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 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!

 

 

 

 

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!  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Line Up for Dark Gathering 2019

 

The sixth annual Dark Gathering has yet again an exciting line-up with something, hopefully, for everyone.  So it’s time to give a bit more detail and introduce the performers to you.

The day will kick off with spooky tales from  Lisa Schneidau who is an experienced storyteller and environmentalist from Dartmoor.  She will bring together her love of nature and the Land with a magical flair that I’m sure will enchant all who attend the session.

Lisa Schneidau

Here are the details:

Wise Women and Witches
Stories from the Isles of Britain

The venue will be the library at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.  Given the rarity of some of the books, there is an absolute ban on any food and drink being brought into the library with no browsing of books permitted on this occasion.

There will be two shows, starting at 12 noon (running time 45 minutes).  Suitable for ages 7+.  All children should be accompanied and supervised by an adult.  Places are limited, booking is advised – contact  Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.  Adults £5.00, Children £3.00

50% of the proceeds are being donated to the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, and the Dark Gathering.

Incidentally, later in the day you will also see Lisa again in a slightly different guise – as a Beltane Morris dancer!

Everyone will be delighted to hear that Beltane Border Morris will once again be headlining our afternoon’s entertainment.  They are such a vital and powerful component to our Dark Gathering, and we are always eager to see them again.  There’s always more than a whiff of wild Dartmoor and the eldritch about the Beltane tribe…

Beltane Border Morris

This year we have the welcome return of Wrecker’s Border Morris.  They are our fun-loving local Cornish side who inject a little bit of benign crazy (or mazey if you’re Cornish) energy into the proceedings.

Wreckers Border Morris

Finally our Guest Side this year is the dark and mysterious Wild Hunt Bedlam Morris  that haunt the wilds of Surrey.  This is an experienced masked Border side that have been performing for 28 years.  I am confident that Wild Hunt will bring their very own brand of the Otherworld with them to the Dark Gathering.

Wild Hunt Bedlam Morris

During the afternoon break in dancing this year there is to be, Devonbird.  This Devon based folk band are very much connected to the Land, together with it’s folklore and magic – this is reflected in their music.

Devonbird

Finally there will be an unforgettable experience when we have the performance of Plymouth’s one and only Stone Soup.  This is a duo of theatrical storyteller poets but this is not your average brace of bards as you will see!  😉

Stone Soup

Here’s a Stop Press statement from Stone Soup just received:

The Dashing Dynamic Duo that is Nik (Londoner) & David (Dubliner), combined collectively in the guise of their Stone Soup alter-ego, shall be bringing their Magniloquent Mayhemic Mix of Storytelling & Music to this fantastic event. Expect the Unexpected!!!

As well as our new performers all the usual suspects will be gathering to keep alive this community event at Hallowtide.  Also the all-singing, all-dancing Cwmni Gwerin Pontypool are returning again this year.  Who would have thought that such a quaint looking dance troupe could end up being so naughty!  They have promised to keep their Mari Fflosi in check this time and not let her gallop off and cause mayhem!  🙂

 

So,  we will once again have an action packed and exciting line-up this year, with some new faces which I’m sure will receive the customary warm Cornish welcome.  I will announce any updates as and when they occur on this website. Remember to book accommodation early to avoid disappointment.

Have a great summer and I’ll see you all at Summer’s End when we celebrate the All Hallows Gathering in Boscastle. 🙂

Reminder: Each year we have a Guest Side visiting the All Hallows Gathering. We choose from a list of Morris teams who have applied to come. If your side is interested in performing at Boscastle to help us celebrate this special festival at the Darkening of the year, then contact the event organiser via this website.

I have to inform you that I have just received an announcement to the effect that, a denizen from the Otherworld will be making a visitation to the Dark Gathering. So keep your eyes and ears open for a surprise visit. All will be revealed at the appropriate time and place…

Dark Gathering 2018 – Part Three

This year saw a brief, unexpected and not-to-be-repeated Boscastle Derby which involved the Mari Lwyds in a race down to the harbour!

Even the most well ordered event can suffer from blips, miscommunication and things getting lost in translation. Our Lantern Procession this year managed to include all of these! Fortunately, we were well able to absorb all this and managed to carry on, according to most onlookers, seamlessly(!) – the worst that happened was that timings got mangled.

