People doing their amazing thing

Does anyone else notice the year as it turns at Lúnasa? That very day (before I realise it is that day) I notice the light and air quality change, and it happens again on September 1st. Turn towards autumn.

I’m in Devon, SW England, held here all summer by lush valleys, safe parking and interesting folk. Wild swimming and weaving the sea some more.

Small sea shawl shell wave portrait clouds

Large sea shawl portrait cloud shell


Then conceptually to the South of France weaving a lavender field blanket at the behest of an artistic Californian who sets me a challenge with plenty of essential creative freedom:


There’s a remnant for sale in my shop if anyone wants to make a cushion (I can supply filling), hanging, bag or small curtain?

Lavender blanket test patch


Some of the leftover warp lends itself to bluebell wood:


And another handful of new poncho listings:

Huge rodolpi front 1

Large Jacob poncho front

Rodolpi maud landscape

Rodolpi jacquard front


And  I go to Sidmouth Folkweek, which brings many heroes to the Regency bit of coast. Young ones with young tutors from Halsway share fresh ideas. Ninebarrow are gently magnetic with delicate guitars, crystalline harmonies and two harmonia. Josienne Clarke sings like Innana’s guardian angel. Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer spin yarns with theatrical virtuosity in a time trip to great halls bursting with Purcell. Stonehenge morris fiddler John Dipper shares a sombrely mysterious processional march to the stones. Leveret do their mesmerising thing again. (As someone with a horse bred for haute école and a hound whose action is similarly stunning, I ache with admiration for the suspension and elevation in their Playford and other tunes. They even play the Italian one at my request.) Sam Sweeney does a one-off for a second time with Martin Carthy and it’s Aquarian in character, his viola as surprising as he says is Carthy’s approach to tune-playing.

Monbiot does his final powerful gig with Ewan McLennan – words for the age of loneliness and songs for the cause. (I weep.) As I leave I hear someone shouting my name and a dear man I knew from my days in HE is manning his Network of Wellbeing stall and continuing the valuable work of active community-building.

And so many other heroes in marquees and pubs that I have to choose not to see. As I get ready for bed on my last evening, schoolmate Seth Lakeman’s  unmistakeable verve strides down the hill to my van from the Bulverton Marquee. I’m in a leafy car park near the beach with twenty other campervans, though most of their occupants are still out partying.

And in the hours between all this, like a moth to the light or a traveller who knows they just have to detour but not why, I keep going back to the music fair, talking accordions with a number of fantastic nerds, learning intensively, trying all the best ones, getting back ache, and falling in love… but she’s expensive and the van is so laden that the steering is light, and there are already two others…


My official home is near the counter-cultural hub of Totnes. Many of us both love it and hate it: all the erudition of Dartington Hall; all the music of Britain’s finest; all the conservatism of farming England; all the ideas of hippies and revolutionaries; all the smack addicts of a desperate city corner; all the wealth of the South East; all the deprivations of a rural town. Every other person is an artist or a therapist, and people come here to get healed but find a community that indulges their idiosyncrasies. The market is the best I’ve encountered in Britain, and ditto the buskers. The norm is to have children from a number of different partnerships. It is not surprising to see someone dowsing whilst jewellery shopping. Many have settled the surrounding land in communes. Plenty have ascended high in the enlightenment competition. If you’re stretched thin on the treadmill of normality it is threatening and hard to join in. If you’re sceptical you’re wary of the uncritical. If you struggle with your inner zealot, you have to make peace with everyone else’s happy clapping.

Local resident and award-winning Radio 4 poet Matt Harvey sums it up hilariously, astutely and compassionately, in a satire of the Totnes Hug, the particularly Totnesian challenges of choosing curtains, and the rivalry from much straighter neighbours from TorquayAnd here’s a poem a bunch of us made with him at a Green Party fundraiser last night.

Poem by a Matt Harvey audience

And here’s a song that came grabbling out with a few others that had to tell themselves to me in a tumble last week:

Jersey Motel

It doesn’t yet have a melody; anybody?


Meantime the Green Cloth community mushrooms over at Nettles for Textiles if you want to join us (it’s a fascinating gathering), and aforementioned inundated host Allan Nettle Man is currently mulling his worldview to share on my blog at some time hence.


6 thoughts on “People doing their amazing thing

  1. J > Your post expresses, very adroitly – artistically, even – the contradictions and tensions we feel in what we do. Clearly, the West Country has changed much since I was born in 1950s Somersetshire. Even perhaps since my last visit about 15 years ago when my mother passed away. The ‘alternative’ scene is certainly exciting : on the one hand, crazily creative, unpredictably unconventional, inspiringly innovative ; and on the other it’s pathetically insincere, depressingly predictable, and competitive to a degree that even the most driven internet entrepreneurs would be embarassed by. We’d certainly welcome greater diversity in Uist – though that won’t happen until there’s significant loosening of the stranglehold the crofting legislation has over land and opportunities. But what Uist needs most are do-ers with talent and energy, not posers and parasites. Earning an honest living – one that is genuinely earned – is not easy, even with hard work, imagination and talent. But that’s the road we’ve chosen, and if we lack talent or imagination, we must make up the difference with hard work, and by that means not only put food on the table, keep the roof over our heads (and neither of those are euphemisms!), and a smile on our faces. It’s a utilitarian view on life, but not dour with it : it is a view that to live well, we must work well, to enjoy good things, we must make good things, and for what we do to be valued by others, we must value the work of others. Competition narrows and impoverishes. Collaboration widens and enriches. But enough of words, what’s next on my to-do list?


    • In a way I feel that West Cork, Brittany and Lewis all have a really nice balance of traditional, stoic and arty – all unpretentious working places with plenty of interesting folk. I *will* come to Uist before too much longer (and visit, if I may?). Thanks as ever to yous for the support and great discussion. E.

      Liked by 1 person

      • J > You may indeed! We’d love to see how you respond to the colours. Every time of year has something special about it. Summer is of course overflowing with light and colour, the twilight and stars watch over the left-over thoughts of the day and our plans for the morrow. But in winter, darkness and light play across the landscape as partners, revealing structure and detail of the land itself – the hills and glens, the knolls and boulders that past generations knew by name, and by which they knew their way between house, church, school and the harbour. Yes, there’s so much to inspire weaving – your style of weaving in particular.


        • Pure poetry. I could easily weave the colours just from your words, and may yet do! But a visit would be even better. Brittany is my likely next stop – fuel and ferry prices restrict the travels more than I’d like. But before too long. Thank you.


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