upon Huginn & Muninn.  They were certainly different, which was what I was after as I do like to inject a little of the unknown and edgy into the proceedings.  So it came to pass that the wild and wacky Huginn & Muninn made their eccentric debut at the Dark Gathering.

 

Here is a prime example of how bizarre Huginn & Muninn can be:

Whilst all this frivolity was happening down at the harbour, way, way up the hill at the Napoleon Inn an ancient custom was being enacted by Cwmni Gwerin Pontypwl and Bagas Werin Mari Lwyd.  A Welsh/English pwnco was performed plus a dance performance with songs for the delight of the onlookers.

Following this in response to a special request, Mari Afon Lwyd (or Fflosi as she is affectionately known) bestowed blessings upon the household of Ivy Cottage.  In return the Mari Lwyd party received thanks and copious libations.  🙂

Then it was off down the hill to the wondrously warm welcome from the Wellington Hotel who laid on lavish libations for our merry band of revellers.  Cwmni Gwerin had to perform outside the Museum at 4 pm, so as they left Bagas Werin were joined by a new Mari Lwyd called Mari Sol.

Everyone continued to entertain wherever they visited including the Cobweb Inn.  Meanwhile Cwmni Gwerin Pontypwl were bringing Welsh dancing to the audience at the harbour.

Following their break, all the Morris sides completed their afternoon’s entertainment with pizazz and vigour – in fact, it was quite difficult to persuade them to stop!

However, the light was fading fast and it was time to prepare for the Lantern Procession – and for whatever the evening had in store for us all…

Besides which Penkevyll was getting very restless in her stable and was eager to met her bone sisters, the Mari Lwyds!

 

 

 

 

Countdown to the Dark Gathering 2019

 

To say that the past year as the organiser of the Dark Gathering has been challenging would be the understatement of the year!  Sometimes an event can prove to be so popular it can become the victim of it’s own success, and now that the Gathering regularly attracts many hundreds of people it has also brought upon itself the scrutiny of the red tape brigade.  I personally have been on a very steep learning curve including learning new jargon, PLI, RA, TEN not to mention H&S!  Thankfully I have had the help of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic’s Events Manager who has diligently steered me through the minefield of licenses, permissions and insurances required by various departments and organisations.  He has been a godsend.  🙂

What this preamble is leading to is to inform you that there may well be a few changes to the way we run things from this year onwards.  There may be restrictions to the amount of people permitted around the harbour area to view the proceedings.  There are however no such restrictions in the surrounding areas providing there remains free access to public thoroughfares and footpaths.  A lot depends on the day regarding numbers of attendees how much crowd control will be implemented.  I would ask that folk co-operate with the marshals at the event, all of whom are volunteers, and move round if requested to do so.

The other main change which is in accordance with Health and Safety regulations which we have to comply with is that no naked flames are permitted in the Lantern Procession but that torchlight be restricted to LED lights instead.  There are many on the market nowadays that are very reminiscent of candlelight.  Once again during the Procession please comply with any instruction from any marshal or the Procession Leader who will be a member of Beltane Border Morris.

Right.  That’s the officious bit out of the way!  There have been some changes in line-up so there will be a few surprises for folks over the weekend and definitely on the day itself.  It’s been a bit wild and wacky and probably will remain so for the duration!  😉

The Pedlar will be out in full force selling her wares with some new merchandise this year to delight you with.  Also there will be a collection bucket going around which I hope you will give generously to.  Insurances and licenses don’t come cheap and we have always endeavoured to keep the Dark Gathering free and hope to keep it that way, so anything donated goes straight into the Dark Gathering account in order to keep it well funded and efficient.

So here we are with just under a week to go and the excitement is palpable.  I feel the dark magic rising to welcome the Gathering and the Old Ones stirring to respond to the call of the Ancestors.  It just falls to me to say ‘Expect the Unexpected this Hallowtide’ and travel safe.  See you soon!  😀

 

Parking information at the Dark Gathering

There have been some significant changes in parking regulations at Boscastle due to local council decisions.  Henceforth there will no longer be a facility for overnight parking in the main car park.    Any folk who decide to flout this ruling face the very real risk of a parking fine.

So, the small village of camper vans that used to emerge on the Friday night of the Dark Gathering, only to slowly disappear on the Sunday, alas is now a thing of the past in this particular car park.

There will be a field set aside for Performers and Crew but there will be no facilities available.  I will be informing people of where this site is as soon as it is confirmed by the local farmer.  Unfortunately this option is not available to members of the public – however as a result of no overnight camping there will be more parking lots available in the main car park.   Please note – Park & Ride is not available this year.

There are some excellent camping facilities available close to Boscastle for those who wish to use them.  Here are a few:

Trebyla Farm Caravan and Camping Site

Lower Pennycrocker Camping Site

Trewethett Farm Caravan Site

There will be more updates in the weeks to come about further logistical developments for the Dark Gathering.  Please watch this space.

Six weeks and counting!  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Change to Dark Gathering Line Up

We live in interesting times and the Dark Gathering has not been immune to these fluctuating events.  Sadly I have to announce that our Guest Side, Wild Hunt Bedlam Morris have reluctantly had to cancel their appearance this year due to unforeseen circumstances.  We were very disappointed by this and we hope that Wild Hunt will be able to appear at a Gathering at some point in the future.

Needless to say this caused some avid searching around for a replacement side and we found and decided upon an intriguing act – Huginn and Muninn.

They have been described as ‘Ragnarock ‘n Roll’ and are advertised as ‘a contemporary surrealist two person Border Morris side.  They dance tales of Huginn and Muninn’s adventures from the pantheon of Norse myths, ably kept in check by the music of Odin himself.’  We are hoping that everyone will be well entertained by such an unusual Bedlam Border Morris side!

Only 13 weeks to go until the next Dark Gathering!

New Page to All Hallows Dark Gathering Website

 

This is a quick post to let folks know that we have a new page to our Dark Gathering Website.  In pursuit of funding initiatives we have created a Merchandise page which we will add to as and when.  We aim to create high quality items at an affordable cost,  whilst at the same time adding to our funds.

Once again we give thanks to our in-house graphic designer, Chris White.  🙂

Merchandise Page