Tag Archives: Hawkwood

Is there Peace?

The Arch-Druids calls out “A oes Heddwch” - Is there Peace?

The Arch-Druids calls out “A oes Heddwch” – Is there Peace?

As we commemorate the centenary of the First World War there is a hyper-abundance of media-attention and a plethora of TV dramas, documentaries, plays, albums, shows, and so forth, flogging a dead war horse… One could be forgiven for a certain fatigue – and we’ve got four more years of it to go! Yet there are some stories that break open the heart.

An especially resonant one for me is that of Hedd Wyn.

hedd-wynn

‘Hedd Wyn’ was the bardic name of Ellis Humphreys Evans, a Welsh farmer-poet, who won the 1917 Bardic Chair of Birkenhead posthumously (a prize given in an Eisteddfod, the original ‘Game of Thrones’ if you will). Having had some success in previous eisteddfodau (but not the National Welsh one – the most prestigious) Ellis enlisted, having resisted the Call Up for three years. He was not opposed to War, he said, but didn’t relish the thought of killing a man. Because his parents had four sons of age, it was decided by the War Office that one of them must be sent to the Front. Although Ellis, the eldest, did not want to go, he couldn’t bear his younger brother going in his stead. Ellis felt it his duty, as big brother, to step up. Tragically, he was slain in action, but not before he had submitted a long poem to the National Eisteddfod. Fortunately the censors let it pass (though it was initially suspected of being written in code and revealing sensitive information – in fact it was a cri-de-coeur against the inhumanity of all war). The adjudicators decided that it was the best poem, and awarded the Chair – a beautiful carved ‘throne’, to the poet known only under his pseudonym, ‘Hedd Wyn’. He was killed in action before he was able to claim his Chair, but it was awarded post-humously in his honour and became known as the Black Chair.

In 1992 a moving film was released of his story – Hedd Wyn — and it went on to be Oscar-nominated for the Best Foreign-language Drama (it is in Welsh, with English subtitles), as well as winning a BAFTA for Best Picture, and a string of other awards.

Hedd Wyn film poster

Last night, a special Remembrance Sunday screening was held at Hawkwood College, Gloucestershire. The Bardic Chair of Hawkwood was present – an original Eisteddfod Chair from the 1882 contest in Denbighshire. This has been in the family of Richard Maisey for decades, and he has kindly lent it to Hawkwood for the contest, which is to be held at the Open Day, May Day Bank Holiday Monday 2015. The theme is ‘Flood’ and any original poem, song or story by a GL5 or GL6 resident is eligible. Richard said a few words about the Chair, and I introduced the film. Afterwards we had a discussion about some of the issues raised by the heart-rending drama. Considering the countless voices that were silenced by the vast tragedy of the Great War – all those who didn’t make it back from the Trenches, or were injured beyond repair mentally or physically – it was felt that our opportunity to express ourselves creatively is a ‘sacred gift’ that shouldn’t be squandered. Many good men and women have died so we can have that freedom. Peace always comes at a price – and this time of Remembrance is a poignant moment to reflect upon that. To pray for peace. Watching Hedd Wyn I once again felt how could we possibly have let this happen again? Such an exercise in futility as the ‘War to End All Wars’ was, the obscenity of war should not be allowed by civilized people to ever happen again – and yet it has, again and again. By telling these true stories I hope we can make people say No! to all acts of aggression, to the Arms Trade, and the whole industry of aggrandizing War and those who fight in it. Violence is never the solution. There is always another way.

And if we forsake our creativity in the face of conflict then we have forsaken our humanity.

y-gadair-ddu

Observe the 2 minutes’ silence at the anniversary of the Armistice, 11th November, 11am GMT, and remember all victims of war. Make a donation to the Peace Pledge Union to support the ongoing campaign for peace.

Bard of Hawkwood

The Gorsedd - with me on the far right

The Declaration of the Bardic Chair of Hawkwood at the Open Day, May 2014 

 

 

The search has started for the Bard of Hawkwood 2015. The annual competition was launched at the Hawkwood College Open Day, 5th May, with a traditional ceremony called the ‘Declaration of the Chair’. Bards of Bath, Malvern and Stroud gathered to recite their poetry before the Open Day crowds on the sunny lawns of Hawkwood. The competition is an initiative of the Cotswold Word Centre, launched at Hawkwood on World Book Day, 6th March, earlier this Spring. Co-ordinator Kevan Manwaring set the theme for the contest: ‘Flood’ and explained the rules of entry: an original song, story or poem of 10 mins or less, on the given theme; plus a 300 word statement of intent describing what you would do as your time as the Chaired Bard. The winner will be Bard of Hawkwood for a year and a day and set the theme for the next year’s contest. They will get to sit in the Bardic Chair of Hawkwood – an original Eisteddfod chair, dating from 1882, kindly loaned by Richard Maisey, in whose family it has been for generations. The deadline for entries is the 18th April 2015. 5 copies of the entry, plus the statement, and a SAE to be sent to: K. Manwaring, The Annexe, Richmond House, Park Rd, Stroud, GL5 2JG. Entrants must be able to perform their entry at the Hawkwood College Open Day, May Day 2015, and be a resident of GL5 or GL6.

