Here is a lovely account by Malcolm and Maurice of Wight Druids – a Grove based on the Isle of Wight - performing the opening ceremony at this year’s Bestival where they raised a 3,000 strong Awen chant with festival goers!
It’s not often the ancient world can truly be said to meet the modern, full-on, face to face. But that could certainly be claimed for a recent event on the Isle of Wight, UK by the Wight Druid Grove. Every year for the last ten years, the Isle has hosted a huge international pop festival called “Bestival”. On it’s tenth birthday this year with performers including Elton John, Snoop Dogg, Fatboy Slim and a host of other international stars, Wight Druids were invited to perform a Druid Opening Ceremony and Blessing for the event.
Wight Druids have performed the opening ceremony on a number of occasions previously, forming a circle on the ground with an audience of a few dozen at the event’s Healing Area. But this year, the Ceremony was elevated to the event’s second largest stage in the 3,000+-capacity Big Top.
Four members of the Grove were to lead the ceremony with other Grove members in support in the audience. To develop the minute-by-minute directions we were asked to produce for the stage manager’s crew, we met for a dress rehearsal the week before. With a script carefully crafted by Maurice (Druid) and Malcolm (OBOD Ovate) that was appropriate to both the occasion and our Druid beliefs, Maurice had also put together a video of our favourite Island sacred site “The Longstone” to project on to the screens either side of the stage while Malcolm had adapted some of his music for the event. And our ‘artistic director’, Eva, had put a lot of thought and work into creating the Quarter Flags our crew raised in the audience, as well as the Autumnal Altar in front of the stage. On the day, Mary-Ann might have had the toughest job, trying to create our circle with her horn-tipped staff without tripping over the vast number of cables, lights and sound equipment that littered the huge stage! The amount of planning and effort that went into our ’20 minutes of fame’ on stage at Bestival September 2013 was actually quite phenomenal.
On the day, the crowd of Bestival-goers were kept outside the Big Top as our ‘artistic director’, Eva, set up her Autumnal Altar in front of the stage. When finally unleashed, a huge tide of merry music fans swept into the arena. As Malcolm’s special intro music kicked in, the crowd were warming up as much as we were and the Big Top resounded to the chant “We want the Druids, We want the Druids”! Then, with TV/video cameras either side of the stage trained on us, Malcolm entered, stage right, to open up our rite and ceremony. Happily for us, the audience loved it, even joining in as we made our Quarter calls and affirmations.
The highlight, however, was certainly our traditional Awen chant. Led by Malcolm, a sea of voices sounded out an electrifying three waves of overwhelming chants of ‘Awen’, easily raising enough energy to power the whole Island for the weekend. Whenever we mentioned the word ‘Awen’ after that, the crowd roared, apparently hoping we’d do the chant again. As we finally prepared to process off-stage to a Celtic Jig composed and produced by Malcolm, the audience were dancing about on the floor of the Big Top like demented folk.
Backstage after Ceremony – Mary- Ann, Maurice and Eva – (insert Photo 2)
Reflecting afterwards backstage over a cold beer, courtesy of the stage manager, it somehow all seemed to have been well worth the huge effort we put into it. Potentially there are now up to 3,000 more people – and young folk, at that! – who now know what Druids do, though they probably previously would have had no idea. And if and when the Bestival footage turns up on YouTube and/or on Channel 4, as it usually does in due course, that audience will be hugely magnified.
We might be a relatively small Grove on a little pebble of an Island off the south coast of England, but we’re currently feeling quite happy (maybe even smug!) that we might have created gentle ripples that could potentially radiate around the world. And, in our own humble way, perhaps also created a simple fresh link between our revered ancestors and the next generation to walk these lands. Full-on, face to face. As newly fledged ‘celebrities’, we reserve the right to dream …