Monday, May 03, 2021

Beltane, bluebells, bits of history, and a band gig!

Remember the days when a sunny weekend meant bands playing outside pubs? Frome's Paul Kirtley and his amorphous group The Tribe never forgot, and the easing of lockdown rules plus Beltane weekend's sunshine saw a multi-talented assortment of musical friends outside the Prestleigh Inn playing for 3 hours on Sunday afternoon. Huge performance skills with an impressive array of instruments were delivered with table service and social spacing - big credit to the team, and a happy step forward for us all. Here's sound-man Steve, with David on guitar & mandolin, Monty on cajon, Carl on harp, Paul singing and strumming, Danny on bass, Ray on slide guitar, other guitars, and vocals: Jim Cook joined us with his magic double saxophone act, and Keith Horler provided the guest spot. A small event for us, a giant leap for hope for performances of all kinds returning.  

Still on the subject of music, Pete Burns (not that one, the folk musician) has completed his collection of 41 songs created for lock-down listening.  Pete came to Frome in the final year of the Grain Bar Roots Sessions, and shared a thought-provoking song about his hometown, Belfast: The Riches of America.  And here's the fabulous Swervy World buskers, on tour from Ipswich, enhancing Frome precinct on Saturday as the market bustled with shoppers in the chilly sunshine, buying everything from cakes and cheeses to garden gear and glittery gaudies. 

Poetry events organisers, unlike bands, having discovered the wider audience possibilities online are maintaining their profile online with Zoom performance sessions. The popular Poets Prattlers & Pandemonialists hosted their monthly Yes We Can't session on Sunday evening, with a cracking posse of open-mic voices and Frome's own Liv Torc as main guest - she is, of course, also Womad's Hip-Yak Liv, BBC's environmentalist Liv, HAIFLU's Liv, and even Fyffes-bananas' Liv, but Frome maintains its prime claim and - just to remind you - Liv will be guesting at the Festival Poetry Cafe on July 6th, on ECOS.

Moving Voices at the Art House in Southampton has also maintained their regular open mic session on zoom: held on the last Friday of each month, this session was a smaller group but the poetic voices were strong and the feelings shared went deep. B Harwood Parsons collated an enjoyable event with contributors from as far afield as The Withdrawn in New York, and a music spot from Winchester's local hero Stevie Simkin from the Railway Inn roots session.
Still with words, but the on-the-page kind,  Hunting Raven Books had another stunningly successful pop-up book-shop at the Silk Mill on Saturday, offering reductions on a big range of titles. So popular was this that the queue snaked all around the yard and into Saxonvale.  I've posted this pic from manager Tina Gaysford-Waller's page, just to show how superbly socially-distanced we all are: how strange these images and priorities will seem in years to come. We hope...

The Wylie Valley Art Trail is another happy example of first steps back into real space: the nearest hosting venue to Frome is St Algars Yard at West Woodlands, where seven artists are showing paintings, prints, ceramics, glassware, and metalwork during the first week of May. I'd intended to include a report in this bulletin, but had to postpone my planned Bank Holiday Monday visit due to winds of a ferocity that even King Lear howling on the heath might think were overdoing it a bit.  So here's a picture from the online catalogue to be going on with: a ceramic piece created by Hiro Takahashi who takes her inspiration from the wild animals and the ruins in the woods. 

And as May's arrival alternates blustering winds with sunshine, this image is from my best walk of last week: wandering through a trillion bluebells in Black Dog Woods (allegedly so called after a highwayman was hanged here leaving his dog continuing to roam), as pools of sunlight on the silver birches transformed the woodland into a set for A Midsummer Night's Dream.


Final funky footnote: my walk around Mells to reconnect with the grave of Siegfried Sassoon and the round barrow burial ground nearby, skirting the estate stolen by the Horners during Henry VIII's dissolution days, took me past the gateway to Mells Park House where the documents which released Nelson Mandela were signed in 1990, with apartheid laws amended and the ban on the ANC lifted. The original Mells Park House had burned down by then: the 1925 replacement looks a more like a private boarding school, but views aren't accessible from the public road anyway so here's a picture of the gatehouse. Walking in Mells is a potent reminder that we live, always, in historic times.