Tag Archives: Peter Please

Bardic Birthday Bash

40th Birthday Bardic Showcase

22nd August

the green man at 40 - birthday bash, Bath

the green man at 40 - birthday bash, Bath

Oh, my head…!

I turned forty last Wednesday (had a lovely dinner party in my garden with close friends) and decided to push the boat out with a big bash at Chapel Arts Centre on Saturday. Having had a few quiet birthdays, I mulled over how I would like to spend my fortieth and decided that I could think of no more agreeable a way of celebrating than having a bardic showcase featuring my friends, and so, with this in mind I set to work.

I planned it months in advance, but as ever, everything seemed to need doing at the last minute. After a fraught week it all fell into place.

My good friend from Iceland, Svanur Gisli Thorkelsson secured the venue, prepared the buffet and MCed the evening – what a giant! He had returned from his homeland the day before (I half expected a beard rimed with hoar-frost, fresh back from the ‘land of ice and snow’ but he was, as ever, freshly shaven ;0) We caught up over a quick drink at the Brazz and then…we set to work.

While we ‘hunted and gathered’ for the buffet in the sterile wilderness that is Sainsburys, Jonathan the venue manager for the night set up the sound and lights.

Everything was prepared, ready – and looking great (cabaret style seating, atmospheric lighting, a showreel of embarassing photos, good tunes…) by the time the first guests arrived.

And the party began!

Svanur introduced the evening and got everybody to sing happy birthday to me in Icelandic!

Happy Birthday in Icelandic - courtesy of Svanur

Happy Birthday in Icelandic - courtesy of Svanur

Then I came on and did a couple of ‘old classics’ of mine: Maid Flower Bride (for all the women who’ve blessed my life – and had to put up with me!) and One with the Land (my green man poem – for all the guys). I got everyone to join in on the second one – and it seemed to work. Relieved of my bardic duties, I then got down to the serious business of making merry.

I sat back and was entertained by my dear, talented friends…

Jay Ramsay, poet and psychotherapist from Stroud, did some wise and heartfelt poems, delivered with complete authenticity and passion.

Brendan the pop poet, and 6th Bard of Bath did a couple of his classics on request.

Brendan the pop poet rhymes again

Brendan the pop poet rhymes again

Saravian, sexy jazz siren performed some lovely cool numbers.

Anthony Nanson, fellow storyteller of Fire Springs, performed an amazing feat of memory with his wonder voyage of Bran mac Ferbal. A lost island myth close to my heart!

Then … no Bard of Glastonbury, (lost in the mists of Avalon…?) and so we went straight to the break, as we were running a ‘bit behind’.

This was fine – allowed people to chat, for me to mingle with my guests and be inundated with more presents, rapidly filling up the front of the stage. Oh, and drink more champagne (mixed with mead in a dangerous concoction called ‘Druid’s delight’ – although after the hangover it gives me I think it should be renamed ‘Bardic blight’)!

Things were going swimmingly –  the second CD had kicked in, ‘Dancin’ Pants’ and the atmosphere was buzzing, the hall looking pretty full  – there had only been a couple of technical hitches. We couldn’t get the Chapel’s system to play my first prepared CD, ironically it was called ‘Let the Ceremony Begin’! And the projector proved temperamental – at one point the photo showreel disappeared completely and Jonathan struggled to get it back. He finally gave up, but suddenly, during the second half we had my desktop projected onto the stage. I struggled to relaunch the showreel – my cursor wavering behind the heads of the performers. Hilariously, I wasn’t able to see the image clearly as I didn’t have my glasses – so I just had to hit and hope and fortunately, it kick-started the photos again.

There was a fantastic crowd, but also absent friends – and I missed my dear old Dad (rest his soul), brother and sister not being there – but many of them were represented in the photos, which was an inadvertent portrait of my relationships/friendships over the years as much as anything.

