Category Archives: Performance

Virtually Perfect Poetry Competition

Although things have been ‘a bit quiet’ since the New Year, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been stirrings of activity within Art Plumstead. The online Improshrews sessions have continued and recently the annual poetry competition took place via Zoom. Obviously it wasn’t the same as being in the Old Mill, but speaking as a spectator, it worked. Everyone could have the drink of their choice to hand during the proceedings and the muting (and unmuting to allow applause) was centrally controlled by John who appeared as usual in a tuxedo and managed the whole evening.There were over thirty entries which were whittled down to three sets of four which were performed by a selection of readers. From these the most popular in each cohort went forward to be judged in the final round. This time, instead of collecting pieces of paper it was simply a case of each audience member privately messaging John with the letter assigned to their favourite poem to be totted up. In theory, if there had been hordes of listeners, it might have been a problem but as there was a similar number of people who would have been at the live event (34 or so) it worked like clockwork. As is often the case in the previous competitions there were a couple of very close rounds, which added to the sense of excitement. It helped that by now the format is familiar.

There were a few issues with the technology – Sparky’s Magic Piano came to mind a few times – but it was still possible to listen and react to each poem. The results were as follows

Plumstead Poet Laureate 2020 – Sarah Myers – There’s No Art
Runner-up – Graham Buchan – Noise
Third place – Jane Lawson – Christmas Day at the Foodbank

Sadly, the laurel wreath couldn’t be presented by the previous poet laureate, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology, each winner was able to see the medal they had been awarded with the assurance that it would soon be winging its way to their address for gloating or modest pride depending on their temperament.

 

Passionate about Conceptual Art

Art Plumstead take Conceptual Art very seriously, to the extent that an evening is devoted to it every Plumstravaganza in the garden of The Volunteer. This year’s entries were more in the spirit of the movement in that the artefacts were relatively simple, and had to be explained for them to make sense. As usual, Alison as curator of the exhibition was suitably attired for the occasion (see above).

Themes covered a range of social and political issues, quite serious at times but without being too po-faced. it was Monday night, after all. For instance there was a short interactive performance piece involving the audience’s consumption of passion fruit, symbolising the inadequate protection of historical buildings by outdated protocols – shown by a flimsy basket made from an old magazine – which, once they are disposed of or destroyed can never be recovered.

 

The magic piece of glass highlighted the way in which it becomes possible to place one’s bum very close to someone’s face in a public situation which wouldn’t normally be acceptable when seated on the tube or DLR. The Death in Greenwich exhibit was a comment on the environmental damage wrought by cruise ships arriving at Greenwich. Erik improvised a skit about house buying with reference to a bird box that just happened to be lying around the garden along with a brimful ashtray. There was a presentation about who should be consigned to a Wicker Man for their relentless unnecessary questions, an exposition about the meaning of the letter yaz in the Berber alphabet, and a tongue-in-cheek funding bid for a series of sculptures made from found objects in multiple locations covering the themes of loss, bereavement, separation and regret.

After all the exhibits had been explained and discussed, it was time to mingle and make plans for Halloween, before making the epic journey up the hill to The Old Mill where Dee blagged a selection of bar snacks to help us concentrate.

High and Dry

The foul weather of Saturday was safely over by the time Art Plumstead hosted a stall at the Shrewsbury Park‘s Lark in the Park a day later. There were plenty of other stalls in the main area and several types of food on sale along the path leading to the field where the dog show took place. Live music was provided by a number of different musicians and John and Rob went around promoting PLUnk, Plumstead’s week of International Music

Art Plumstead’s stall sold cards, small paintings and hairsticks (handmade and gender neutral, as you would expect). It was jazzed up by a length of Hungry Caterpillar bunting from The Woolwich and Plumstead Roses WI lucky dip jar raffle at Make Merry in June; this is already its second outing since then, so it was £1 well spent. When we weren’t selling our wares, we were using the time to capture the atmos. Meanwhile Martin practised calligraphy to publicise the classes he will be running from September at Shrewsbury House.