The Dark Gathering, which has been recently described as Cornwall’s Annual Halloween event, has almost outgrown itself in popularity.  Sometimes I think that folk forget that Boscastle is a small fishing village and treat it like a town in some ways.  The locals do their level best to accommodate most people’s requirements and I feel that this needs to be remembered when visiting, whether as a performer or an audience member.  In a town which holds Morris events for instance, the teams are able to spread out more and there is a relaxed atmosphere regarding timings.  At the Dark Gathering however we have to stick to timings as we don’t have the necessary permissions to block the highway for too long.  The marshals are local volunteers and are trying their level best to help everyone safely across the road when it comes to the Procession.  There are literally hundreds of people who follow the Mari Lwyds down to the Museum each year and it takes some management.

Normally what happens is that there is a small group of performers leading the way with flaming torches.  This makes sure that the Procession moves at a, well… processional pace, suitable for everyone to appreciate the Mari Lwyds and the music.  These torches also are a visual aide to us folk waiting at the Museum to start the tribal drumming.  Due to a miscommunication/misunderstanding this year, the torch bearers were absent at the crucial time and the Procession left without them.

At the head was the redoubtable Cwmni Gwerin Pontypwl sweeping and practically galloping down to the harbour with everyone valiantly trying to keep up!

So the final result of the impromptu Boscastle Derby was:

Mari Pontypwl won by 10 lengths,

Mari Celeste a brave second,

followed by Mari Trecopr

and bringing up the rear, Mari Arianrhod.

If I’d had been forewarned I could have got Steve Podger our MC to do an animated commentary to accompany them.

In fact, we could have taken bets…  No!  It’s not going to happen again because we have had our heads together in the Stewards Enquiry and come up with a Cunning Plan!

Watch this space!

Prior to this Penkevyll the Land’s End Oss had heard the mesmerising and irresistible tribal drums which heralded her appearance – but this year she sent out her apprentice Teazers first to surprise the onlookers – I don’t think anyone was expecting that!

Penkevyll had no sooner emerged when we were startled to see the Mari Lwyds had already arrived on the bridge.

Thanks to our trusty Gatekeepers who kept them at bay,  Penkevyll was able to claim the performance space and danced and frolicked with her Teazers for a while.

Then it was time to greet her guests who had travelled all the way from Wales to see her.

 

Then it was time for the Pwnco ceremony.

Now the torchbearers arrive!

The Pwnco is sung.

The Welsh contingent were in good voice for the Pwnco, and Laetitia responded wonderfully in West Cornwall dialect until eventually the Mari Lwyds gained entry to the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic to give their annual blessing.

Looks like they’re having fun!  🙂

Meanwhile outside a dramatic visitation was occurring.  Suddenly the sound of war drums was heard in the still night air and, surrounded by flaming torches  Tre War Venydh marched down the hill in style!

The local warband were led by the redoubtable Chieftain Sigewulf.  Well, I wouldn’t want to fall foul of her – would you?

She went on to introduce her warband by name and character with an edgy humour.

The crowd were then encouraged to support their favourite warrior as they were pitted together in mortal combat.  This was rather alarming at times because these were real swords and axes – not a rubber or resin sword in sight!

The fights were very exciting and there was a lot of cheering as each blow thudded on the combatants’ shields.  Finally one of them was vanquished by the other warrior and fell to the ground.  The wisewoman and magical healer performed remarkable feats by restoring the warriors to health following their demise.  The re-enactment ended with a demonstration of a shield wall in action.

During all the excitement, the Osses and Mari Lwyds had re-emerged into the night.  This included the young Oss, Morvargh, who was up way past her bedtime!

It was at this time that the atmosphere of the Dark Gathering shifted.

We sensed the Ancestors were drawing near… the dark. quickening time approached.

At this point Sarah Emery appeared to sing the now traditional lament at Summer’s End.  This year she sang the haunting Traveller’s Prayer.

The Traveller’s Prayer

Praise to the moon, bright queen of the skies,
Jewel of the black night, the light of our eyes,
Brighter than starlight, whiter than snow,
Look down on us in the darkness below.

If well you should find us then well let us stay,
Be it seven times better when you make your way,
Be it seven times better when we greet the dawn,
So light up our way and keep us from all harm.

Give strength to the weary, give alms to the poor,
To the tainted and needy five senses restore,
Give song to our voices, give sight to our eyes,
To see the sun bow as the new moon shall rise.

Cast your eyes downwards to our dwelling place,
Three times for favour and three times for grace,
Over the dark clouds your face for to see,
To banish misfortune and keep Trinity.

In the name of the waters that spring from the earth,
In the name of the rivers to whom they give birth,
In the name of the oceans, the seven deep seas,
All praise to the moon, for eternity.