Kevan says: ‘The Bard of Hawkwood would become the ambassador for the good work of Hawkwood College, the Cotswold Word Centre, and their area. Having been a winner myself I know how empowering it can be – not only for the individual recipient, but also for their respective community. It is about celebrating local distinctiveness, fostering civic pride, and loving where you live.’

Writer and storyteller Kevan Manwaring moved to Stroud in late 2010. He had been a previous resident of Bath, where he won the Bard of Bath contest in 1998. He became involved in the annual contest there, helping to judge future competitions and set up ones in other communities. He is the author of The Bardic Handbook and The Book of the Bardic Chair. He teaches creative writing for the Open University and locally at the Subscription Rooms. He is running literary walks and a workshop on ‘Landscape, Memory and Imagination’ for Creative Arts Week at Hawkwood College. He is the host of the monthly Story Supper at Black Book Cafe – last Friday of the month – an ideal place to hone those bardic skills!

A series of events are planned for the Autumn/Winter in the lead up to the contest – to raise awareness about the contest and the Bardic Tradition. 

Sunday, 9 November
Hedd Wyn & the Bardic Chair of Hawkwood
Remembrance Sunday screening of Oscar-nominated film about a First World War poet who wins the Welsh Eisteddfod, plus a discussion about the Bardic Chair of Hawkwood (an original eisteddfod chair from 1882). 
Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Road, Stroud GL6 7QW
email:info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk tel:01453 759034
 
Friday 19- Sunday 21 December
Rekindling the Light
‘firelight, starlight, storylight’
A weekend workshop exploring the myths of winter through creative writing, poetry, storytelling and song, with a special solstice sharing and a chance to walk the solstice spiral. With Kevan Manwaring, author of The Bardic Handbook and others. Fee: non/residential options – contact office.
Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Road, Stroud GL6 7QW
email:info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk tel:01453 759034
 
Saturday 31st Jan
Inklings of Spring Bardic Showcase
(Kevan Manwaring with special guest bards tba). 
Come and find out about the Bard of Hawkwood contest, hear fine examples of modern bardism and celebrate Imbolc, the festival sacred to Brighid, Celtic Goddess of poetry, smithcraft and healing. Bring an Imbolc wish and sow your seed for the coming year. Bring a candle to have it blessed at this traditional time (Candlemas).
 
 

 

 

Wild Hearts and Wellingtons

4-7 May

Merlin didn't wear wellingtons

Over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend I took part in two seasonally-themed events. The first was the Wildheart Gathering, over in West Sussex – this small festival, run by the Spirit Horse Foundation, is the ‘first of the season’ and we hoped it would be a chance to ‘raise the May’. It turned out to be a be a complete mud-fest, as the rain did not let up, but still there was a warmth there – in the instant community created around the ‘village green’, a kind of ‘fellowship of the mud’. The taking off and putting on of wellies became a ritual practice over the weekend (the sound of one leg hopping), as we boldly went on our yurt-trek. The daytimes were dominated by the many interesting workshops (we were offering our own respective ones – mine on ‘Writing the Land’); the evenings, by lovely music from a range of talented people. On Sunday a big Beltane Ceremony took place – celebrating the ‘start of the summer’ (which begins on the 1st of May, in theory…). The Jack was crowned alongside his May Queen and together they blessed everyone there – a great finale to the weekend, for us at least – for we set off straight after, keen to get back to hot baths and soft beds!

