Thursday, 14 September 2017

St Anne's Well

There is little known about St Anne's Well, an ancient holy well. Originally called Wealletune after the place-name Welton, East Yorkshire. It was adopted by Christianity and re-named St Anne's Well in c.1080. Prior to that it is believed to have been a place of pagan ritual, the well being a portal to the Otherworld. It's particularly meaningful to me as I played around the site of the well as a child. Unaware of the history beneath my feet at that time, I continue to be drawn back there in dreams.

"... the holy well stands before a long, if tiny and ill-lit, corridor of history with doors leading off into many unexpected and little-visited rooms..." James Rattue, author of The Living Stream.

The well has been covered with stone slabs for a long time, a tree has tried to grow over it.  It has been sheltered here over the years in the grounds of Welton House, a large estate which was demolished in 1952.

An archeological report made of an area near the well recovered early prehistoric, Iron Age, Roman and early medieval pottery from a  layer of ‘hillwash’ above the natural chalk; the presence of these pottery fragments testifies to early settlement in the vicinity of the site, including some which could date to the late 11th century, when the well came into being.  

Welton House 1923
I was fortunate to be granted access to the site recently and was delighted to discover the well and natural spring which is still seeping from the ground. For at least a thousand years, this ancient spring has served a multitude of needs. I hope to convey a sense of this timeless promise in the photographs below. 

The water is trickling into here. The well itself is about 3 metres to the right.
St Anne's Well (covered)

"In 1385 there was a well at Bisham (Berkshire) where a tame bird dwelt atop a tree, in whose nest offerings were left in return for the cure of sore eyes at the well." The Living Stream

My composition and film HOMEGROUND features footage showing the remains of St Anne's Well.

There are deer who have been on this plot of land for decades, they eat these leaves, a neat fringe.
Ganoderma Applanatum 
White Holly

Still from St Anne's Well
This is an excerpt from my 40 minute immersive soundscape, incorporating CymaScope imagery transcribed from the source audio by John Stuart Reid. It was first shown at Islington Arts Factory in April 2017 on the opening night of my solo exhibition How Shall I Get Elephants To Stay. And subsequently at Leeds Festival 2019 cinema tent, courtesy of Film Oxford.

Within the Cymascope instrument the surface of pure water offers a kind of super-sensitive membrane and by imprinting sounds onto the liquid surface, unique patterns of sound energy are created for every unique sound.

St Anne's Well is a meditative audio-visual experience designed to enhance an alliance with the natural world.

As the soundscape evolves, various bird calls sing out, while at the still centre is the heron. The heron is an enigmatic being richly featured in mythology and folklore. For me, herons can be the most beautiful creatures to grace our skies, and whenever I see one I instinctively feel it is a 'good omen;' somehow they chime with me.  In St Anne's Well, the heron may be both guardian or oracle, but always an enduring presence in our subconscious landscapes.

"Give the bird a gift. Open the portal to the Otherworld."

Ganoderma Applanatum

Ganoderma Applanatum, otherwise known as The Artist’s Conk. I found this one growing on a tree next to the well, I didn’t know its name at the time but thought it looked interesting so I took it as a memento. It was fed by St Anne’s Well, Wealletune. Apart from dreams where I roam these grounds and sleep in the water, wrapping it around me like a blanket, it is now tangible, I can hold it in my hand.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

A Child's Rumour

We were gifted with an unexpected visit by an unaccompanied falcon while making this film. We could see from the tags on her legs that her name was Ruby. She arrived in a very timely manner, a bell sounding her arrival; I had just asked the little girl in the film to run around an oak tree, as if to make a spell.

Ruby stayed for a while on the ground, and performing low swoops over our heads. Her raptorial presence amazed and inspired us. She then followed us from above as we walked home through the old, wooded pathways by the fields.

Perhaps our imagination exists beyond ourselves, reaching out for the things we love – and maybe all of nature is listening, waiting for a chance to reach back.

The photograph above is of a mysterious copse I knew as a child. There's a stone trough in the middle and someone said they used to put foxes in it, which is strange, and unlikely. At the time, however, our young brains imagined this to be true. I would love to know more about the copse and who planted it. The trees are like gnarly-limbed old ladies, boughs tangled together in their old age. It is quite something to step into their midst and wonder. 

In the sky beyond power lines, hulking ash clouds
the old tree, a colossus, leans backwards as if to catch the stars

I'm susceptible to ancient springs, melodious landscape
I'm pregnant with the child I was, still exploring branches

underground, a portal, all comfort denied
underneath a table, hard labour – Will Usher relayed the crime

I'm susceptible to mysteries, just like my sister
I'm pregnant with the child I was, still exploring rumour

rumour, a child's rumour
until our lives reveal the mess
our flesh grows around the rumour

caught up in the vast terrain of unanswered questions
jumping over the rose bush, laughing in the pouring rain.

This song is set in Welton, where I grew up. The second verse, "underground, a portal, all comfort denied, underneath a table, hard labour – Will Usher relayed the crime" refers to the sentence of Elizabeth Thompson who lived there. 

"Elizabeth Thompson on the twenty seventh day of October last, 1867, at Welton Wold, in the Parish of Welton, the said Riding, one table cloth, two sheets, two pillow cases and certain flannel of the goods and chattels of William Usher then and there being did feloniously steal, take and carry away contrary to the statute in such case made and provided. We adjudge the said Eizabeth Thompson for her said offence, to be imprisoned in the House of Correction at Beverley, the said Riding, and there kept hard labour for the space of three calendar months."

The truth is stranger than fiction ... gyr falcon x saker - Ruby

Before the falcon appeared, I had been making a puppet to be in this film for A Child's Rumour – she's called Mädchen. Her name, a nod to my German blood. Whilst I was making her, the following phrase played around and around in my head – we carry with us the shells of our grandmother's hearts.

Mädchen under construction

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

concept, film & music
composed, performed & produced
by © ℗ Gaynor Perry