Marko - a man you don't meet everyday

Marko - a man you don't meet everyday

After the break we had Marko Gallaidhe, a man you don’t meet everyday. He was somewhat caught on the hop and in the gap – while he made his way to the stage – everyone sang me happy birthday, which was very touching. I felt truly blessed.

After Marko did a couple of fine tunes (‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Between the Tweed’) Richard Selby came up and did a great story.

Another Fire Springer followed, Kirsty Hartsiotis, with a tale and a beautiful poem by her mum, inspired by me called ‘Bard Song’ (below), which blew me away.

Then, it was the turn of Wayland, who was delighted to see had made it down from his Smithy in Oxfordshire to perform a fine story. A former bardic student of mine – he has come into his own as a good performer.

The first of a pair of friends from Northampton came next, Jimtom Say – a true shaman bard who shared some of his incredible poetry and a song.

Peter Please was next on, but was nowhere to be seen – but then he turned up right on cue, just arrived from his singing group … and, a true pro, was able to go right on stage and deliver his great stories.

Finally, it was the turn of my oldest friend, Justin, who delivered a blazing set of poetry and music, culminating in a poem especially written for me, for my big day – based (bizarrely, but brilliantly) upon the Billy  Joel tune ‘He Didn’t Start the Fire’: ‘2009: A Kevan Odyssey’! Hilarious and impressive:

‘He didn’t start the fire, but he his Bardic learning helped me keep it burning.
He didn’t start the fire, but he helped me light it … though I tried to fight it.’

(J. Porter, after B. Joel)

Justin gets his groove on - Birthday Bash, Bath

Justin gets his groove on - Birthday Bash, Bath

I thanked everyone and then … it was time to dance! I was looking forward to this and it was great to ‘cut some rug’, even if we risked looking like the adults that were embarrassing to watch dancing when you were a kid! But that’s was all part of an old git rites-of-passage I guess!

It was great to get down with my friends.

you can dance if you want to...

you can dance if you want to...

Alas, all good things …. after a few stomping tunes, we’d passed the curfew and the music was turned down – but I had allowed for this, arranging to go around the corner to the Lounge. About twenty of us left for this ‘promised land’ – Sara insisted I led my merry band, mead horn in hand. We piled downstairs, where we took over the room. Unfortunately the music was rather jarring – hard techno – so I went back to get my CDs only to discover their machine ‘couldn’t play them’. Instead, Marko did a rousing ballad after I had revived him with a glass of wine. And then Justin led the Southern Baptist song ‘Down to the River’, which we all joined in with in a drunken religious fervour! It felt like the foundation of some kind of guerilla folk republic – but it was short-lived, as the music came back on. Fortunately, this time it was decent Latin Jazz, and suddenly we were up dancing. It was a great way to end the evening. After that, things went downhill – J got a round of tequilas in, then knock them over before we could knock them back. Maybe should have seen that as a sign…It was definitely the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had to be helped home – the guys managed to get a taxi to take me after some difficulty. I somehow got home and into bed – it’s all a blur…

The next day, I suffered…In the immortal words of Withnail ‘I feel like a pig shat in my head’. A weak, pathetic bed-ridden thing unable to hold anything down or even hold a conversation for long, I wallowed in my self-inflicted misery. Fortunately, the guys got it together (three of them had crashed in my living room). My old friends Justin and Jimtom went back to clear the place and collect my stuff – stars! – amazingly I hadn’t lost anything in my drunken stumblings. They dropped Wayland off at the station – and hit the roads themselves … onto another party!

I went to bed.

Yet, despite my sufferings – it had all been worth it. Without a doubt, one of the best night’s of my life. I glow with happiness at the memory of it all. Never had I felt so truly blessed. It felt like the first forty years of my life had … meant something.

That evening, slowly recovering, I savoured opening the many presents I had been showered with. I have a pile of beautiful things, for which I am deeply touched, but, of course, true friendships forged (old and new) are the greatest gift of all.

To all those who made the effort to come, and made it such a success – thank you!