The second was on Monday – the annual Hawkwood Open Day – where Jenni and I were also running workshops. After a quick turnaround we ‘rebooted’ ourselves back out of the door and up the hill, to the lovely grounds of Hawkwood College (originally a Jacobean House called the Grove until renamed after the English military hero Sir John Hawkwood in the 30s). Various talks and workshops were in full swing, as well as an assortment of stalls to peruse. I set up for my storytelling workshop in the ‘sitting room’ – and this co-created tale (in embryonic form) was the quirky, spontaneous result:

The Legend of Hawkwood

A long time ago, so long ago it seems unlikely to have happened at all – but the land remembers and there you are – there was a big pile of fresh hills, waiting to be named and told what to do. These were divided into two by Sabrina, goddess of the river – who liked things to be tidy. One side became England, the other Wales. The edge of the hills on the English side were garlanded with springs. Ten of these bubbled up in a wood frequented by hawks. One in particular stood out from her sisters – protected by a grove of old, old trees. This was the Spring of Summer and the nymph who lived in it was particularly lovely. Her hair was like sunshine on a summer’s day, her eyes as blue as cornflowers, her skin as smooth and pale as cream – you get the general idea. All the animals of the forest loved to drink at her spring – for the water had a special magic to it, making you feel good inside. Not wanting the animals to have all the fun, the two-legged ones cottoned in on the act and were soon making pilgrimage to it from far and wide.

Following it so far? Good.

Well, there was a Lord, scarred by wars, who decided he wanted to keep it for himself – so he caught the nymph and locked her up in a stone tower next to the spring. Here, he made his home and his name was Lord Hawkwood. He invited his sister to move in – she was to winter what the nymph was to summer. The place became chilly and gloomy – which suited Lord Hawkwood’s mood. They were happy in their misery – keeping summer under lock and key.

You can boo at this point.

Well, everything has a knock on a effect. Around these parts they say when Lord Hawkwood sneezes, the rest of the West Country catches cold. The villagers of Warmley were in the frontline of this blast. It became very chilly there. Nobody could get warm and everyone wondered where summer had gone – for the year was taking too long to warm up, and poor Old Grannie – well, it wasn’t doing her chillblains any good. There was a meeting – in the draughty village hall – and everyone added their coughs and sneezes to the proceedings. Mutters and grumbles rubbed shoulders with one another. No one seemed to know what to do but everyone enjoyed a cathartic moan.

Then Willow – Grannie’s grand-daughter – piped up. She had an idea. ‘Sshhh!’ they said. This was serious adult business. But Willow was wilful and wouldn’t pipe down. ‘Why don’t we just go to the Spring of Summer and bring some of its water back here?’ Silence descended and everyone stared. Why had no one thought of that? Well, who was going to go? Everyone found an excuse – it’s my knees; it’s the cat; it’s the this, it’s the that. ‘I’ll go,’ said Willow, much to their relief. They showered her with advice and sandwiches and blankets, flasks and kisses.

And off she set – on a motorcycle fuelled by lemonade: pop – pop – pop, it went… all the way up the Severn Valley, along Sabrina’s flanks, who was pretending to sleep but was secretly enjoying the whole thing. Willow started at dawn and rode through the whole day and night. At noon she stopped and let the sun warm her bones – it was not so chilly once she left Warmley. The meadow she lay in was covered in yellow flowers which looked like a cloth of gold. She decided it was and picked it up, wrapping it around her shoulders. ‘That’s nice,’ she thought. ‘I’ll keep hold of it – just in case.’ And she carried on her way, until dusk – when the sun set and the moon rose, lacing the trees with silver thread. Willow stopped again and gathered some of this up – ‘That’s nice too – and it might come in handy.’ And she carried on her way, cheered by the sight of the moon. But the moon leapt over the sky and slipped down the edge of the land, like a coin down a drain, leaving only starlight to light her way. The stars glittered like buttons in the sky and so Willow stopped and reached up – picking some – for everything she took a shine to was in risk of ending up in her pockets. The stars glittered in her palm. ‘Pretty – and who knows, they might come in useful.’

And so laden with her useful things she carried on her way.

But by now it was very dark – no moon or stars shone her path. She was a bit lost, and then a lot. She pulled up and chewed her lip. What was she going to do?

Suddenly, there was a shuffling and a snuffling and a badger shambled into view. ‘Hello,’ he grunted, ‘I’m Bertie, how do you do?’ The badger, as you can gather, was friendly and offered to show her the way through the wood. He seemed a kindly sort and so Willow leapt back on her motorbike and followed him – which took some doing, as Bertie scurried off pretty sharpish.

Soon, they had arrived at another bunch of trees. ‘Here we are,’ said Bertie.

‘Where are we?’

‘The wood of the three hawks. You can ask them for help – if you can find them. Good Luck!’

Hawkwood! Willow thanked the badger with a kiss on his wet nose, who went on his way rather pleased with himself at receiving this fine treasure.

Now all she needed was find the hawks… Willow peered up into the dark branches – black against a blacker sky.

She was in the dark.

Suddenly, a figure appeared in a cagoule, wielding binoculars. ‘Hello, little girl,’ she twitched. Blinking through her field glasses she added: ‘Are you lost?’

‘Yes, who are you?’

