Sunday, November 29, 2020

It's that time of year again - believe it or not....

As November ends, Frome town traditionally gears itself up for the festive season ahead with a Festival of Lights... usually a parade of lanterns through the streets cheered on by crowds enjoying a party atmosphere (though one year for a change we had Jenson Button scorching up and down the main street in a McClaren)  - Mel Day and Aliss Vaas run free workshops, sponsored by the town council, to ensure a plethora of stars, moons, angels and bells waving in the night air for the grand switch-on of twinkly lights on Christmas tree, with carols and bands and.. oh, you probably remember it well. Which is good, as this year's festivities will be rich mainly in memories as the lanterns this year will be only window decorations apart from this magnificent swan, created by Mel and Aliss for the courtyard of the Black Swan where Black Swan Arts is currently preparing for a re-opening the cafĂ© and festive craft shops next week to sell 'small & affordable' art - donations welcome!

Frome On-Air Book Group with Sheila Hedges and Karen Stewart continues to broadcast monthly on Frome FM, and invited me to join Tina Gaisford-Waller, legendary manager of Hunting Raven Books, in offering ideas for christmas gifts. During these non-meeting times this is a zoom session recorded & edited by Helen Ottoway with smooth professionalism (& a promise to edit out my faffy bits). Tina offered her suggestions from her car as the bookshop is currently awash with deliveries, and I also talked a bit about how The Price of Bread emerged from the first lockdown after gestating for 25 years - you can hear all this on Friday 4th December on 96.6FM.

These are difficult days for a local/Arts blog to remain apolitical. With no live theatre or live music, or live groups of any kind even in a cinema auditorium, my off-line entertainment is mostly walking through trees. There's plenty of stimulus online, of course, but after seven months you probably know your own interests there. And with that self-deprecating & somewhat grumpy intro, here's a few things you may or may not know about already, as Frome town is currently as besieged as Macbeth when Burnham Wood began shuffling its deadly way to Dunsinane. Easthill Field is the latest green space to be noted by developers, to the dismay of many who value this species-rich habitat - this is an ancient lime tree, one of the last remaining from the avenue that once led up to Easthill House. The land is earmarked for social housing but protesters insist they are not just NIMBYs as the location, tucked behind a cemetery at a busy junction outside the town centre, isn't suitable for this, and with influential support & careful research they have secured a delay on the decision. Do join the Friends of Easthill Field if you want to follow their progress or feel you can help.

Meanwhile nearer the centre of town, a community-minded group of neighbours decided to get together to transform the scrubble at the end of their gardens back into an allotment, and formed the Broadway Allotments and Community Garden Association. With much hard work already, this abandoned area is slowly returning to its previous function but it hasn't evaded the eye of developers. Frome Town Council is backing the allotment group and has presented a case to Mendip, so let's hope this last small green lung remains in our town's ever more dense housing estates. 

The largest looming threat in Frome's struggle with The Developers, as this amorphous & invasive enemy is commonly termed, is the one hanging over the southern fields, where 1700 new houses are planned to infill from the Mount to the by-pass.  Just, houses - no amenities or services: no medical facilities, Secondary schools, transport links, or parks.  Stop Selwood Garden Community is the protest organisation opposing this euphemistically termed project - and yes, I do realise housing is needed but this project is a cynical money-spinner: no social housing, no chance for Frome's young people stay in their own community continuing the tradition of local companies. To put it in another context, UK Government data this September showed there are 600,000 empty houses across the country, double their annual national building target in fact. Property is a good investment for the monied: rent continues to arrive and repairs are tax-deductible. And once the last of Selwood Forest is eroded, we've lost more than we can ever regain.  
Here endeth the diatribe, but please consider joining one or all of these protest groups.

Moving from nature's effortless artistry to crafted arts: mega-creative Frome poet Liv Torc is taking her sensationally successful Haiflu concept into the off-line world and now wants haikus about life currently in the form of a visible public installation. My first effort is a lamentation for lost seasonal celebrations. Do have a go, and add #haiflu2020 to your art (I forgot) to as Liv has plans for them!
I'll leave you with an image of Frome centre on Saturday night, its tree defiantly glittering with blue and golden starry lights. 

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