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Green Man’s Life Cycle – by Phil Townsend

greenman greenson Greenman greenfather

My thanks to Phil Townsend for allowing us to reproduce this extract from a larger article that was published in ‘Woodcarving’, issue 39, 1998. For those who would like to visit this wonderful sculpture it is still in good condition and can be found close to the main drive through Hamsterley Forest, nr. Barnard Castle, Co Durham.

From childhood I recall a fascination with storybook illustrations where semi-human features seemed to appear in tree trunks, knotty eyes where branches had been shed, noses from stubby cut-off limbs, mouths within wrinkled folds of bark. These tree faces were often old and knobbly but appeared friendly and helpful to the travellers beneath their leaves. Often you had to look hard for the faces. Sometimes you just imagined an odd combination of knots, bark and branches looked something like a face.

In real life trees that seem capable of expression are found mainly among the broad-leaved species. Conifers are mainly straight up and down and rather boringly regular, especially when seen in ranks in forestry plantations. Such mystery and imaginings are found among plantations of spruce and fir come not from individual specimens but from the density of the planting, the maze-like quality of losing your bearings with it all looking much the same in any direction. Walking through the ranks you glimpse along an aisle of trees which then closes to become a solid wall before opening into the next aisle. It’s “now you see it, now you don’t”. These memories and observations were drawn on as a basis for a sculpture which was to have echoes of these elements. When it was first proposed to create a Green Man sculpture in Hamsterley Forest, part of the Great North Forest in County Durham, a suggestion was made to carve a single detailed image in the traditional form onto as large a butt of a tree as could be found.

But such a carving, though large in most contexts, would lack the presence required of this archetypal figure when set in his natural habitat, the forest. Also the traditional depiction of the Green Man as a gloomy and rather forbidding figure did not seem conducive to promoting a love and understanding of nature, but rather generating fear and lack of regard for it. On a practical level the idea of creating a single united image across the faces of several spatially separate tree trunks had been shown to be feasible in the well known sculpture by Colin Wilbourn on the banks of the River Wear in Durham, called The Upper Room. It seemed possible to take the idea a step further by carving an image that was seen then lost as you moved, only to be replaced by another. Now you see the Green Man, now you don’t. A scale model of trees set in a triangular formation showed that at a given distance about one third of a trunks surface was visible, so it became possible to create three Green Men, each one registering only when looking towards the apex of the triangle. But what were these three to look like?

There is much the Green Man could condemn his human cousins for (the felling of six trees in their prime for mere sculpture, perhaps?). But in a place like Hamsterley Forest where growing numbers of people come to appreciate the beauty and bounty of the woodland, this is where the Green Man would be most at peace and might cast a benign eye on the passer-by. Folklore and tradition would have it that the Green Man is always young and vital, but we know in all nature there has to be a process of growth, maturing, and decay so regeneration can take place. The cyclical manner of all life should not, I felt, bypass an image so central to its core, and so was formed this sculpture of the Green Man’s Life Cycle, Greenson, Greenman and Greenfather. 

The grand fir (Abies grandis) logs used in the sculpture were felled in Hamsterley forest, having achieved a great height by the roadside on the hill above The Grove. Apart from its size, grand fir has other desirable properties: it is straight and cylindrical in growth, has a much lower resin content than most other conifers, and has few branch knots on its lower trunk. Eight logs, all from trees about 50 years old, were delivered to the site where I selected the six best and debarked them. I decided to sink the logs into the ground to a depth of 4ft to ensure stability. Each log weighed around a ton and a half, which, combined with their 16ft length made the business tricky, especially as their position in relation to one another had to be accurate to within 1 inch or so for the carving of the work.

One of the best aspects of sculpting in public is you get to meet all sorts of people, a refreshing change from the isolation of studio work. A lot of passers-by were understandably confused by the disjointed appearance of the sculpture, which was also partially obscured by the scaffolding, and I heard the words “totem poles” offered as an explanation many times. Whenever someone showed real interest I took the opportunity to explain, but was not always understood. I heard one teenager, to whom I had described the three stages of the life cycle, calling to his father, to come and see the “mid-life crisis face”! There were some visitors not so welcome at the sculpture site: Hamsterley forest plays host to myriad insects and at different times I was plagued by flies, midges 2inch long wood wasps, and flying ants which would spend a whole day swarming over two thirds of the carving. Last year was also a bumper year for butterflies and literally hundreds converged on the clearing.

