Monthly Archives: September 2013

Strange Skies

Earlier this year I completed Northamptonshire Folk Tales – originally it had 40 stories in it, folk tales which I had researched and retold in my own words. The editor took out a couple, saying they weren’t ‘folk tales’…. I have included them here (one below and one in next posting) to let you decide. What do you think?

STRANGE SKIES

The truth is out there, in the skies above Northamptonshire! According the many eye-witness accounts (and who is more reliable than a Northamptonian, the very salt of the earth?) ranging across centuries (although mostly late Twentieth for some reason), there are UFOs, UAVs and ETs swarming about the county’s airspace. Having travelled millions of light-years, or hopped-skipped-and-jumped through the dimensions, the alien invasion fleet has singled out the Rose of the Shires for its masterplan, like so episode of Doctor Who (luckily the eleventh/ incarnation hails from the area).

The truth is out there... above Northamptonshire skies - by author

The truth is out there…
above Northamptonshire skies – by author

The county’s skies have been busy for sometime. The first recorded sighting dates back to 1387, when it was recorded: ‘there was a fire in the sky like a burning wheel, emitting fire from above in the shape of fiery beams’. Yet, we must flit through the centuries to the early Eighties to get the fullest account of ‘first contact’ – and a not very pleasant one at that.

It was near Corby in September 1982. A couple were driving to visit a friend, in good spirits – listening to a new local band called Bauhaus on the cassette player – when a sudden light engulfed their car. Everything began to shake and the song was drowned out by a deep vibrating hum. Something was above them. Alarmed, to say the least, they looked out of the window to see a ‘flying object’ suddenly appear out of thin air, cruising parallel to them – as though a Klingon bird of prey had turned off its cloaking device. What this UFO looked like, they did not recall, but the next thing they knew – the engine had died. The car coasted onto the verge. Then, they blacked out.

They found themselves in their friends’ house – somewhat disorientated. Their friend had grown concerned. Where had they got to? Shaken, they were led inside and made cups of strong, sweet tea – the Englishman’s recourse for all emergencies. They were three hours’ late. What had happened…?

They went home, and slept deeply. It was only weeks later that fragments of the memory came back to them – often in vivid, disturbing dreams. The woman recalled being in unfamiliar surroundings and being confronted by two strange creatures ‘three and a half feet tall, hairless, with large, almond-shaped eyes. They had slits for mouths, their skin was greyish colour, and they had no ears – only two little holes for nostrils.’ The woman had found herself lain on a table while a taller entity – this one was seven feet tall – ‘prodded me with a sinister looking surgical implement, and took samples!’ From its mechanism their extended a long needle. She remembered screaming and struggling as it was inserted into her belly. She couldn’t recall anything else – and probably just as well. On reflection, she speculated that the aliens had taken her ovaries for some sinister experiment. Had she been used to breed alien-human guinea pigs? Are they amongst us, even as we speak?

Another remarkable occurrence took place on the July 22nd 2003 in Daventry – a rum town close to Borough Hill, which bristles with aerials like something from the Quatermass Experiment.

It was ten o’clock in the evening, on a warm summer’s night, and a father and son were standing in the backyard. ‘Look at those birds,’ the man commented, pointing at what appeared, at first, to be two odd-looking birds in the sky. They watched as they drew closer until they were almost above their house – they appeared to be two brown jelly-fish like objects ‘about the size of a coin held at arm’s length’. The extraordinary thing was they swam through the sky, pulsating as they went – as though they were swimming – making a ‘swishing’ noise as they did so.

Jelly-fish from outerspace!

This remarkable sighting was reported in that bastion of provincial journalism – the Daventry Express.

At this point, the sceptical amongst you might scoff – where’s the evidence? Well, about an hour earlier a BBC cameraman in Worcestershire filmed footage of similar objects in the sky – what has happened to this film, nobody knows.