‘I’m an orni …’ Twitch. ‘An orni…’ Twitch. ‘A bird-watcher. Can I help?’

Indeed she could – with the watcher’s help they soon spotted the three hawks. Willow thanked her new friend, giving her a sandwich and a flask of tea.

‘Be polite to them. They are old and wise. Support the RSPB! Goodbye!’

Willow paused for effect and then stepped up to the first. ‘Hello. I am looking for the Spring of Summer. Can you help?’

‘The Lord of Winter wants to feel the sun,’ said the first mysteriously.

‘The Lord of Winter wants to dream the moon,’ said the second with equal clarity.

‘The Lord of Winter wants to hear the stars,’ added the third, just to confuse matters further.

Willow pondered these odd statements for a moment – they didn’t seem to be directions … or perhaps they were! All three birds were staring in one direction … Willow followed their keen gaze … to a tower on the brow of the hill, it’s windows glowing like … well, hawk eyes.

Thanking the three hawks, she set to work – she took the cloth of gold and sewed on the bright buttons with the silver thread. By the time she had finished she was rather impressed with her handiwork. With this splendid cloak she walked up to the Manor of Lord Hawkwood and knocked on the door.

Heavy footsteps came down the echoing corridor; there was the sliding of bolts and the rattling of chains, and finally the door opened. ‘What is it?’ Before her stood Lord Hawkwood – tall, pale and wintry, a sour look in his dark eyes.

‘Please, your Lordship – my village is feeling the cold and missing the sun. Could you spare some water from your magic spring?’

Lord Hawkwood curled a lip in contempt. ‘My child, why on Earth would I want to do that?’

‘Because I have made you this nice cloak – why don’t you try it on?’

And so he did. He didn’t get many presents. And, you know what? It suited him fine – in fact, he was rather taken by it. ‘How do I look?’

‘Dazzling,’ said Willow, and he was. It brightened him up no end. Death, with a makeover.

Lord Hawkwood’s gaunt face broke into a smile. ‘My child, you are a wonder. I feel … lighter some how. Here, let me open the spring.’

Lord Hawkwood took the cold iron key from around his neck and led the girl down to the big tree which grew by the spring. He bent down and unlocked the strong wooden lid that covered the spring – to stop anyone just coming up and helping themselves.

Up burst the nymph – delighted to be released. She showered her blessing on them both and the world seemed brighter. Indeed it was a new day and warmth returned to the land.

‘Take as much as you like,’ said the Lord, and so Willow did, filling up several five litre containers with the special spring water. These were lashed to her bike and, waving her thanks, off she set back to Warmley – bringing the summer home.

To celebrate there was a big party – May Pole dancing (for it was the start of summer), stalls, music, fine food and revelry. The people wore their brightest clothes and light returned to their eyes. Neighbours practised their smiles on one another. Beaming became a popular past-time.

Willow was praised by everyone for her courageous act – and was given a year’s supply of lemonade, enabling her to go on further adventures.

Lord Hawkwood continued to live at the spring – letting any who needed it take the waters, for healing and inspiration. His wintry sister thawed out and kept him company. When he finally passed on, she looked after the place by herself – it got a bit much, and so she asked for the help of the nymph and together they created a holistic college, which stands there to this day.

The End

Created with participants of ‘The Legend of Hawkwood’ workshop, Hawkwood Open Day.

Kevan Manwaring 7 May 2012

This workshop proved to be a pleasant taster of the full-day one I’m running there on Sunday 20th May: Climbing the Beanstalk – storytelling in easy stages; and the longer course I’m scheduled to run in the Autumn – the Storyteller’s Journey.

A bit of nonsense? Perhaps the honouring of place is worthwhile, as is creating a space for creativity and imagination to flourish – honouring our own personal genius loci. Thomas Moore, in his classic Care of the Soul said: ‘Storytelling is an excellent way of caring for the soul. It helps us see the themes that circle in our lives, the deep themes that tell the myths we live.’

 

Dragon Lines

6-13 April

Over the Easter break Jenni and I spent a week staying in a yurt on an organic smallholding on the Roseland Peninsula, South Cornwall. Cotna, just down from the sleepy village of Gorran Churchtown, is nestled in an L-shaped valley which gave it its original name ‘Crookcorner’. Dave and Sara, the owners, moved in five years ago and have transformed the 14 acres – which now boast a wind-turbine, polytunnels full of leafy veg, free-range chickens, woodland, solar panels, compost loos and a rather lovely straw-bale house. We were first visitors to stay in their yurt, sitting in its own field – separated by its twin by a stream and a line of recently planted willow. With a log burner and lots of homely touches, it was cosy in the evenings. We ate outside alot and enjoyed sunsets, a vast field of stars, a full moon, dawn choruses, and deep peace. At night, the only disturbance was the conversation of owls and the odd visit from Ziggy – the dribbling long-haired cat.

