Generic mid winter fest and contemporary Collective ritual

My practice has a strong association with ritual practice , whether that is a community and widely observed festival or more everyday performance and action.

As we move into winter the festivals involving some sort of ‘bringing light into darkness’  emerge.

I’m not going to use this post to analyse the various origins, pagan and otherwise, of all the festivals but just to highlight the associations with memory, personal and collective which these apparently ‘celebrate.

Hallowe’en or Samhain is one that I have always enjoyed.

Since childhood I’ve made a lantern out of a turnip ( I’m from Lancashire!) and have strong memories of carrying one on string to the bus-stop and then to my grandma’s where I stayed the night in a bitterly cold room ( no central heating in those days…) covered by several eiderdowns, one a memorable satin-finish paisley pattern. Later apple- bobbing ,hair combing in the dark and seeing your future husband (!)  in the mirror behind you’!

What’s especially odd is that I remember joining the local Methodist Sunday School because they had such good social events from an astounding Harvest festival where the church was decorated  with Real Produce, not tins of stuff, but sheaves of corn and specially shaped loaves of bread, fruit and flowers. The scent of chrysanthemums comes back as I write…They also had a fab Hallowe’en party.I won a competition, I recall, dressed as a black cat, but there were witches a plenty. I doubt that many churches celebrate this festival now… This was before it became a fully fledged ‘Trick or Treat’ import from America and an opportunity to sell pumpkins..

I was always told, by my parents, about its association with memory of the dead and spirit- visitations and so its associations with the Pagan, Samhain.

This link  is quite entertaining and fairly informative.

What I find interesting is that cultures world-wide celebrate this day as a ‘Day-of-the-Dead” in different ways but a similar theme. Some from a mix of Catholicism and Pagan then exported and tied with local belief such as the Mexican and Aztec goddess belief  Not only have the beliefs and rituals  syncretised  but they are becoming, as generally, ‘things’ are’ more mobile and fluid.An essential part of ritual practice, I seem to remember from Victor Turner et al, is that the sites and more importantly , the dates, or periods of the practice are fixed. So despite Hallowe’en and Bonfire night being so close together , ‘in my day’ there were no fireworks until the 5th November and no Dressing-up as witches on the 5th November!

Now it seems that the Generic winter festival seems to extend from Hallowe’en ( with Fireworks beginning often before!) to sometime after New Year  ( even possibly beyond 12th Night!!! my God!) when the fireworks finally run out…..The festivals and accompanying memorialisation have more than syncretised.

I won’t start to unpick the social reasons for this, though it may have to do generally with the tendency  for ‘merge’ and the way that time  is no longer  fixed, with iPlayer and multichannel, Listen again, podcasts etc. so that there is less of this fixed collective activity generally.

Rather than get embroiled in such Social Analysis, which I may do another time…This post is really about the fact that I visited Crouch Hill on Hallowe’en and made  a series of Periscope Broadcasts. They were my first use of Periscope apart from one short trial when I downloaded the app. I did 5 Live broadcasts all together, varying length  from 2 minutes to a couple of longer ones of around 30 minutes at the end. They were mostly shared via my Twitter account  as you can see from this Screen shot

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 16.37.04

The Third broadcast was deleted from my Twitter feed.This was because, unexpectedly, as twilight fell (the most potent time for the barrier between the past and the present to dissolve – already at its thinnest at Hallowe’en- hence the spirit access…) , a colleague of mine, coincidentally, arrived at the summit where I was ‘Scoping, with her dog.She was cautious about her voice and our conversation being Broadcast and so I deleted the stream  and the Replay facility and we ‘checked’ the topics of our conversation cautiously

Here are is the list of Broadcasts I did on that day.


Below are the Videos of the first two ‘Scopes which saved to my video roll.

I deleted the third, for the reasons given above, and I think the 4th didn’t save as my battery failed and this means it doesn’t get saved to the video roll….I didn’t realise this until some ‘scopes later..

Shame really as it was a long Scope of 30 mins or so with me falling over ( twice) and dropping my phone, as I made my way down the hill, in the mud in the dusk, holding my phone and my stick, and my camera… Possibly not that sensible really…

I’ve made the first Scope Private as I met a family on the hill and although I explained what I was doing,and they were fine with the ‘Scope, I  don’t feel comfortable with having  a video accessible on-line ( Child Protection and all that..)

Password is available for viewing at my discretion.. EDIT APRIL 2016- I changed my mind and the privacy Settings as you can see..)

and here are some stills from the first Scope

The second scope is on Vimeo  here

Whilst I was Scoping I was also filming with my camera. Here are some stills from the camera footage I shot too , in several different takes.

Some Analysis

As usual I have chosen, mostly to use a pre- existing structure on which to rest the camera, so that it ‘becomes’ part of the environment – in this case the top of the Trig Point- so it is as if the structure is watching its environment..I did this a lot in the Reading Room. Using the tables, window sills  and serving hatch as support.

I really like this as a way of filming as it adds an element of ‘watchfulness’ I feel and, although I have some control over the composition, it is limited by the position and the environment and structure itself and more part of it, yet still an observer.

I have kept in the movements I make of the camera when adjusting its position, as if it is ‘ settling itself in’ before it starts to watch….

I will use these to make another piece later as things develop, possibly for re-Scoping..

They are available on my YouTube Channel here, with one edit only, where I have deleted any identifying conversation with my colleague as mentioned above.

Below are some stills just to show the basic aesthetic Essentially I was just hanging around the hill at a potent time of collective ritual with specific reference to memory, and experiencing whatever   past and contemporary ritual happens in this place.( walking  to the top! where there is a Trig Point)

Dusk gradually falling( time of day) – North

Colour in the evening sun (? atmosphere/ aesthetic of the place) – East

Sun descending – West



Hawthorn, a plant with an important place in ritual, superstition and social action, see this article and

My final walk up to the summit at dusk.


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