The term unveiling was accurate as we had a large green Great Forest banner slung just below the eyes of our Green Man which was released by a famous resident of Teesdale, Miss Hannah Hauxwell. There was quite a turnout. I was especially pleased to see children from four local primary schools who had been involved in the early stages of the project. They were entertained by a professional story-teller with his own version of the legend of the Green Man. This was followed a couple of days later with an enjoyable story-telling walk on the theme of The Magic of the Trees, culminating at the sculpture site with a talk from that contemporary ‘green’ man, David Bellamy, who linked legend to current environmental problems in his own inimitable way. Everyone agreed this was a fitting climax

Phil Townsend is a professional sculptor who lives in County Durham. Primarily he designs and makes outdoor sculpture, mostly in native hardwoods and a wide variety of stone – materials that sit easily with both the natural environment and the man-made.

You can see more of Phil’s wonderful work on his website at: http://www.sculptedart.co.uk/

Keith (Bogie) Leech Awarded MBE

Keith Leech MBE

Our congratulations to Keith Leech of the Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green who was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours, for services to Heritage in East Sussex.

Keith was born ‘in the sound of Bow Bells” in 1954 and was brought up in East London. After teaching in London and Africa he settled in Hastings and reintroduced the Jack-in-the-Green, the Hastings Borough Bonfire celebrations and the Hollington Mummers play back into the community. He is an acknowledged expert on May Day, the traditional Jack-in-the-Green and Bonfire customs. He was awarded Hastings highest honour the “Order of 1066″ in 1999 for his work in reintroducing customs to the town. He has adopted Hastings as his home and despite his cockney roots considers himself to be a Sussex man. He is a member of the Hastings Winkle club.

Keith has been instrumental in keeping the tradition of the Jack-in-the-Green alive in this country.

Newsletter Archive

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I am extremely pleased to announce that many hours and one burnt out scanner later, The Company of the Green Man newsletter archive is now well and truly live!

As well as downloadable copies of all the e-newsletters produced by myself over the last five years (our e-newsletters are archived after six months) it contains downloadable pdf copies of the original Company of the Green Man newsletters published by my predecessor, the wonderful Ronald Miller between 1998 and 2005.

If you are already a member just click on the “How to access the Newsletter Archive” tab at the top of this page and you can purchase unlimited access to our Newsletter Archive for just £15.95.

If you are not yet a member then you can join up quickly and easily using the “join us” tab above (membership is completely free)

Jack-in-the-Green 16mm Film

Picture1

My thanks to no-w-here for allowing us to add a link to the wonderful 16mm film that was created at the workshop they ran in May this year. You can view the film HERE

Experimental Folklore: Jack-in-the-Green was a 16mm workshop which centred around the possibilities of recording and representing folk traditions as live events on film. The workshop examined how the sensorial aspects of  live traditions might be captured on film through the mechanics and optics of the 16mm camera, examining conceptual and practical concerns of the use of film, and the role of the artist filmmaker in the exploration of such performances. This short edit comes from all the footage shot on the workshop by participants. Sound was recorded digitally and added in post production. For details of similar workshops please see no.w.here’s workshop page on their website

no-w-here.org.uk

Thanks to Fowler’s Troop and Sarah Crofts who organise the Deptford Jack-in-the-Green every May 1st. For more information please see: /deptford-jack.org.uk

The Wood Beyond the World – June – The Door of the Year

June - The Door of the Year © Sally Priston

June – The Door of the Year © Sally Priston

Sally Priston’s work is based around nature, folklore and the changing seasons, she works in 2D in watercolour, ink and pencil generally, and also on wood, using pyrography. We are publishing one of her pictures around the first of each month from June 2013 until May 2014. If you would like to get in touch with Sally or would like to purchase any of her art please drop us a line at greenman@virgin.net

The Company of the Green Man e-newsletter 10 June 2014

e-newsletter 10

The Company of the Green Man’s tenth e-newsletter  has just been published and is available free to all our members via the members area tab at the top right of this page. If you are a member you should receive an e-mail with details of how to access the  e-newsletter. If not please don’t hesitate to contact me at greenman@virgin.net

If you would like to join The Company of the Green Man (it’s completely free) just use the join us tab at the top of this page.

Will Worthington Exhibition 7th – 9th June

Holly - copyright © Will Worthington

Holly – copyright © Will Worthington

Many of our members will have come across Will Worthington’s wonderful art over the years. Will is the illustrator of a number of beautifully illustrated Oracles and Tarots including the Druid Animal Oracle, the Green Man Tree Oracle and the Wildwood Tarot a re-working of the Greenwood Tarot. The Green Man & the Green Woman have been powerful symbols throughout Wills career.