I then stepped into the space to give the Ancestor Blessing.  This was a role that Will Fox usually performs but sadly he was unable to be with us this Gathering and so it fell to me to fill the gap.  I was wise enough to not even attempt to emulate Will’s unique style but simply went with the energy of that night and talked about the ancestors and what we can learn from them.  I don’t have much recollection of what I said, but apparently I did alright judging by the feedback later.

I ended with calling Sarah back to lead the singing of an Ancestor Chant, accompanied by Chris Neno on the drum.

What followed was an utterly amazing experience that folks  talked about for weeks afterwards.  Here are some excerpts so that you can get a feel for the power of this chant that resonated around the valley on that Dark Gathering night.

 

It was thrilling to hear so many people singing and harmonising together with swaying and stamping their feet to the rhythm.  So powerful.  So evocative.

Laetitia found the Ancestor chant online for me as I was searching for something that everyone could join in with that was universal and of no particular persuasion.  She certainly fulfilled the remit when she found this.

Ancestor Chant

In my blood
In my bones
I hear your voice
I hear your call
Ancestors dance with me
Ancestors chant with me
I hear your voice
I hear your call

 Lila Lily

Lila Lily’s website

By popular demand, this is something that we will repeat each year from now on.  😀

There was only one thing that could possibly follow an experience like this – and that was the Beltane Fire Dance!  This year there was a birthday amongst the performers so Mary Harber of Cwmni Gwerin Pontypwl was chosen to be the central torch bearer – she loved it!  🙂

It was time to give thanks to:

Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

Boscastle Chamber of Commerce

National Trust

Beltane Border Morris

Domesday Border Morris

Wolf’s Head and Vixen Morris

All Osses and Mari Lwyds

Cwmni Gwerin Pontypwl

Tre War Venydh

Sarah Emery and Paul Sumner

Steve Podger

All musicians, marshals and volunteers

The community of Boscastle

It was time to announce next year’s Guest Side which is to be…. <drum roll>

Wild Hunt Bedlam Morris!

Wild Hunt Bedlam Morris

There was only one thing left to do on this 5th Dark Gathering and that was to

‘Haccombe to Death!’

That was it.  All over for another year.  The performers trailed off to get some food, ale and have a knees-up and I would imagine the audience made a bee-line for somewhere warm and sustenance also.

The next All Hallows Dark Gathering will be held on Saturday 26th October 2019.  We’ll see you all there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark Gathering 2018 – Part Two

Over the years the Dark Gathering has gathered momentum and has been supported in its endeavours by generous donations from both the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic and Boscastle Chamber of Commerce.  We feel it is time for us to start finding our own ways of funding the event through other means as well so we have begun to look at selling merchandise.  This year we set that particular ball rolling by selling badges, and being rather theatrical types, we wanted to produce a specific character to sell them.  Enter the Pedlar!

I chose one of our friends who had offered help, Michelle Elliot aka Selkie Shell to be the Pedlar and she was brilliant!  She created a wonderful character who I believe met quite a few people over the afternoon as she had sold out in a couple of hours!  However, if you wanted to buy some badges as mementos and were unable to, I have ordered a few more.  Just contact me via the website: Dark Gathering BadgesThere will be changes to some badges for next year so get this year’s designs while you can! 

Now where were we… oh yes – the rain came down!  Cwmni Gwerin Pontypwl had come all the way from Wales to perform and it appeared that they brought their own weather with them!  Regardless of the foul weather they continued to perform for the more stoic members of the audience who remained.  What troopers they were!  However, even they had to abandon their demonstration of Welsh Dancing when it started to hail or risk concussion!  Sadly I have no photos to show you of their brave performance but I do have some footage taken by our tenacious volunteer who was filming live.  It also contains some charming dialogue between Gem who was filming and young Olivia who took pity on her and came over and sheltered Gem with her umbrella.  Many thanks also to Simon Costin who did a similar thing for the Welsh musicians to keep them and their instruments dry.  🙂

Then 30 mins later when the Morris action was due to start again, the rain stopped.  Obviously I’m glad it stopped, but I did feel a bit sorry for Cwmni Gwerin Pontypwl but when I voiced this to them they just laughed and said they were used to it as it happened all the time in Wales!  In fact they enjoyed themselves so much they’re coming back next year!  🙂

I unexpectedly got to achieve an ambition of mine this Dark Gathering.  Since I started to learn to play drum I’ve watched other good drummers avidly and learned from them.  Chris Neno from Beltane has always been a drummer I have admired and I tentatively asked his Mum whether it was OK to join the drummers in the Beltane Fire Dance.  She said that was fine and mentioned this to Chris who came over and said I could play with Beltane for the day anyway.  I was thrilled and drummed with them from that point.  It was awesome –  like riding the crest of a wave – especially when it came to the Fire Dance!