In the daytime we enjoyed some excellent coastal walks (the coastal path could be reached along a charming winding path – 2 miles to Porthmellon). Amid the pasties, pints and piskies, one of the highlights was a walk around the headlands of St Antony and Dodman Point – the latter possibly deriving its name from an old word for dowser or geomancer (a ‘dodman’ was a country name for a snail – it’s horns like the siting poles of the surveyor – perhaps glimpsed in the staves of the Long Man of Wilmington).  In the late Eighties, local ‘dodmen’ Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller discover the Michael and Mary Line – a substantial energy ‘pathway’ running up the southwest peninsula diagonally across England – the two alternating streams weaving in and out like a vast landscape caduceus… or the Rainbow Serpent of Albion. They recorded their findings in their New Age classic, The Sun and the Serpent – which even spawned a TV show, so media-trendy all that stuff was at the time. The fickle gaze of fashion moves on – and last year’s ‘cat’s pyjamas’ are sloughed like snake skin.

Yet the old leys and ways remain – just below the surface – waiting for the curious seeker to stumble upon them, like an ancient sword half-buried in a peat-bog. In Cornwall, this ancient magic feels close to the surface still. I’ve felt it every time I’ve visited – and books like The Little Country, an enchanting novel by the bardically-inclined Canadian author Charles de Lint – conjure it up for me from afar.

I dowse these ‘dragon lines’ in my own way, with the dowsing rod of my pen and my imagination – tuning into the genius loci wherever I visit and letting the awen come through me. In 2004 I was commissioned to write a poem for a dance piece by artist Beth Townley – this became my epic praise-song to Albion, Dragon Dance. I have been performing this in situ at locations around the country – north, south, east and west – as my way of giving thanks back to the land that has born and nurtured me. On the last day of our trip (an auspicious Friday 13th) we stopped off at the Hurlers stone circle on a suitably mist-erious Bodmin Moor – here I recited the Cornwall section of the poem: quite a challenge in lashing, freezing rain! We endured this in good humour, before returning gratefully to the shelter of the car.

Here it is…

Kernow

In the heat of the day,
in the eye of light,
in the land of noon,
where the sea is night.

A land of glittering granite,
sun beat-beating down,
a blacksmith’s hammer on anvil,
melting us with furnace heat.

The silent longevity of fogou and quoit
marking time. Neolithic sundials –
follow their shadow over moor and shore…
Tintagel to Men-an-Tol,
rag-tree temple, Madron’s well.
St Michael’s Mount to St Nectan’s Glen
Zennor to Lamorna, this narrow peninsula –

Twrch Trwyth’s road,
where legend disappeared beneath the waves,
comb and scissors gleaming between bristles,
like church pew mermaid with comb and mirror.
Ageless Mabon snatching success
from the ears of defeat,
before vanishing too … like Arthur …  into the mist.

The dying sun journeying beyond, to the sunken land.
Lyonesse of the endless waves, the Fortunate Isles,
of beacon towers,  inkdust sand, the semaphor of sails.
Deadly Sillina, adorned with the riches of shipwrecks,
the prayers of fishermen, the tears of fishwives.

Passion fire, soul flame yearning,
in the cauldron love is burning.
The spark on the kindling,
the flint and the tinder,
fire friend, stolen power,
seize the spear of the sun,
Long as the day, shadowbright,
give us your light,
give us your light.
give us your light,
so we may do what is right.

Between the earth and the air,
between the fire and the water,
the spirit waits at the centre,
the spirit waits at the centre.

Dance the dragon,
let the dragon dance me.
Biting the tail of infinity.

from Dragon Dance – Kevan Manwaring, Awen 2004

On Monday, 23rd April – which is of course St George’s Day (as well as The Bard’s birth-and-death day) – I’ll be performing in a show with my fellow members of Fire Springs entitled ‘Spirits of Place’ at the enchanting Hawkwood College (which has its own share of genius loci) on the outskirts of Stroud. We’ll be sharing a selection of stories from Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire – taken from our new collections published by The History Press. Mine isn’t due out until the end of the year, but while in Cornwall I was editing the manuscript and rehearsing the tales – so it felt like I had a little bit of the county with me. It has it’s fair share of dragon tales…

Whatever you think of St George (England’s patron saint – all the way from Cappadocia, Turkey…) why not raise a glass to the dragons of Albion on Monday – may they continue to live on, in legend at least.