Notes: Robert Goodman, in his article ‘UFOs and visitors from outer space’ observed that: ‘UFO sightings are a regular occurrence in Northampton.’ Under the Freedom of Information Act of 2005 27 credible account of unidentifiable airborne objects have been seen in the county since 1998. As a teenager, in the mid-Eighties I remember spotting a mysterious object floating above Delapr Abbey. It turns out so did many other people – also observing something resembling a giant ‘Chinese lantern’ with different colour lights on its edges had been witnessed swooping very low in the sky as though it were losing altitude, emitting sparks and flashes. Peter Hill, in Mysterious Northamptonshire, commenting on the many sightings reflects: ‘it is clear that UFOs are a form of new folklore.’ Of the famous ‘abduction’ of 1982, he said: ‘in many respects these encounters mirror the fairy abductions of bygone eras.’ Accounts of contact or sightings of dragons or fairies, become spaceships and aliens in the twentieth century. It is clear we frame things with the particular paradigmic goggles of our era. Sightings of ‘flying saucers’ were prevalent from the Fifties onwards – gaining frequency in the Eighties and Nineties, when films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind; and The X-Files, were hugely popular. Now, such techno-scientific sightings have gone off the radar. Who knows how they will manifest next? Maybe alien visitors simply use Google Earth these days?

(c) Kevan Manwaring 2013

***Northamptonshire Folk Tales by Kevan Manwaring, The History Press, published October 2013***

Northamptonshire Folk Tales

Take a walk through this county in the heart of England in the entertaining company of a local storyteller. Kevan Manwaring, born and raised in Northampton, regales you with tales ancient and modern. Learn how the farmer outwitted the bogle; how a Queen who lost her head; the Great Fire of Northampton; and the last execution of witches in England. Along the way you will meet incredible characters from history and myth: Boudicca, St Patrick, Robin Hood and Hereward the Wake, Captain Slash, Dionysia the female knight, beasts and angels, cobblers and kings. From fairies to wolves, these illustrated tales are ideal to be read out loud or used as a source book for your own performances.

Northamptonshire Folk Talesis a great companion for any visit to the area, for fascinating days out and for discovering exciting treasures on your doorstep. The ‘Rose of the Shires’ will open before you!

Published: 2013-10-01

ISBN: 9780752467887
£9.99  Order from The History Press

Walking with Words

Sign for Laurie Lee Wood, opened this June by his widow, Kathy.

Sign for Laurie Lee Wood, opened this June by his widow, Kathy.

I have a series of literary rambles coming up – Walking with Words – as part of the Cotswold Word Centre programme which I’ve devised in conjunction with Hawkwood College. WWW combines two of my favourite things – literature and walking. Last week I walked each of the routes, and had an enjoyable time reading out poems in situ on Crickley Hill with my friend Anthony.

Anthony Nanson reads out some Ivor Gurney on Crickley Hill, KM

Anthony Nanson reads out some Ivor Gurney on Crickley Hill, KM

Here’s a poem I penned on Swift’s Hill in Slad Valley – made famous by Gloucestershire’s most famous writer, Laurie Lee.

ON SWIFT’S HILL

On Swift’s Hill I learn to be still.

A walk in silence

fills my head with murmorous voices.

I venture down the meandering backlines

and bywords of Laurie’s valley,

where a walk is a sentence as long as the day.

This strange familiar land

steeped in his words

like a rat in cider.

Long lost ghosts come alive

at the touch of his pen,

at the turn of a page.

The shadows lengthen,

the bramble bushes ripen,

black handgrenades of juice

waiting to ambush your tongue.

The trees are heavy with summer,

like cows slowly coming home,

In this wild heaven

the day takes as long

as it wants.

The busy world

is elsewhere.

The Severn is a silver slither

on the horizon.

Dark Wales, a frowning brow.

The golden Cotswold massif,

a broken off slab of toffee.

The barrowed hills of peace

where the dead keep mum.

Somewhere below,

my worries await,

but for now they can cool their heels.

I’m walking with Laurie

and there’s always time for a slow half

in the Woolpack’s hallowed snug.

 

Kevan Manwaring

2nd September 2013

On Swift's Hill, Slad Valley, KM

On Swift’s Hill, Slad Valley, KM

Check out this lovely programme about Laurie Lee’s Slad Valley – Laurie Lee Land on Radio 4’s Open Country –

featuring Stroud’s very own poetical son, Adam Horovitz, of the famous dynasty of verse (Michael & Frances Horovitz).