The afternoon continued with superb performances from all the Morris sides.

Whilst I was drumming with Beltane I looked up into the sky to savour the moment, and I spotted a large ‘murder’ of crows circling and swooping overhead.  It looked like they were showing great interest in Beltane’s dancing just below – and who can blame them?  Magic!  🙂

Then the squire of Vixen came over and invited Laetitia to dance a Gemini reprise following their last dance.  This is a great dance that involves precision and timing and it was nearly 20 years since Laetitia had last performed it.  Sadly to date I have not found any footage of this performance (if anyone did film any part of this please let me know) – however, here is the dance Gemini prior to Laetitia’s input.

At least I got one photo of her in her moment of glory at the end of her performance.  Well done Laetitia – proud of you!  😀

If you want to hear Laetitia’s thoughts on this go to this link:

A Special All Hallows Dark Gathering 2018

What a brilliant way to end the afternoon session!  So then it was time to take a break so we could prepare for the evening’s events which brought quite a few surprises to us all.

 

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

Dark Gathering 2018 – Part One

I had a strong feeling that the Dark Gathering 2018 would be an emotional experience, and I wasn’t wrong!  There were all sorts of things going on behind the scenes that I won’t bore you with but take my word for it, everyone involved did the very best they could under trying circumstances and limited resources.  As a consequence there were a few logistical hiccoughs but nothing that completely ruined the day for others, even though it gave the organisers a few stressful moments.

Just before we were about to set off to Boscastle the day before the Dark Gathering we received the following poignant message:

For the last few years my amazing husband Matt Geoffrey and I have attended the gathering in Boscastle. We were all booked for this year it’s always the highlight of our year. Sadly on Monday Matt lost his battle with cancer, he fought like a warrior to stay with us but took his last breath at 9:30pm on 22nd Oct with his mum, myself and our children around him at home where he wanted to be. I would be grateful if you would all remember him this weekend and say a blessing for his passing. The children and I cannot be there but it would be lovely to think he was being remembered.

I wrote to Matt’s wife Sarah to ask permission to publish her message and she wrote back:

I am more than happy for you to mention Matt I did manage to see some of the footage thank you so much. Matt would have been so touched that he was remembered The gathering was always a highlight of the year for our family x Matt was cremated this Monday I conducted the service myself as I wanted it to be a service fitting for such a wonderful man x I love the fact that your dedication came just before the Raven dance very fitting and danced by Matts favourite Morris side (Beltane Border Morris)x  

Our little one who turned 4 the day before wanted to walk respect for daddy .

I include all this as it is a very good example of how the Dark Gathering has become more than just a folkloric get together, more than a Morris knees-up, more even than a community event.  It has become something unique which was in our minds from the very start.  I well remember having an important conversation with Angie Latham and Laetitia Latham-Jones on that wild, stormy night back in 2014.  We were discussing the fact that although there are quite a few dark Morris sides who were also of Pagan persuasion, there were no events to honour this.  That, and the fact of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic was the ideal setting at the most powerful time of year for the spirits of the ancestors – it seemed the logical next move to have a magical folklore happening coupled with the meeting of the Osses and Mari Lwyds.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Recently Laetitia mentioned to me that there was something about the Dark Gathering that reminded her of the movie Field of Dreams.

Replace the ghostly images of the baseball players with Mari Lwyds and Dark Morris and there you have it!  🙂

Chris White summed it up well when he wrote recently about the Dark Gathering:

How the time’s flown! The event has grown so fast it’s as if it’s been eagerly waiting to happen! In addition to all the hard work and organization that goes into it, it seems to have an organic energy of its own, as if it has a personality of sorts the way a rare few do. You’ve made something wonderful and I feel privileged just to have seen its beginnings and even more so to be involved. Thank you so much. Lots of love. Xxxxx 

So on to the day itself.  We knew from the weather forecast that this was likely to be a cold and changeable weekend, so most folk were dressed accordingly.  The first performances started at 2 pm right up the top of the village at the Napoleon Inn.  The Mari Lwyds and Cwmni Gwerin Pontypwl gave lively performances for which they were duly paid with the traditional libations of cake and ale.  Then they slowly descended the Old Hill calling at various households on the way supported by their trusty musicians who travelled up from Penzance to play for the Mari Lwyds – thanks guys and gals!  In fact so impressed have we been by the volunteer musicians that we thought it was about time they had a band name, so… hereafter to be known as Bagas an Werin Mari Lwyd – (translation from Cornish: Mari Lwyd Folk Band)  Their final destination at the end of the afternoon was the Cobweb Inn where they performed for the customers and a good time was had by all!

