Monday, May 01, 2017

Beltane bulletin: summer ahead & the Greater Good

To begin in the middle: This week was the 10th anniversary of possibly the most momentous moment in the impressive history of Wells: the special premiere of Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz, with unmistakable town locations thinly disguised as the Sandford, the rural village that made murdering Midsomer look like sanitised Stepford.
So significant a date clearly required celebration, and what better way than hoisting a giant screen in the Bishop's Palace Garden and inviting a few hundred people to park their chairs on the billiard-table smooth & verdant lawn to enjoy a Hot Fuzz quiz, Hot Fuzz fancy-dress contest, and ~ of course ~ a late night screening of Hot Fuzz. The event sold out in days. It was all tremendous fun: the rain stayed off, organisation was amazingly smooth, speedy & good-humoured, and ticket price included barbecue, drink & goodie-bag. Now I want to go back for the Hot Fuzz walk...

Back in Frome, it's been another busy week.
Spoken word first: Frome Poetry Cafe enjoyed two terrific guests and an outstanding open mic session.  Matt Duggan read from his new chapbook Metropolis, evoking the moods of Bristol life through sounds and visual details: glass shards, city sirens, and no stars...  Lindsay Clarke, our other guest, reading from his recent collection A Dance with Hermes, imagining the trickster god still present in our world, timeless and deathless, reminding us the only remedy for life is love. Poems from the floor chimed with these powerful themes of time & place and life & death: there were moving memories and inspiring glimpses as well as delightful lighter moments. Huge thanks to all who came and all who read, including Rose Flint and Rosie Jackson who shared the her award-winning poem in the 2017 Hippocrates Competition.  (Thanks Matt for the picture)

Not one but two great bands at the Grain Bar this week: Wednesday's Roots Session featured fabulous blues trio The Spoonful, and on Sunday night we had a fantastic jazz special from John Law's Re-creations. This virtuoso quartet comprises John on (double) keyboard, James Agg on bass, Sam Crockatt on sax, and drummer Billy Weir, dynamically 'recreating' other composers' tunes like you've never heard them ~ just check out their Norwegian Wood...

Now here's the thing: we all know Frome is twinned virtually with the Eden and the national press bubbles with adulation for for its quaint cobbled streets, entrepreneurial market, entertainment options and general creativity, but the outcome of this,  combined with market profiteering, has pushed the cost of a house up by an average of £36,000 on last year's prices, scarily out of reach of most young local people wanting to buy or even rent.  Fair Housing for Frome, a community group run by volunteers with support from the Town Council, held a public meeting on Saturday afternoon to outline the problem. Solutions won't be easy, but there's clearly support for finding initiatives and answers.

Merlin Theatre 'Short Play Competition' performance of the winning submissions, fully-rehearsed script-in-hand, is coming up: the winning scripts have been picked from a strong long-list ~ in fact so strong, there was no short-list as such: these six very different scripts should create a fascinating evening of dramatic action.

Looking further ahead to July: an exciting but somewhat confusing headline appeared on Frome Festival website last week: FROME FESTIVAL RECEIVES EU AWARD. Nope, our town hasn't been exempted from Brexit doom, but our festival did pass the rigorous application procedure of the EFA, a prestigious organisation of arts festivals part-funded by the EU. The ECOS stone circle helped: built in 1992 to celebrate the European Union, this amphitheatre hosts summer productions, with two in the festival ~ check the brochure, out now, for these and other July delights.

So now it's May, and officially summer. Beltane is traditionally celebrated with bonfires but we celebrated it here with a dawn trip to Saxonvale, an unofficial park/wasteland hidden in the heart of the town, part public dump adorned by amazing creativity, part woodland waist-high with cow parsley and thick with the scent of wild garlic.

We sang a few songs, in old English and rather randomly in French, and listened to the birds, and then had an excellent picnic of home-made bread and marmalade, with coffee, all provided by members of the East Mendip Green Party. They public-spiritedly stayed on to do a big litter-picking blitz of some of the messy bits, and I went back home to bed.

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