PS there were many talented friends there at the Chapel – not all of them could perform, but I would like to share some of the beautiful words they gave me (stars all):

To Bardic Kevan

Shaman of his clan,

word spinner,

story weaver

from the warp and weft

of Celtic love.

Miner of the Loadstone

of Arcana,

May you wear

your star studded

cloak of wisdom

with youthful ease,

even as this birthday

heralds a milestone

in your timeline.

Brian Goodsell

Stuff and Nonsense

‘They’ say that life begins at forty

but ‘they ‘are really rather naughty

for life, we know, starts on day one

and only ends when all the fun

and games are well and truly done

No-one can say when that will be

It is the greatest mystery

of many that elude our knowing

so all our days can be spent growing

and intimations of mortality

serve just to make us feel more free

forty’s not old if you’re a tree!

‘live in the moment’, ’embrace the now’

though nobody can tell you how

it’s no rehearsal one time show

you write the script, as you well know

So I hope today we’ll celebrate

and dance and sing until it’s late

and night brings sleep and golden dreams

and all that is and isn’t seems

to melt into a tale of things

yet to be told by Kevan Manwaring…

…within these pages perhaps

Happy Birthday!

Yvonne (accompanying a lovely journal)

Bard Song

He sings the song of the earth.

Finds among the rocks a small seed,

nurtures and tends

and from it grows

The tale.

Rooted and strong limbs stretching,

Reaching, unfurling.

The words seek out the shy creatures,

Give colour to the flowers

And music to the hum of life.

He sings the song of the sea.

Words like waves

Rolling, flowing,

Tell the tale.

From deep and secret caverns

The bubbles rise and burst,

Rush to the shore

and sparkle, glowing.

He sings the song of the air.

Flying free, words like wings

Tell the tale.

Up over the green earth

Over the blue, grey sea.

As one.

He sings the song of the world.

Brings life into the earth song,

Finds depth in the sea,

Spills light into the air song.

And gives, of himself,

The tale.

To Kevan, Happy Birthday from Cherry Wilkinson

The Green Wave

A rainy Sunday after a shower of creativity this week. Last night I took part in a group book launch, organised by Peter Please of Away Publications. He invited twelve artists/poets to create mini-booklets sampling their work – in a unique format Peter calls ‘concertina books’: high quality, limited edition art books, quirkily collectable. I contributed two poems for a collection I called ‘Wildblood’ – Roebuck in a Thicket, and Wolf in the City – exploring the animal in the human and the human in the animal. I performed these at the launch – the wolf one is always fun to do (it brings out my ‘inner lycanthrope’). Peter, Skip (who typeset the books), Helen Moore (fellow Bard of Bath), John Moat (co-founder of Arvon) and others performed. Wine was quaffed and people mingled. It was a charming event, held at Widcombe Studios – and it shows what you can do collectively. I said to Peter afterwards, paraphrasing the African saying: ‘A man by himself can go faster, but a tribe can go further’. This seems to be the way things are happening more and more these days – the way ahead. While the big companies and financial instutions collapse around us, we get on with things at a grassroots level, taking the power into our own hands – no longer waiting for the blessing of the powers that be to make things happen. The creatives have become the producers. With advances in technology (DTP, internet) the methods of production and to an extent, distribution, are now in our hands. It is also so much more enjoyable collaborating like this. We can go so much further, and enjoy the journey at the same time.

The previous day Jay Ramsay visited and I went through the proof copy of his new book (Places of Truth: journeys into sacred wilderness) with him. It’s due out on the 20th March with an ecobardic showcase at Waterstones, Bath – so the pressure is on, but deadlines make things happen (they say a poem is never finished, only abandoned – basically, you can only do what you can in the time given). It is looking good and it’s been a pleasure working with Jay, a fine poet who gets my vote for the next Poet Laureate. On the 20th I am going to host an evening of poetry, storytelling and acoustic music with friends and fellow performers. The focus of the evening is ecobardic – and one of its core principles is this idea of creative collaboration.  Working with Fire Springs, with Away, with Phoenix, with Cae Mabon, with ARC, with David Lassman (with whom I co-run the Bath Writers Workshop) … it feels like a movement is growing. It’s exciting – although times are difficult it feels like there’s all kinds of creative possibilities out there, and there’s hope. Perhaps it’s the optimistic energy of Spring – ‘the force that through the green fuse drives the flower’, as Dylan Thomas put it. A creative surge – intoxicating, exhilarating. One has to ride the wave or go under.