The Fair finished at 4 pm, which allowed time to go home down the hill, quaff a mug of tea, then nip over to the well-attended Plumstead Live on Winn’s Common for more mingling with familiar faces accompanied by more live music. There had also been the final concert in the Plumstead Peculiars Concert series during the afternoon but you can’t be everywhere at once. Still, we could console ourselves with a cooling pint from the beer tent.

Rain Didn’t Stop Play

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Midsummer 2019 saw a first for Art Plumstead when they presented their own pantomime Jayden and the Beanstalk. Introduced by the world weary narrator in the guise of Dick Whittington’s cat, it told the tale of the dastardly Dick Day and his plans to drive people off the Common so he could build a vast mansion there. To assist him in his plans he had ordered a dragon from the website Wickedpedia (which his friend Dirty Dee Dudwin had told him about) to terrorise the denizens of Plumstead and kill off Ron Rattail, the organiser of the Community Market. However, because he had bought it cheaply it had one fatal weakness. More of that later.

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For now, in Scene 2, life in the Community Market continued as usual, with the two long term stall holders (old friends and arch enemies) Sally and Millie selling their wares – bakery and macramé. Being unaware of Dicks fiendish plot they both had a crush on him. There was a certain amount of innuendo which naturally, none of the children understood. Quite a few adults didn’t get all the rudery but they certainly understood it when Sally and Millie raved about how much they liked Dick! The love interest came from the attraction between Dick’s nephew Robin and the new stall holder Jayden of the Uphill Gardeners on Shooters Hill. Much to the two ‘ladies’ chagrin, Ron Rattail had arranged for Robin to provide a musical interlude at the Market instead of their offering and although initially miffed, they soon appreciated the song – as did the audience. They also appreciated the – real – cakes that were distributed as Millie’s ‘new line’ to try out.

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Who can stop the dastardly Dick Day?

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Dick discusses Fire Watch with Ron

Soon, the children were besides themselves with even more glee at the water pistols that appeared in the next scene when Dick demonstrated to Ron how to use them to control fires on the Common as part of his taking over the Common Fire Watch. This scene featured a certain amount of buffoonery with both Dick and Ron squirting each other – and of course the audience, old and young. Then the duplicitous Dick sent Ron to the other side of the Common as per his plan for the dragon to pounce on Ron. Cue plenty of ‘behind you’ as the dragon sneaked up on Ron. Surely all was lost?

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The dragon is about to pounce!

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The evil Dick Day is brought on, ensnared by Sally’s macramé

Well, no. Earlier, Dick had lent his mobile phone to Jayden to film Robin performing at the Community Market before it was returned to him via Robin. It was still in Robin’s possession when a text message came through from Dirty Dee Dudwin. Encouraged by Jayden he read it and learned of Dick’s vile plot. The second text message that came through moments later gave away the one thing that could destroy the dragon. At once, they fled the scene into the woods on their mission of mercy, together with Millie who had wandered onto the scene picking flowers (much to the chagrin of one little nature boy who had earlier informed the steward that he had been looking for crickets) They emerged just in time to see the dragon preparing to swoop on the hapless Ron who had fallen to the ground. While the dragon relished the moment before falling on his prey, Ron called out ‘kick him up the bum!’ – for this was the dragon’s one fatal weakness – and with one well aimed boot up the bottom, the dragon was slain and Jayden had saved the day. The dastardly Dick was then brought on, ensnared in a piece of Sally’s macramé – so it had been useful, after all! This time, the two dames were allowed to lead the cast and audience in their song, the words for which just happened to be printed in the programme. After which, orderly bow and exeunt cast.

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Sally gives Millie a different kind of ‘flour’ from the one she was expecting. “They’re balloon flowers. Close your eyes and make a wish” said Sally – “No, on second thought, they’re Poppies!”