 

 

WALKING WITH WORDS

Kevan Sapperton walk with Jay 17 Feb '13
Throughout Autumn/Winter 2013-14 Kevan will be leading a series of literary rambles around Gloucestershire – in the footsteps of some of the great writers who have lived here: Laurie Lee, Edward Thomas, Ivor Gurney, WH Davies and John Drinkwater. Each walk will be 2-3 hours long, moderate, approx. 5 miles, and will include plenty of time to ‘stand and stare’, (or sit and write). A lovely Sunday roast lunch will be provided by Hawkwood College. Transport can arranged.

Sunday 22nd September

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF LAURIE LEE (part of ‘Walking With Words’)

On the eve of Laurie Lee’s centenary year, walk in the footsteps of the great Gloucestershire writer through his beloved Slad Valley – finding inspiration en route for your own writing. There will be plenty of opportunities to ‘stand and stare’ on this gentle bardic amble. We’ll visit the orchard Laurie Lee saved, donated by his family to the Wildlife Trust. After paying our respects at his grave, a drink in his local, The Woolpack, (be it Rosie cider or a cup of coffee) will slake your thirst before returning to Hawkwood College for lunch. Led by local writer and keen walker Kevan Manwaring.

email: info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk

or telephone: 01453 759034

Sunday 29th September

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF WH DAVIES (part of ‘Walking With Words’@ Hawkwood College)

WH Davies (Author of ‘Autobiography of a Supertramp’) died in Nailsworth on 26th September, 1940. He is best remembered for his much-loved poem, ‘Leisure’. In this walk we visit the cottage Davies resided in, and explore his old stomping ground, finding inspiration along the way. Lifts to be arranged from Hawkwood College, where we’ll return for a delicious lunch.
Booking: info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk

or telephone: 01453 759034

 

Sunday 6th October

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF EDWARD THOMAS & ROBERT FROST (part of ‘Walking With Words’)

On the 100th Anniversary of the first meeting between poets Edward Thomas and Robert Frost we follow in the footsteps of one of their famous ‘walks-talking’ bardic rambles, up May Hill where Thomas wrote ‘Words’. Lifts to be arranged from Hawkwood College, where we’ll return for a delicious lunch.

email: info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk

or telephone: 01453 759034


Sunday 3rd November

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF IVOR GURNEY (part of ‘Walking With Words’)

On Remembrance Sunday we remember the First World War Poet, Ivor Gurney, who loved Gloucestershire. We’ll visit the Beak at Birdlip and read his work as we go, finding inspiration for our own writing along the way. Lifts to be arranged from Hawkwood College, where we’ll return for a delicious lunch. (‘Strange the large difference of up-Cotswold ways;/Birdlip climbs bold and treeless to a bend,
Portway to dim wood-lengths without end,/And Crickley goes to cliffs that are the crown of days.’ Cotswold Ways, Ivor Gurney)

email: info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk

or telephone: 01453 759034
Sunday 6th April

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JOHN DRINKWATER (part of ‘Walking With Words’)

On this walk we follow in the footsteps of Dymock Poet, John Drinkwater, who memorably wrote of ‘Cotswold Love’ in April (‘When April comes to Amberley/With skies of April blue/And Cotswold girls are briding/With slyly tilted shoe.). We’ll travel up to Rodborough Common and walk to the Black Horse in Amberley – writing and reciting as we go. Lifts to be arranged from Hawkwood College, where we’ll return for a delicious lunch.