Twelfth Night Wassail

5th January

This evening I held my annual Twelfth Night Wassail – to thank the orchards for their fruits and to mark the end of Yuletide. This is a lot nicer than just taking down the decorations, as we are meant to do by the 6th (Epiphany). When so many Christmas trees lie discarded by the roadside, and the pavements are heaped with blackbags destined for landfill sites I think it is more important than ever to thank the Earth, rather than take from it. Certainly, the credit crunch has made people more circumspect in their consumerism although the impact upon the environment of Christmas was probably just as devastating. Still, rather than get all preachy about it, I think it is far more positive just to thank the Earth, and that’s literally what we do at my wassail – braving the freezing temperatures to gather round my apple tree at the bottom of the garden and wassailing it, that is toasting its health. I ushered my guests out into the darkness, equipped with the necessary wassailing regalia. I got the fire going dramatically with a little help from a petrol can – not ideal, but it was a freezing night. I asked people to imagine what dreams they wanted to bring through this year and to visualise them as apples on the branches. Then, taking up my old blackthorn shelaghley (formed from a Gloucestershire wodwose) with its gold nob, I rapped the trunk of the tree chosen to be our Apple Tree Man. I asked my guests to call out, ‘Wake up, wake up, Apple Tree Man!’ three times. Then I poured a whole bottle of ‘Wurzel Me’ Somerset cider onto the roots. Next we toasted the tree, literally, with triangles of toasted bread dipped in the steaming wassail bowl impaled on the bare branches of the tree. These offerings were to thank the tree for its generous bounty and to welcome in the ‘good spirits’, ie the birds. They had a feast too! To finish our ceremony, we scared away any ‘bad spirits’ with loud noises – using party poppers instead of the customary shotguns, the weapon of choice in some Somerset orchards (Carhampton being the most famous on 17th January, Old Twelfth Night )! My work done, I asked Richard to lead us in a couple of wassail songs. It was so dark it was hard to see the words, and the temperature was dropping as the fire peetered out, but we valiantly carried on carolling. I performed Song of Wandering Aengus in the interlude, and then we gratefully decamped inside, where we carried on the circle with more singing, poetry and merriment, fuelled by more mulled cider, baked pomme de terre (apples of the earth: potatoes!); and numerous other nibbles: the last of the Yuletide feasting. Chrissy Derbyshire, a budding bard over from Cardiff, was eventually persuaded to sing – and what a lovely voice she had, offering something from Blackmore’s Nights repertoire, before she had to dash to catch her train. Mairead led us in some rounds. Richard read out Rose Flint’s specially commissioned Wassail poem. Peter Please offered a couple of excellent tales (the one about a wounded bird guiding a friend of his to its trapped mate was especially enthralling) before generously gifting me a copy of his new book Clattinger: an alphabet of signs from nature – a beautiful tome made with elven craft. Sheila Broun, arriving late, sang a haunting song. Steven Isaac read out his poem about birch trees from Writing the Land, and I recited the  poem ‘Wheel of the Rose’, fortunately remembering the words despite the intake of mulled cider and beer! The conversation flowed, but I was flagging after a sociable few days and was relieved when most departed by midnight. I felt I had done my ‘bit’ for the season – three gatherings around my place, and was looking forward to taking down the decorations the following day and getting stuck back into things. Time to strip away the frippery and knuckle down to some work. Yet my heart and my hearth had been warmed by friendship, merriment and awen.