Winter Haecca (18 December 2016)

This week was the week of the Winter Haecca, the main event of the second section of the Ridges & Furrows Project based in North Hykeham. The night before the event I loaded up a hired van with the ceramic lights, NKarts gazebo, pop up banners and Ridges & Furrows flags. I was very excited for the event as I had been involved from the very start; compared to the Welbourn Horkey when I was brought in a month into preparations. I was very interested also to see if the event would work as well in the dark. We had to come up with a different form of evaluation as we couldn’t give out surveys due to the light. We printed some postcards that had three questions on them, and to ensure we got a good amount of feedback, we gave away free glowsticks for every completed postcard that was handed back. The postcards were a beautifully designed set of four; each set were printed with either an earth, wind, fire or water design on the front (in the Ridges & Furrows style), and on the back was a corresponding fact about each theme’s connection with North Hykeham’s history.

On the morning of the event, myself and project historian Dave Reeves went to Lincoln to appear on BBC Radio Lincolnshire to publicise the Winter Haecca. Dave talked about the name Haecca, the town’s history and the event’s attractions. I had taken my accordion in and played Jo Freya’s processional tune. Interview starts at 02.11:40, my rendition of the processional tune can be heard at 02.18:45. Here is the link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04hvz0z

On my return, the team had arrived with the loaded van; like the Horkey, many members of the NKarts partnership showed up to volunteer giving the event a nice feel of communal effort and we all shared in the magic of it. As the early dusk fell, we set about putting ceramic lanterns (that had been created for a previous project) around trees near a back entrance to the village green which created a fairy-circle effect and gave more colour to the dark, cold night.

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A close up of the ceramic lanterns used to light up the Haecca

The town council’s part was coming together also, a big stage had been erected which was to accommodate the nativity play and the North Hykeham song performance. The Christmas stalls were also beginning to arrive and added noises and entrancing smells to the event. Half an hour before the scheduled start, the children from schools and the community workshops started to arrive and pick up their lanterns ready to process. Dave, Crauford and myself had a quick practice of the processional tune and awaited our marching order. The sun had gone down completely by the time we set off around the site, and the lanterns really stuck out against the night sky creating a beautiful effect. We led the star-lit cavalcade past the main stage, past our aerial performance area, through the stalls and over the little beck at the back of the green. We placed the lanterns into the ground at the far side of the beck so people on the main site could see the lanterns still shining across the water.

 

After the procession, our aerial volunteers started their performance. Our dance team had been running workshops in Boston for months and the volunteers really rose to the occasion. The blue and white lighting, twinned with ambient music and smoke bombs created a beautiful atmosphere in which the dancers looked graceful and professional on the silks. It drew a huge crowd which gave great feedback. The performance was a beautiful addition to the evening and something that was a welcome surprise to the entranced onlookers.

 

After the Town Council’s nativity play and children’s Christmas songs, Crauford and I took to the stage to direct the North Hykeham Song written by artist Jo Freya. The school children and the High Notes choir performed very well and the stage, packed with people, created a beautiful noise that carried far into the town.

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Members of the High Notes Choir perform the North Hykeham Song

 

The amazing aerial dancers gave the crowd another performance and people gradually dispersed over the next half an hour. It was a beautiful event, the bright lanterns, artworks, dance displays and the community’s singing filled the winter night with warmth and delight. The Haecca had a very different feel to the Horkey, it was all taking place on the green, compared to the many venues in Welbourn. The effort that both artsNK and the Town Council went to to make the event light and festive surpassed the Horkey as the green was lovely to look at. While being less historically informative than the Horkey, due to the light not be accommodating to setting up information boards, we hoped that due to the facts on the feedback postcards and the history woven into the art the Ridges & Furrows artists and the community created, the people of North Hykeham learnt a little more about their local heritage.

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Winter Haecca: Final Lantern Making Workshop (11 December 2016)

This week was a very full week as it was the week before the Haecca on the 14th December. This week saw the finishing of the big banners that were to go on the side of the village green where the event was taking place. More final preparations were underway too, Jo Freya had her last rehearsal with the local choir, the High Notes. I also was very busy at the start of the week having long walks around the town giving leaflets to any business, person and pin board that would take them. We also had a rehearsal of the procession tune Jo had written, mid week. I was to play again, also project historian Dave Reeves and the musical co-ordinator for the event Crauford Thomson joined me to have a run through. We were made up of an accordion, melodeon and a mandolin. The procession would sound, as well as look, beautiful.