email: info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk

or telephone: 01453 759034

Raising Things Up in a Dumbed Down World

AWEN FORUM 8 SEPTEMBER

Sunday saw the third of a triptych of Awen Forums, the bimonthly evenings for the ‘elevation of the word’, held at the Subscription Rooms, Stroud. The idea me and my co-organiser had was to combine an inspiring guest speaker with equally amazing performances of poetry, storytelling and music (from mostly Awen artistes), and round things off with discussion on the night’s themes. This final one of our run was to be the biggie – we were getting Andrew Harvey over from America (radical mystical author of The Hope and others), and some amazing talent from London and elsewhere – gathering together in the Ball Room, so we had a large space to fill (it seats up to 300). For the month leading up to it we were flat out with the publicity – mail outs, press releases, posters, banner, flyers, Facebook, etc – with the help of our friends (notably Tom and Bryn Brown, who, with their son James, handed out flyers with me in Stroud Farmers Market – Tom’s steampunk jacket of spoons, and James canine charm offensive worked wonders, and Bryn’s social networking skills helped afterwards too). Despite the pitiful lack of local press and media coverage (debates over the colour of bollards, etc, being obviously more important) whatever we did seemed to do the trick – and the hall filled on the night, Stroudies typically turning up at the last minute, just to keep us sweating. Everyone acted professionally and the awen flowed. The Sub Rooms staff supported us with stewarding and sound engineering. Having the backing of Paul Mclaughlin, the general manager, meant a great difference – thank you for believing in us! In the absence of core funding it is a life-saver to have some kind of support. We also had the good will of friends who pitched in – making this a real community event.

And so – let the ceremony begin! Jay asked me to introduce the evening, and I ended up MC-ing most of it, something I’m experienced at but wasn’t necessarily planning on doing, so I had to make a lot of stuff up on the spot. On stage, I’m a born waffler – so was able to fill in while the acts set up. I did my best to ‘big them’ up – a bardic fluffer. Afterwards, folk said I did well – pitching it just right, so phew! My main concern throughout the evening was the timings, and I was constantly aware of the clock. Nevertheless, everyone managed to stick to their slot – the delays crept in due to late arrivals and the logistics of getting over a hundred people to settle down. But finally we were ready to start. The lights dimmed and I introduced James Hollingsworth, guitar wizard and fellow member of the Steampunk Theatre Company, who topped and tailed the show with three stunning songs which blew people away. I know he’s great – I booked him because I believe in him – so it’s satisfying to see others appreciate him too. The next act, our main guest speaker, Andrew Harvey, was very impressed by him; as I was by Andrew. I had heard a lot about him, but still wasn’t sure what to expect. But, sitting in the front row I was blown away by his impassioned inspired outpourings. I got the full blast of his cri-de-coeur, imploring us to ‘follow our heartbreak’ and act with complete conviction and commitment. In this time of planetary crisis he insisted we need to take action now and form ‘networks of grace’, to counter the dark forces out to destroy the planet, or paradigms they oppose – not in conflict, but by positive social change, creativity and innovative ways of living lightly upon the Earth.

A brief discussion followed, a ‘conversation cafe’, facilitated by Trish Dickinson. Then, we had a much-needed break – not because the first half was long or dreary (the opposite) but because Andrew’s talk was so intense, so challenging. I found it rivetting – Andrew’s style was electrifying, and I felt I received a download direct from the Source, calling me to ‘arms’, in a spiritual sense – for the Higher Good. It was refreshing, to the say the least, to see someone who didn’t hold back in his performance (being at times on the verge of tears or hysterics); someone who really believed in what he said – delivering it with absolutely conviction, and conveying the charge direct to the audience. With self-deprecating humour he admitted he was a flawed conduit, and struggled with the challenges of sacred activism, but this made his message all the more accessible and endearing. In his talk he performed three Rumi poems, and these, along with all his anecdotes and erudite allusions (which were never pretensious) made for a scintillating experience. It was a bardic tour-de-force.

After the break we had a trio of fine poets – starting with Jay Ramsay, accompanied by Herewood Gabriel on various instruments (djembe; ballophon; flute), performing poems from his new collection and old classics. Then followed ‘the zero temperature dude of modern bardism’, as I called him, Aidan Andrew Dun, the Poet of King’s X, and his lovely pianist partner Lucie Rechrtoja from Prague, who performed hip poems set to ambient electronica – I was most impressed by Aidan’s ‘Son of Erin’ poem; and ‘Her Feet like Two White Swans’ was a lovely swansong to finish with. I imagined they could have performed all night, as could have the other bards, but we had other riches to share – and it is more effective and pleasurable for the audience to have a tight set than a sprawling indulgent programme. These talented people left their egos at the door, and pitched in – for the greater whole. Philip Wells, the Fire Poet, had to wait a long time to perform, but he was a true pro – delivering two stonking poems which lifted the energy, seemed to sum up the themes of Andrew’s talk, and act as a Greek Chorus for the evening.