Meanwhile back at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic something was stirring…!  😉

Our planned warm-up act was to be the Salt Sisters but sadly they had to withdraw at the last minute due to the illness of one of the duo.  Domesday Morris asked whether they could use this opportunity to perform and as I couldn’t see any reason not to, I agreed.  The crowd gathered swiftly as usual and once Beltane and Wolfshead & Vixen had set up their band equipment, we officially started the 5th All Hallows Gathering.  Once Steve Podger our trusty MC had opened proceedings with his usual flair, I stepped in and dedicated the Dark Gathering 2018 to the memory of Matt Geoffrey.  Beltane then led the afternoon’s entertainment starting with a new dance called Three Ravens.  They were, as ever thrilling and dynamic to watch.

Beltane Border Morris dance Tregeseal

Next to perform was the mesmerising Wolfs Head and Vixen Morris.  You get two for the price of one here with the brooding intensity of the Wolfs Head men, and the slick precision of the whirling  Vixen women.  This is not to mention the trance-like rhythms of the side’s Band.  WH&V who hail from Rochester in Kent, are a well renowned side whose claim to fame is of being the very first gothic Morris team.  They have built an enviable reputation over the last 23 years and we were delighted to have them as our Guest Side this year.

One of the dances that Wolf’s Head perform is called the Four Seasons and is considered to be a form of fertility dance.  Usually a female is chosen to stand in the centre and Laetitia Latham-Jones was chosen this time.  This might have had something to do with the fact that Laetitia was a member of Wolf’s Head and Vixen back in the Nineties so this was a nice gesture from them.

Much to our surprise the Daily Mail decided to send a photographer this year who took the following image and tried to stir up the blacking issue again (yawn) and, amongst a lot of other ludicrous statements, described Laetitia as “wearing ghoulish looking horns and black eye make-up”!  Terrifying isn’t she?  😉

Then came Domesday Morris.  What a entertaining and fun loving side they were!  Full of energy, they injected a vitality into the proceedings which made a suitable contrast to the dark mystery of the other two sides.  Their band was led by Lisa Jarvest, a very talented melodeon player, and they played lively tunes that had all our feet tapping.  Listening to their music and watching Domesday dance, you couldn’t help but smile.  🙂

The dancers were led by the irrepressible Bruce Jarvest.

I also have to mention the children at this point.  Who couldn’t fail to smile at these winsome kids in their tatters and blacking?

These kids went around the crowd asking for donations for the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.  They raised the princely sum of £60!  Impressive!

We were going to use this maid’s image on our poster but sadly when it came to it, it didn’t work artistically speaking.  However, we were determined to have it on the website because the pure exuberance expressed here said so much about Domesday Morris and the energy of the Dark Gathering that day.  🙂

Then suddenly at 4 pm when there was a scheduled break in the Morris dancing, the heavens opened up and the rain hammered down!

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

Breaking News for the Dark Gathering!

After months of negotiations with various Boscastle residents I am delighted to announce that this year we will have a Park and Ride scheme in operation.  This will go a long way to alleviate the growing problem we have had each year of parking for people wanting to attend the Dark Gathering.  The details are as follows:

Above is a screenshot of the field designated for the shuttle service.  This service will operate between 10.30 am until 6.30 pm and will leave the field at half past the hour, and return from the main car park at quarter to the hour.

For those wishing to stay on for the evening, there is a break of one hour from the performances from 5 pm until 6 pm for those who wish to move their car and try to park in the main car park.  Those who may be staying overnight will be able to leave their vehicle in the field overnight and retrieve their car in the morning after a short walk up the hill.

There will be no official charge for this service but a donation bucket will be available which we would ask that people give generously to.  All proceeds go to Coastwatch who make up the team of volunteer marshals.

I would like at this point to extend my thanks to all the locals who have worked extremely hard to create this scheme, plus my grateful thanks to all those volunteers who will help run it on the day!  🙂

All of these arrangements are of course subject to change if the weather is awful – but of course that’s not going to happen is it!  😉