Topsy-Turvy Twelfth Night Celebrations

topsy turvy twelfth nightIn the tradition of Twelfth Night, the Lord (or Lady) of Misrule presides over games and festivities where, for one night only, the world is turned upside down. Amanda Rackstraw, in the guise of Befana (the Italian ‘Christmas Witch’ who brings gifts) organised this unique spoken word / musical / storytelling event, in aid of Médecins Sans Frontières, as a fabulous, topsy-turvy finale to the Christmas season…   

storytelling from amanda rackstraw

Amanda Rackstraw telling the tale of Befana, the Christmas Witch

The evening began with feature acts from some of our local spoken word stars. Nicholas Whitehead delivered a hilarious, freshly written poem about the McDonalds that has recently opened just outside Vatican City, with lines such as “Pearly gates meets golden arches” and “McNuggets of wisdom from the old McParable”.

Will Ford entertained us with songs accompanied by tambourine (and an occasional vocal instrumental). We also had some soul-searching songs from guitarist Eugene Capper and a traditional Twelfth Night African slave song / dance from Mary Anne Roberts.

poems for the twelve days of christmasOur local Vicar Poet, Sarah Rowland Jones, recited some amusing poems about “Facebook froth” (which you can see below), “Premier League Poets” and the Angel Gabriel’s famous “well-worn default prologue, ‘Do not be afraid’”.

The king of misrule

Adam being dressed in his ‘King of Misrule’ costume

In the interval we tucked into the traditional fruit cake of twelfth night – in the form of Italian panattones, and lucky Adam Johannes (picured right) found the token in his piece and became King of Misrule for the rest of the night.

My favourite part of the evening was a hearty rendition of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ from everyone in the room. It was fast, it was funny, and a few of us kept getting it wrong (mostly me), but it was fun!

We then heard poems based on each of the twelve days. My favourite was an impromptu rhyme from Amanda Rackstraw for ‘Two Turtle Doves’ which began “Two Turtle Doves sitting on a stump – one named Putin, one named Trump…” – I couldn’t hear the rest of it, there was so much laughter!

There was a mix of funny and serious, but all took on the theme of turning things upside down. You can read some of the poems below, and see some more photos.

storytelling from Amanda RackstrawThe evening was rounded off beautifully, after a short open mic spot, with an evocative Wintery story told by Amanda Rackstraw.  It was, in short, an evening of madness and mayhem, fun and frolics.

Scroll down for more photos and four of the poems…

sarah rowland jones

Sarah Rowland Jones

Ventilation by Sarah Rowland Jones

In the evening, the vicar curls
over the computer, and folds
Facebook froth into a day
dense with decision-making –
hot air to make life’s soufflé rise.

Working Week (for Six Geese A-Laying) by Bryan Marshall

Dawning light taps at a soundless horizon
as thin air snaps and flickers a dare.
Quick darkness recedes but remains, promised shadow,
sweet black clouds still honour their burnt ochre share.

Mary Anne Roberts performed a traditional Twelfth Night African slave dance / song

Mary Anne Roberts performed a traditional Twelfth Night African slave dance & song

Tight, elastic sky, pulled taut, shines ivory blue,
while the earth breathes its tremulous throng.
Which is anchored, we ask, grounded acres of soil,
or the dense solid heavens in song?

A spilled wash of water, resounding in waves,
crushes stiff-shouldered boulders to scratches of sand.
Turbulent frothing as jagged depths shift,
a frantic embrace of welcoming land.

Flames arc high above in a heatmelt that soars.
Bright flaring glares scorch as a new sun’s gold blisters.
Her wings clap by day, replaced starkly at night
by a clean silver rock and her thousand radiant sisters.

Through dancing sea clouds and the sky’s richly-ploughed furrows
the creatures, reckless, trumpet their symphonic crash.
Conductorless music rings cavernous echoes,
a clamour of colour spills limpid and brash.

Ripe legs set stumbling paces, as life’s slick blood churns.
Muscles crying harsh joy tinge a sweetness of pain.
Dumb and vocal strum life’s chords to a plan, on a whim,
while man’s faint cures and blinding riddles sheet sly pounding rain.

No more needs set forth, a world finished, made whole,
as its maker sighs happy, deserving of rest.
Creation breathes new, thanks to fresh sweat and toil.
The geese have laid well, six eggs warm in the nest.

Bryan Marshall

Bryan Marshall

Eight Maids A-Milking by Fran Murphy

nicholas whitehead

Nicholas Whitehead

With softest hands and soothing voice,
The milkmaids of the world rejoice,
Coax out the milk from animals
And turn it into cheese

The first maid with her doe eyed cow
Will give us Cheddar, Brie and Gouda
Gorgonzola, Danish Blue
The Jarlsberg Wheel and Parmesan

The second, with her curious goat
Will milk the freshening nannie’s teats
To give us Clochette and Garrotxa
Bucheron and Tullyboy

Eugene Capper

Eugene Capper

The third will take a sheep in hand
And from the ewe will draw the milk
To make Roquefort and Pecorino,
Manchego, Don Quixote’s choice

Our milkmaid four, in Serbia
Far from Cleopatra’s bath
Needs 25 litres of Donkey’s milk
To make a kilo of this cheese
The most expensive in the world
The white and crumbly Pule

And milkmaid five, in high Nepal
Cares for the Yaks that give the milk
To make the Flower of Rayja cheese
Ripened in copper vats

Ellie Powell took part in the open mic

Ellie Powell took part in the open mic

The sixth must have the smallest hands
To milk this creature for this cheese.
The Nectar of the Gulags,
From Siberian Udder Rats

What if the seventh was a mermaid?
Swimming the seas to milk her pod
Of dolphins of their mammals’ milk
Would we consume their cheese?

And finally the eighth milkmaid
Will use a pump to self express
And human cheese from human milk
Is offered to the brave

Will Ford singing

Will Ford’s songs added a more sombre note to the evening

So take a cracker from the plate
Some pickles if you please
And thank the milkmaids of the world
For all our glorious cheese

Ten Lords A-Leaping by Will Ford

Ten Lords a-leaping, their feet have left the Earth
But this is not a tale of joy or merriment or mirth
T’is the secret fear Rich men carry in their heads
That one dark night the Poor will come
And drag them from their beds

Ten Lords a-leaping at the end of ten tight nooses
In payment for the scorn and hate and heaped upon abuses
Breeding and Will of God they will cite as their defence
Till the Poor become revolting in the very darkest sense

mark curtis

Mark Curtis took part in the open mic

Ten Lords a-leaping, ten dancing silhouettes
Silent in the moonlight as rope tightens around necks
Tongues lolling, faces purpling, as the truth is dawning
Money cannot buy one more day or night or morning

Ten Lords a-leaping, their feet have left the Earth
This is not a tale of joy or merriment or mirth
T’is the secret fear Rich men carry in their heads
That one dark night the Poor will come
And drag them from their beds

Ten Lords, no longer leaping
Their toes point at the ground
Swaying gently in the breeze
A creaking branch the only sound
The Nightmare of the Rich
This unspoken understanding…

Ten Lords a-leaping but, never landing…(x4)

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