Posted on Leave a comment

The Bridport Wassail

In the town of Bridport in West Dorset we have a community orchard that was begun in 2009 with the planting of 23 half standard apple trees as part of the Symondsbury Apple Project.  In February 2010 this was added to and there are now 58 fruit trees in total, including some old and rare varieties that have stood the test of time.  All the trees and the green spaces surrounding them are carefully tended by a group of local volunteers.  The Community Orchard is a public space for everyone to enjoy and lies just behind St Marys church off South Street in St Marys Field.  It regularly holds community events that have a traditional theme, often with the imbibing of good local Cider from West Milton Cider Company.  Around the 18th of January each year a custom known as a Wassail has been revived in the orchard which involves much merriment, mulled cider and hot apple juice.

view from Church tower(photo Sheila Hawkins)

Wassailing

twelfthnight

Wassail gets its name from an Old English greeting “waes hael“, meaning “be well”. Said to be a Saxon custom where at the start of each year, the lord of the manor would shout ‘waes hael’ and the assembled crowd would reply ‘drinc hael‘, meaning ‘drink and be healthy’.

A Wassail Bowl is a great thing, a vessel of carved wood or pottery featuring many handles for shared drinking, it is passed around an orchard amidst singing and shouting and was especially popular in the cider producing counties of the Southwest, primarily Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset.

Wassailing is a traditional ceremony where in the depths of winter, apple tress are sung to and blessed on the eve of twelfth night in anticipation of a heavy yield the following autumn.  It normally takes place at night where a Wassail king or queen will lead a procession around the orchard singing loudly and making much noise.  The king or queen is then lifted into a tree where he or she will hang toast from the wassail bowl that has been soaked in a hot brew of mead, ale, honey and spices of cinnamon, ginger and roasted crab apples from the previous years crop.  The assembled crowd will then shout, yell and bang pans and a shotgun is usually fired into the trees to frighten away evil spirits that would otherwise spoil the crop.  The king or queen will then go to the oldest tree in the orchard which harbours the oldest spirit and pour some of the mead around the base of the tree as an offering of respect.  The fertility of the entire orchard is said to reside in this spirit, known as the Apple Tree Man in Somerset.  It is then customary to sing the wassail song:

Its our Wassail, jolly Wassail, joy come too our jolly Wassail.

How well the May bloom, how well the May bear, so we may have apples and cider next year
Hats full, caps full,
Three bushel bags full, and little heaps under the stairs
Hip Hip……HURRAH!

The Carhampton Wssail, one of the oldest in the country

In Bridport, our own local troupe of morris dancers will be entertaining the crowds at the Bridport Wassail on Sunday the 21st January from 3pm onwards with traditional folk music and morris dancing with sticks and hankies.  Livingstone Textiles are proud to supply Wyld Morris with the bells, ribbons and tatter coat fabrics required for their kit.

 

Wyld Morris are based at Monkton Wyld Court at the sustainable living community to which they contribute towards funding in return for a practice space in their beautiful pine hall on Wednesday evenings.

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Folk Festival 2017

Bridport is known for its ambience and hosts some lively community festivals.   We also have a vibrant music scene in the town, one genre of which is Folk Music and a handful of regular folk music performers have decided to showcase some of the best local talent in Dorset by hosting the First Ever Bridport Folk Festival. What’s more, it’s a Free Festival!!

Folk music, song and dance are part of our rich British culture and it is positively thriving among the young and old alike in the town and deep into the hills of Dorset.  To showcase our heritage, The Bridport Folk Festival will be hosting over 76 acts, more than 50 of these acts are musicians that will be singing and playing at several venues across the weekend of the 11th, 12th and 13th of August.  There will be 3 main stages all within the town centre, one in Bucky Doo, one in The Borough Gardens and the main stage will be on the Millenium Green. All stages are free to enter and any money collected will be shared in half with the RNLI.

Livingstone Textiles are very proud to have supported this event with both sponsorship and materials to build the stage sets and providing a venue large enough for a community sewing bee to stitch the vast quanities of extra wide calico needed for the stage roofs.  The calico that has been used is 3 metres wide from selvedge to selvedge so it’s ideal to use as a lightweight cover in the event of showers and as shade from the sun.  The stages will also be featuring backdrops made from our polycotton plains and draped with our two tone organza and we’ll be featuring pictures of these on the blog after the event.

marble

 

Folk Festivals are renowned throught the UK and as well as the numerous song, dance and instrument workshops that take place are always the Morris.

Morris dancing can be traced back at least to the time of Shakepeare in our country and it is widely believed that the Moors people brought it here when they settled in this country, hence Moorish/Morris dancing.  This is just one of many different theories but one things for certain, it’s certainly not just for men.  We have some great female and mixed dance teams in Dorset and they can all be seen dancing enthusiastically throughout the summer at West Bay, Bridport, Charmouth, Lyme Regis, Swanage and at many small villages between from May to September.  Livingstone Textiles holds a vast stock of ribbons and bells, threads and fabrics and are suppliers to Bridport’s very own morris team, Wyld Morris, based at Monkton Wyld, Bridport.  They have recently furnished themselves with colourful tatter jackets made from scraps of fabric that we’ve supplied along with their own odds and ends.  Indeed, Livingstones has it’s very own incognito Morris dancer working in one of the shops!

58ee4d418ded6050a363dc2c_Morris_dancers_0094_600

 

 

 

 

 

 

We regularly see the local Morris dancers in our shop getting ribbons, fabric and other habadashery supplies they need from us so we are all very excited about this event.

For more information on the folk festival please visit their website.