18.55. I was chatting to Simon Coates, dweller in the caban in the garden, thinking it was 1800hrs, that I really should go and get changed, wondering why people seemed to be turning up so early ... the danger of a stopped clock. Simon gently pointed out that it was in fact 18.55. I dashed home, changed, ran up to meet the guests at the barn car park. Time has a funny way of moving at times.
A little posse of us, Rhys Mwyn, Martin Daws, Shari Llewellyn, Simon Coates and our photographer David White travelled along the walk way to the Coed Gwydr garden. Expored the middens. We gathered pieces that meant something to us. Simon dug a huge piece, an ornate fender, 4 foot long from the ground. Rhys got out his archaeological measuring stick. He told us how to tell an one ink pot from another. A victorian bottle from a newer one. How to tell a poison bottle. Rhys chose his little piece, green it was, with lines, with the words 'not to be'.
On the way back, we gathered flowers for the table, a tribute to the garden's creator, Mrs Smith, who lived here 60 years. Her grave is in the graveyard, one of only a few without flowers. We wanted to honour her tonight.
We moved back at the barn, welcomed by my Digging Down collaborators Chris. Dugrenier (http://www.chrisdugrenier.com/www.chrisdugrenier.com/WELCOME_PAGE.html) and Sam Fox (http://kilnensemble.org/), and our other guests, Kate Lawrence, my art tutor Maggi Pendrell, Louise Osborn (http://community.nationaltheatrewales.org/profile/LouiseOsborn), our dramaturg. And Ed Staw working away on the parking, fitting us all in around the holiday makers (a hen party, who provided champagne for the clear up next day) in Snowdon House's car park.
We entered the barn. There were places laid for all at the table. We entered, chose our places, each a different plate, reflecting the fragments dug from the garden.
Sam sang her beautiful bilingual incantation: Coed Gwydr/Glass Wood... "Swn y glaswellt, grass sounds out, the woodland whispers, y coed yn simsan storiau o'r tri..." . The evening had begun!
Our R&D week was full of absence, we were working with it. And we already had one absent guest at the table, their place made of fragments. When another was a no show, there was (auspiciously) room for Jony Easterby, our production manager and provider of caravaggio lighting and sound scaping, to rise from his technical corner to join the guests.
We raised toasts, we explored the fragments, we debated, we sang, we re-presenced lost inhabitants, we made tableaus, we wrote on the table cloths, we read out the names of slates ... We live streamed the stream, the fragments, spirits of people past, the future through the cuckoo clock, running fast. Time span. Sam sang and played to us with her harp: quite by accident, y gog, y cwcw, the cuckoo... we'd been hearing it all night.
...we had created a caban, led by women, a new imagining. A cultural event, said Rhys. Ron i'n falch iawn!
Our menu, of 7 courses, created by Gert Vos, Oren Pop Up Restaurant (http://https://orencaernarfon.wordpress.com/) reflected the fragments and objects found in the garden. It started with 'fragments under edible soil' - caramelised radishes under a tapenade of lentils decorated with daisies and ferns, and ended with marmalade cake (a picture of which was favourited by Nigel Slater!). A triumph!
The evening flowed. It was fantastic! I wished, I wished I hadn't 'combed out' so many of our performance bits! We could have done more! But we had decided to focus, like in a life drawing, on filling in just one or two bits, not providing the whole picture. It was a sharing, not a finished event, after all. And it meant there was plenty of room for debate, caban style, anything goes. A true bringing together of my background in facilitation, and my new life as an artist, but much, much, much better than I had ever dreamed of or anything I could have created on my own. All thanks to Chris. and Sam, my inspired collaborators, who brought everything to the project, and who worked together as though we'd done it for years rather than our very first. We created something together that went into many new places, brought in so many different creative elements, brought the subject and objects and gathering alive. We barely used 10% of what we'd created.
And more thanks to go to Louise and Jony, who supported us three, moved us on, gave us feedback and ideas, created the event with us. It would not have been possible without them. And to Ed who has put up with me being very hard work for weeks and provided much practical and emotional support, and Gert, our extraordinarily wonderful chef, and David our photographer, who not only fitted in, but added to the event with his insight, gentle style and encouragement.
Towards the end, we started to talk of a durational piece, a 3 day caban, rotating the leaders, exploring different themes, in different ways, of how this 'method' could be adapted, moved about, used in different situations... I really hope this end, is just the beginning!...
With many thanks to Shari Llewellyn for most of these photos, and Rhys for the one of me amongst Mrs Smith's flowers. David's photos will come soon, once I've sorted my technical hitch (a very dead computer!)....
Also thanks to Lesley and Pete for generously donating the use of Frongoch, our base for the week, described by the holiday makers who arrived on Friday as 'the nicest holiday home on the internet': http://www.holidaylettings.co.uk/rentals/nant-peris/1781175, and to Snowdon House, who lent us their carpark: http://www.snowdonhouse.co.uk/home.html
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