The Pomology Project (online exhibition)

Wassail: Waking the Winter with a CLANG

Wassail: Waking the Winter with a CLANG

Saturday 18th January 2020, Highbury Orchard Community / Highbury Park, Kings Heath Birmingham

Wassail means ‘good health’ and is a traditional winter ritual in fruit orchards that involves poetry, theatre and singing to the trees to bless them with growth, blossom and fruit to ensure a good harvest for the coming year. Wassails are about connecting people and communities to the natural world and seasonal cycles, as well as giving people a reason to come together in the outdoors during the darkest months of the year. All of which, it could be suggested, are beneficial for wellbeing.

Drawing upon folklore, but situated within a contemporary context, this new Waking the Winter with a CLANG ceremony explored and celebrated strategies and tactics to survive in times of mental distress, the winter and life in general. Taking the five ways to well-being as a starting point – CLANG – Connect, Learn, (be) Active, (take) Notice, Give – the event featured African drumming courtesy of the Green Man, some seasonal MC-ing, folk songs, a new Birmingham preserve called ‘Black Butter’, Wassail drinking bowls made from local clay, vegetable based props, the baby shark melody, Woga (Woodland Yoga) & two characters representing Summer & Winter.

The project was developed through a programme with Highbury Orchard Community’s ‘Stick Around’ group & Women from the Ashiana Centre, Sparkbrook. This creative programme produced many of the props for the Wassail performance including the Wassail bowls (made with clay dug from Highbury Park), ‘Summer’s’ knitted cowl produced by Liz Wright using wool coloured using natural dyes by the Stick Around group (Teresinha Roberts from Wild Colours led a session on Natural dyes), ‘Winter’s’ scarf made by the Stick Around group using an eco printing technique & Winter’s staff featuring knitting by Catherine from Stick Around.


– Wassail conceived & produced by General Public
– Filming & editing by Oli Clark
– Additional sound recording by Michael Wolters & Alexandra Taylor


– Tonia Daley-Campbell (Winter)
– Jade Samuels (Summer)
– Calvert Lawson (The Green Man)
– Helen Mary
– Mantra Chanta

Thank you:

– Staff & volunteers at Highbury Orchard Community: Liz Wright, David Papadopoulos, Rhiannon Simpson, Cath Edwards
– HCO Stick Around Group (especially Mark, Catherine, Helen, Chris & Larraine)
– Staff at Kings Heath Library
– Women at the Ashiana Centre Sparkbrook

Tie die with the ‘Stick Around’ group, Highbury Orchard Community

The results!

Eco Printing with the ‘Stick Around’ group, Highbury Orchard Community

Eco Printing with the ‘Stick Around’ group, Highbury Orchard Community

Tie dye – it’s making a come back….

Dye making with natural materials, Highbury Community Orchard.

Natural dye making, Highbury Orchard Community

The resulting yarn; dock. pure rhubarb & lac (a kind of beetle…:(

The beautiful cowl that Liz Wright knitted with the yarn we dyed. From the bottom up the design can be read as; grow well, bloom well, bear well. As worn by ‘Summer’ in the Wassail performance.

Ian Pollard, Commonground archive.

Processing clay dug up in Highbury Park

Wassail Bowl making, Highbury Orchard Community

The Wassail bowls! Many of these were made by women at the Ashiana Community Centre (thank you Sheena, Narbda, Mehr, Kalsoom, Emma Bowen & everyone else involved)

Wassail bowls; detail

The Quest for the Green Man, Commonground archive

Helen makes her own Green Man

Wassail poster by General Public

Eco dying; leaves and flowers are laid out onto a piece of scoured silk.

Rusty nails found on site are added to the mix

The giant spring roll is taken away for steaming

The resulting cloth; used as ‘Winter’s’ shawl in the Wassail performance


Staff ‘Summer’ by General Public (saucepan lid, gourds, hazel branch, printed & shredded cloth)