There will be an exhibition of Wills work in Glastonbury on the 7th – 9th June 2014 at the Glastonbury Galleries, 10a High Street, Glastonbury. BA6 9DU

There will be originals from various decks and some small green men plaques he has made…plus loads of prints (some green men)

Yaxley Jack-in-the-Green 2014

Yaxley Jack-in-the-Green 2014 Copyright © Pixyledpublications

Yaxley Jack-in-the-Green 2014 Copyright © Pixyledpublications

I am very grateful to Ross Parish for reporting that the Yaxley Jack-in-the-Green paraded today.  Yaxley Fen’s charmer of Vipers Sap-engro oversaw the birth of Jack-in-the-Green and the invocation of ancient Turf Law for the second year, along with patron Warwick Davis. This brings the current total of Jacks sighted this year to a wonderful fifteen with the possibility of at least one more later in the year. If you have pictures of any of the Jacks that went out this year please do consider sending a copy to me  at greenman@virgin.net so that I can add it to our free online Flickr photographic archive. My eventual goal is for the archive to hold pictures of every Jack-in-the-Green that goes out (and has gone out) every year to build a living archive of this wonderful tradition. If you have any pictures in any format and in any condition please do get in touch with me.  All pictures are always copyrighted to the original photographer and will never be used without prior permission.

Confirmed Jack-in-the-Green sightings:

  • Winchcombe – May Dawn
  • Rochester Sweeps (Blue Bell Hill) – May Dawn
  • Whitstable (Dead Horse Morris) – May Dawn
  • Deptford (Fowlers Troop) – May Day
  • Bristol
  • Knutsford
  • Cheltenham Sweeps
  • Whitstable (Oyster Morris)
  • Hastings
  • Guildford
  • Highworth
  • Ilfracombe
  • Oxford
  • Brentham
  • Yaxley

There were no reported sightings of the following Jacks this year:

  • Tunbridge Wells (last seen 2012)
  • City of London Jack (last seen in Hastings in 2012)
  • High Wycombe (no sightings since 2012)
  • Lands End (fog and rain in Cornwall meant that Boekka’s Lands End Jack-in the-Green couldn’t see in the dawn this year)

Still to come:

  • A rumour that a Jack may parade in the Pagan Pride Parade this year……

 

Yaxley Jack-in-the-Green 2014 Copyright © Pixyledpublications

Yaxley Jack-in-the-Green 2014 Copyright © Pixyledpublications

 

The Wood Beyond the World – May – Fertility

May-Fertility © Sally Priston

May-Fertility © Sally Priston

Sally Priston’s work is based around nature, folklore and the changing seasons, she works in 2D in watercolour, ink and pencil generally, and also on wood, using pyrography. We are publishing one of her pictures around the first of each month from June 2013 until May 2014. If you would like to get in touch with Sally or would like to purchase any of her art please drop us a line at greenman@virgin.net

2014 Jack-in-the-Green update

Whitstable (Oyster Morris) Jack-in-the-Green 2014

Whitstable (Oyster Morris) Jack-in-the-Green 2014

I am extremely pleased to be able to confirm that the Highworth, Oxford, Guildford and Ilfracombe Jacks have all been sighted this year along with a revival of the Cheltenham Sweeps Jack. Reports have also just come in that the Brentham Jack went out today. If you have pictures of any of the Jacks that went out this year please do consider sending a copy to me  at greenman@virgin.net so that I can add it to our free online Flickr photographic archive, all pictures are always copyrighted to the original photographer and will never be used without prior permission. My thanks to everyone who has put up with me and been so kind this year. Whitstable Oyster Morris and the wonderful Dixie Lee (pictured above with their Jack)  Dead Horse Morris, The Bristol Jack-in-the-Green and everyone who has sent me sightings and some wonderful pictures so far…please keep them coming! I will be uploading all the pictures I have taken and those sent in over the next few weeks so please keep checking back to the Flickr archive and this blog.

Confirmed Jack sightings so far:

  • Winchcombe – May Dawn
  • Rochester Sweeps (Blue Bell Hill) – May Dawn
  • Whitstable (Dead Horse Morris) – May Dawn
  • Deptford (Fowlers Troop) – May Day
  • Bristol
  • Knutsford
  • Cheltenham Sweeps
  • Whitstable (Oyster Morris)
  • Hastings
  • Guildford
  • Highworth
  • Ilfracombe
  • Oxford
  • Brentham

Sadly there have been no sightings of the following Jacks this year:

  • Tunbridge Wells (last seen 2012)
  • City of London Jack (last seen in Hastings in 2012)
  • High Wycombe (no sightings since 2012)
  • Lands End (fog and rain in Cornwall meant that Boekka’s Lands End Jack-in the-Green couldn’t see in the dawn this year)

Still to come:

  • Yaxley Jack-in-the-Green – Saturday May 17th
  • A rumour that a Jack may parade in the Pagan Pride Parade this year……
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