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
– 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