We finished with a final song from James – ‘Mothership’, the final song from ‘Song of the Windsmith’ which I requested. After some deliberation, James agreed to play this – and it ended the evening perfectly. Afterwards, he was kept busy with CD sales and new fans.

Wiped out, we finally left around eleven – too late for the pub, alas (my two house-guests went back to mine for a drink and a snack, to wind down) but we all met up the next morning for a coffee in Star Anise Cafe. It was nice to see folk before they hit the road, although I didn’t catch Andrew, who was off to London, to catch a plane to Australia!

Bardic Breakfast at Star Anise Cafe, Stroud

Bardic Breakfast at Star Anise Cafe, Stroud

All in all, I think this was the most successful Awen ‘showcase’ event we have put on by far – everyone said we got the mix right, and the contributions were par excellence. This was the night when the Awen Forum really showed what it could offer – soul food and the elevation of the word – raising things up in a dumbed down world. Rather than playing it safe, playing it for laughs, going for the easy buck – we took a risk, bringing in ‘exotic’ talent and creating a formula that did not insult the audience’s intelligence, but invited them to step up to the mark of their own greatness. Stroud responded, which shows the quality of the audience here. They are there in the woodwork, but sometimes take a lot of teasing out – because there is so much good stuff going on here.

My latest brainwave is to create a way of shouting about all spoken and written activity in the area – storytelling, poetry, drama, publishing, creative writing groups, singing, literary walks, book launches, etc – with the support of Hawkwood College. As the first event to fall under the Cotswold Word Centre umbrella, this bodes very well indeed.

 

 

Feedback…

What can I say? It was a magnificently inspiring, life-affirming evening…’ Delny

 

Dear Jay and Kevan

‘A huge thank you from me personally and wearing my Hawkwood hat.  Thank you for bringing Andrew Harvey to Stroud and for supporting my initiative to invite him to Hawkwood for a weekend.

His talk at the Awen Forum was electrifying.   I enjoyed the rest of the evening, too, especially the new-to-me poet whose name escapes me. I hope you were pleased with the turn-out and that Paul McL was happy, too.

The weekend at Hawkwood was awesome – I feel re-calibrated, blessed and deeply encouraged in my path and my part in the arising consciousness/activism.  It was a blessing for all concerned, including the place.

Warm wishes to you both

Katie, Hawkwood College

 

Angie wrote: “Wow – last night’s Awen Forum here at the Sub Rooms in Stroud was astonishing! the truly amazing Andrew Harvey was talking about his book ‘The Hope—a guide to Sacred Activism ‘ … I am so glad I didn’t miss it. Thanks Jay Ramsay and Kevan for organising that… and lovely to have the company of two really intelligent women, Lindsay Hamilton and Sue Austin .. I real feast for the soul. Now back to work!”

 

Just wanted to say what a fantastic evening, I was blown away by all of it.  What an inspiring man Andrew is.

Thanks again for pointing him out to me, helps me on my path.

Many thanks and lots of love and blessings

Sue

 

 

What synchronicity Jay to have your evening  a week before World Cafe with Polly!what an opportunity for Stroudies  to create and build together and reach wider” networks of grace ” i want to thank you and Kevan for opening this avenue .

For offering such a rich experience last night -i feel shaken and stirred and more awake than i have felt the whole summer .i am not surprised Andrew has had such a profound impact on you [and many many others  ]over the years .i would love to meet him again and he wishes to meet Polly [so maybe you and i can cook this  up!]

The second half of the evening also has a huge impact for me –where yourself and others demonstrated for me the power of artists as central to peace building and hearing what was “breaking your hearts” was an honour-a perfect balance to Andrews “divine passion”  Trish Dickinson, Conversation Cafe