This week contained the final community workshop for the lantern making. We had a great turn out again, more than 30 people filled the Terry O’Toole theatre and used the stencils, created in the previous workshop, to make some brilliant paper lanterns. The peas I got in Spalding were also used to make shakers that were decorated in the colours of the earth, wind, fire and water theme for the North Hykeham section of the project. The procession would look amazing, fingers crossed for a dry night!

 

Haecca Publicity and School Workshops (4 December 2016)

The leaflets for the Winter Haecca event arrived today, they followed the same design pattern as the Horkey posters and leaflets with similar colours to keep a sense of continuity. (See below) Distributing them was now a priority with the event on the 14th looming down on us. I therefore booked a time at the big ASDA in North Hykeham to do some leaflet distribution in the lobby. As the Haecca would be a very varied event, incorporating interpretive dance, community artworks, social history and the Town Council’s input of Christmas stalls, songs and plays, I had trouble deciding which opening line to use to get people’s attention. I therefore settled on a rather crude option of deciding which people may like certain things. For families with young children I started with ‘Would you be interested in coming to a Christmas Fair?’, with older residents I chose social history as an opening line, etc. The best response I had was from an old boy from North Hykeham who, when asked ‘are you interested in local history?’, replied ‘I am local history mate’.

 

Later on in the week we received word from artist Jo Freya that she had finished most of the verses for the North Hykeham song she was writing for the event and teaching to children in local schools. It starts with an opening chant with the town’s oldest streets, then breaks into the main body of the song, influenced by the 50s rock and roll style.

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North Hykeham Song composed by Jo Freya.

 

In addition to the lantern making workshops and Jo’s music workshops in local schools, we were also providing two days of history workshops at South Hykeham Community Primary School. I went for both days with project historian Dave Reeves. We used some similar topics as in the workshops Dave did in Welbourn Primary school, such as the old occupations of the area, their parents’ occupations and their own ‘marks’ incorporating the jobs they wanted to have. In addition, as we had the maps I had sourced from the town council, we described how the occupations in North Hykeham had changed over the years. At the end of each workshop we showed the children the maps and invited them to find the old windmills, the foundry, the old gravel pits and, yes, their own homes. Dave and I had a great time teaching the children and involving them in such ways as to get them excited about their local history.

Below are some of the occupational ‘marks’ the children created.

Illuminate project & Waddington planning (25 November 2016)

This week involved more planning for North Hykeham and involved more circulating of the new posters that had arrived for the Haecca (see picture in last post). More excitingly, I was involved with the first steering group meeting for Waddington. It was comprised of locals, school teachers, parish councillors, project historian Dave Reeves and the artsNK project lead. The meeting has occurred very far in advance of the event which is taking place in spring, so at this stage everyone was discussing the themes we would want to work with in Waddington’s history. It is home to the RAF base, many ancient rights of way, medieval field systems and old clay pits and brick works. It was a great meeting to be involved with, I love learning about the different target locations’ character, history, identity and social tensions.

This week I was introduced to the true inter-disciplinary and inter-departmental spirit at artsNK. Their sister organisation ‘Transported’, based in Boston, were putting on a project called Illuminate, which explored Boston’s involvement the seventeenth century colonisation of North America and combined their heritage-inspired artistic performances with the town council’s Christmas lights ceremony. I was asked to play a specially created piece of music at the head of one of two processions that would converge in the town square. The musician for the other procession was a melodeon player called Dave Gray who I had previously met around various festivals and the folk circuit- small world right! We worked yet again with a rather stressed Jo Freya who was composing music for the Haecca at the same time! It was a joy to work with them both and also to be involved with another great project.

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Me playing at the head of a lantern procession for the Illuminate project

North Hykeham planning and Horkey Evaluation (19 November 2016)

A breakthrough came through this week in the naming of the event in North Hykeham. We wanted to come up with a name containing as much historical reference to the area as the name ‘Horkey’ had for the event in Welbourn. The project lead for North Hykeham was born in the town, has a passion for its local history and had also studied Anglo-Saxon. She and project historian Dave Reeves, after a bit of research, found out that one of the Anglo-Saxon names for Hykeham was ‘Haecca’. The word Haecca, twinned with ‘ham’ (added later) combined to mean ‘a clear(ed) piece of land encircled by a river’; which is what Hykeham is! We therefore had a name for our event: The Winter Haecca.

