At the Small is Beautiful festival, Green Stage delivered a workshop in four acts, inviting participants to make theatre in, and with, a kitchen garden space.
Four square raised beds, each with a different family of vegetable.
Legumes, Alliums, Roots and Brassicas. This is the garden of Roger McClennan, who has been CAT’s head gardener for over thirty years.
What happens when a garden moves from being a backdrop to action, to being an actor?
We opened with an exploration of the garden, and how different places within in make us feel. We walked around the space with someone else’s eyes and ears, before launching, somewhat courageously, into devising short scenes in the areas of the garden people were most drawn to.
the planting of dried seed heads into a bare patch of earth, slowly, as ritual, with focus.
the celebration of a calendula flower, which had been overshadowed by huge brassicas.
the question that pressed at me, from below, was just how many theatrical rituals have revolved around agricultural cycles in years gone by, how so many of them have been lost, or perhaps, rest latent, waiting to be re-animated.
Two weeks after the festival, I found myself at the Edible Mach and Green Isle Growers harvest celebration in the gardens of Y Plas, Machynlleth. People gathered to eat locally cooked food, much of it harvested from the Edible Mach sites around town, while a determined group set about installing a wooden table, with fruit trees and herbs growing within it. This is gardening as public performance, without fanfare or seated audience, but a live, vibrant, participatory activity, that draws the attention of passers by to the transformation of a place by many hands.
On the of town was a different, agriculturally rooted performance that attracted large crowds: sheep-shearing; while on the other side of a hedge was the community garden open day. To what extent did these communities mix?
So, the intentions that grew after these events
- to make bridges for conversation between farmers, gardeners and those with wilder dreams for the land.
- to discover existing traditions of reverence to the land and create new traditions.
- to let the land speak and sing through those who know it best.