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Winter Haecca Poster

I had come into the project quite late into the planning for the Welbourn Horkey, so for the North Hykeham section of the project I had been given a bit more responsibility. I set about writing the official event plan and staff rota for the Haecca on the 14th December. It gave me an insight of the meticulous planning that goes into these events; timings must be tight, volunteers and stewards must have a job at every time, risk assessments must be produced for every activity, insurance has to be provided by all organisations, artists and choreographers involved and nothing must be left to chance.

The Haecca would be twinned with the Christmas fair and nativity play that the Town Council run every year. Our rough running order had been decided: it would open with a lantern procession with school children and residents holding the lanterns made in the community workshops. The main body of the event would contain a North Hykeham song written by music artist Jo Freya, inspired by the research Dave and I had done. In addition, we were working with artsNK’s dance team and they were to put on an aerial performance, working from themes from North Hykeham’s history. All this, twinned with North Hykeham Town Council’s normal event, meant that it was shaping up to be a good night!

Reflections (12 November 2016)

About a month into my first job out of university, I can look back favourably. I have always been afraid that the world of work would be a boring, monotonous, endeavour for survival while greasing the wheels of capitalist exploitation (excuse the language, I went to a liberal arts college). However, the work for the non-profit organisation artsNK has been varied, rewarding and appealing to my wide range of skills and interests covering music, history and community engagement.

My favourite job I have had yet occurred while in a meeting with the project lead for North Hykeham and historian Dave Reeves about the lantern-making workshops in schools. To add another element to the lantern making workshops, Dave suggested that we could create shakers for the children to make noise with in the procession on the night. To make it tie in with North Hykeham’s heritage, Dave said that the shakers could be filled with peas as a reference to the pea-picking room which was an early employer of women in North Hykeham. Therefore, after researching where to source the materials I had a long drive through the fens of south Lincolnshire to Spalding to collect some peas from Dunns International seed and pulse co. All free of charge, a man had two huge sacks of dried peas ready for me to heave to my car to take back. When I asked him if they’d last to the event on the 14th December, he replied that they’d last for about 25 years. If they don’t all get used then I know what I can survive on if there was ever a nuclear apocalypse.

North Hykeham Research (5 November 2016)

This week has felt a lot like my last year at uni as I was put to work researching some history of North Hykeham which involved me pouring over old maps. On Monday, I was sent to North Hykeham council to collect some maps that were to be used by the historian in workshops in South Hykeham school. They revealed the change of North Hykeham from a predominantly agricultural settlement to the new commuter belt which it has become. The oldest maps came from 1932 which even marked the (recently abandoned) windmills of North Hykeham. The Malleable works and gravel pits were marked too which were going to be useful to explain to pupils about Hykeham’s industrial past. The themes would be explained at a basic level, and many comparisons were to be made between old and new maps to tell the primary school children a basic history of their home.

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1932 map of North Hykeham, courtesy of North Hykeam Town Council.

Later in the week Dave the historian sent me to Lincoln Archives to find out some information on the foundry on the north-western edge of North Hykeham (centre top in the above picture) which made castings for cars, tanks etc. It was nice to be back at the archives after I had come there earlier in the year to find out information on seventeenth century civil unrest for my dissertation. I found many pictures and maps of the foundry, but no official production records. Often, if parts were made during the war for the armaments industry, they were kept secret; the archive had clearly not acquired them. Included below are some great pictures of foundry workers using minimal safety equipment, with both workers having sweat rags to mop their brows while working with the molten metal.

 

This week was particularly enjoyable as I was able to use my skills acquired at Goldsmiths university for the good of the project and to keep my research skills relatively honed. artsNK have been able to utilise my skill set such as historical research and music. I am very glad to be able to provide help in many different ways for the good work the Ridges & Furrows project is doing!

 

North Hykeham Lantern Workshop (29 October 2016)

After the Welbourn Horkey, this week afforded everyone a bit of a rest from the hectic organisation of the event. My monday involved a leisurely drive to the storage facility to drop off lots of the equipment used for the event such as stakes, signs, workshop materials and the Ridges & Furrows banners. I collected the feedback forms from the artsNK offices at the National Centre for Craft & Design and had a flick through: there was lots of great feedback and the main point of good feedback was the freshly pressed, local apple juice! Also a few expressed their fondness for the music which was nice to hear.

After that, I took a few deserved days off. However the project in North Hykeham was already underway with a lantern making workshop taking place in the Terry O’Toole Theatre, which was our base of operations for this section of the project. I helped set up the tables and equipment with the two artists for this section of the project Ruth Pigott and Nadya Monfrioli. The workshop was the first of two, this first one designed for people of all ages to create stencils of local heritage inspired designs, cut out of card, which would then form silhouettes on the lanterns. It was very well attended and people seemed to have a great time. The quality of the designs, was a good sign that the North Hykeham section of of the project would yield just as beautiful and creative artworks as in Welbourn. The North Hykeham event was going to be in the evening so the personalised Hykeham lanterns would shine against the cold winter sky! Here are a selection of the stencils made in the workshop:

The Welbourn Horkey (23 October 2016)

The day had finally arrived, my first large event working in arts administration, or indeed working at all! We arrived at the site around 8am and with bleary eyes we went about making last minute arrangements. Myself and project historian Dave Reeves went around the village putting up signs directing visitors, and displaying info on certain historical sites such as the old co-op shop and the forge. When people started arriving, myself and my musical duo partner Rosie Butler-Hall played music at our assigned spots at the church and village hall. We capitalised on the professional photographer being there by getting him to take some good publicity pictures of us!

 

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Danny Pedler & Rosie Butler-Hall playing in St. Chad’s

The visitors all seemed happy, well fed and watered; there was a hog roast that I’d organised, villagers selling cakes in the village hall and free apple juice, pressed that morning from apples from the community orchard. People had lots to see but also lots to do, Lyndall and Miranda were holding workshops throughout the day, adding to the artwork which the other workshops had produced. The co-op shop was slowly getting fuller.

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The old co-op set

More attractions opened throughout the day with the farmers’ exhibitions on the green getting going with the 1920s threshing machine they had brought being fired up and hay bales being produced by it.

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The 1920s threshing machine demonstration

In addition, two young volunteers opened the forge, fired it up and worked some metal on it. Dave was down there explaining about the history of it to the onlookers also.

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A volunteer working the bellows at the old forge

It was a great day, it was so rewarding to see exhibited, the creative efforts of people of all age groups who had themselves been inspired by their local history. It was a brilliant, educational event to be involved with and so fun to organise. However, a revelation that hit me on the day is the amount of feedback we were required to collect. As a public funded project, through the Heritage Lottery Fund, we had to accurately report the day to them and how it met their requirements. In addition, evaluation is needed to secure funding for future projects and also to reassure funders that they did invest well, especially in an age where funding is being cut all over the arts sector. I was put to work, in my free minutes when I was not playing, handing out surveys for people to fill in. Not the most enjoyable thing on the day, but very important, and a very good insight into the behind-the-scenes work which makes the valuable community work arts administration does possible!

Horkey Preparations (21 October 2016)

The week of the Welbourn Horkey was finally upon us! My week however started with the beginning of community outreach in North Hykeham, the second target village of the project. Myself, the project lead and historian Dave Reeves attended a local soup lunch. We intended to introduce ourselves and to inspire people to volunteer to be interviewed for some oral history collection at later sessions. An element of Dave’s research is to also collect and record anecdotal history from the area and, especially, to document the change from village to town that North Hykeham has undergone. As the town is attached to the city of Lincoln, I asked people whether they felt Hykeham had its own community, separate from Lincoln. While many were depressed and visibly against the expansion of the town, some were positive and did say that North Hykeham has kept some of its traditional identity, and that due to separate institutions such as social clubs, scouts and WI from those in Lincoln, it has retained an independent community.

The first event leading up to the Horkey was a pub quiz on local historical knowledge in the local pub, The Joiner’s Arms. Questions and answers were compiled by Dave and a local historian Bill Goodhand, they tested the villagers on previous economic trades in the village, other historical ‘did you know’ facts, and contained a separate section of local dialect words and phrases from the area. Many people were very enthusiastic about the dialect section, with a (slightly heated) debate taking place between a farmer and a local on what word meant heavier rain: ‘siling’ or ‘kelting’.

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Pub Quiz in the Joiner’s Arms

On the day before the Horkey, the team assembled in Welbourn to begin preparations. Many people started setting up the decorations in the village hall, however myself and the two artists Lyndall Phelps and Miranda Sharpe started transforming St. Chad’s church into a gallery showcasing the artwork of the Wellingore scouts and Lyndall’s own work. She had used the agricultural heritage of the village as inspiration and created some beautiful works.

 

We then went to the local primary school and I led a procession (with my accordion) of the primary school children who transported their artworks, made in the workshops led by Lyndall and Miranda, to the church. The children had a harvest service in which we attended. They ended the service with a ‘harvest salsa’ which was… interesting. On the way back to the village hall I had learnt the salsa on my accordion and annoyed the rest of the artsNK team by reminding them of the earworm of a tune.

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Me leading the children’s procession playing a medley of English folk tunes.