Now, in all the excitement at the market over Dick and encouraging the audience to admit how much they liked Dick as well, Millie and Sally had missed out a bit of entertaining nonsense which was supposed to have happened as part of their ongoing rivalry. Luckily, since the audience had enjoyed themselves so much and didn’t want to go straight home, the routine was duly performed by popular demand as a brief vignette and served as an encore, after which all the cast came on and milked the adulation with freestyle bowing and general showing off. Finally, Art Plumstead’s first ever pantomime was over. After dropping off various props and bits of costume, the cast, crew and hardcore supporters adjourned to The Old Mill for a well-earned refreshment or three.

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For those who didn’t make it on the night and wish they could have seen it, click on these links in turn. It’s sheer hokum!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Hallo again to Workhouse Wood 2018

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A horrible clown came along

Art Plumstead’s Halloween Event returned to Workhouse Wood this year in a slightly different format, with people invited to share their own ghostly stories to supplement the planned programme of entertainment. The motley crew began assembling on Winn’s Common shortly before 8 pm at the top of the steps leading down into the woods, with a hi-viz jacket or two helping nervous first-timers find the meeting place. In all, 18 people (plus one dog and who knows how many restless spirits) came along. Making a last sweeping pass of torches across the expanse of grass for any latecomers, Kevin led the party down into the bosky gloom and the divertissement began.

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The adventure begins

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Kevin reads Part Two of Abraham’s Boys by the Chestnut Tree

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Same scene, different camera!

After a brief foray into the woods the first performance site was reached. The story was an edited version of Abraham’s Boys by Joe Hill (read the full text here). As it divides naturally into three parts, the further two sections were read out as the group traveled further and further into the murky woods. Mysterious ornaments, made from bunches of herbs hung from the trees. Ever and again the more discerning noticed the faint smell of lavender. There was even a mysterious shrine to add to the eerie atmosphere, featuring Moriarty the cat who appeared in Art Plumstead’s Halloween two years ago and apples cut crosswise to reveal the star shape so beloved of witches.

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Moriarty the glittery cat peeps out from the Halloween shrine

The final part of the tale was read out at the site of the old pig sty, before John told a true tale of Mary Wickens , the Blue Guardian, who was in charge of the welfare of children at the Woolwich Union Workhouse at 79b Tewson Road Plumstead. Set in the 1870s it is the tragic story of the death of two small sisters and Mary’s ghost that roamed the hospital afterwards trying to right the wrong she had done. Then Margaret described the spooky goings on at The Cage in St. Osyth, Essex which have forced the owner to put the property on the market – no takers so far. Finally, after Erik’s recital of the 1899 poem Antigonish by William Hughes Mearnes, there was a lighthearted improvised question and answer session about the supernatural hosted by a three-headed monster performed by John, Mark and Erik. No ghosts materialised, and crucially nor did the promised heavy rain. When all the tales were over, mulled wine was served before the crowd dispersed, some going to The Old Mill for an extra drink to calm their nerves, and the rest fleeing for the safety of their own homes, vampires permitting.

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Whooooo!

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The true tale of The Cage in St Osyth, Essex

The three headed expert answers questions on the supernatural

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Taking a bow

 

Volunteering to Share Ideas

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The blood, sweat and tears of everyone involved in planning Plumstead Make Merry

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Conceptual Art is a serious business

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The first concept is explained

Art Plumstead hosted its second pop up Conceptual Art show in the garden of the Volunteer on Plumstead High Street. When it was launched last year, the intention had been to debunk the idea of conceptual art by sending it up. In the event, all the pieces had been carefully considered and encouraged serious thought and discussion.

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Mottainai – tribute to Japan or cultural appropriation?

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How to have a reasonable debate

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Plumstead – please don’t judge a book by its cover!

This year an equally thought-provoking collection of exhibits was assembled with displays exploring the power and meaninglessness of advertising, waste in the fast fashion industry, the unfairness of judging a book by its cover, how something entirely false can be used to accomplish positive ends and the dichotomy between the desirability of slimness in one part of the world compared to another. A good proportion of the exhibits didn’t seek to establish one absolute view over another but to air an idea and encourage a balanced opinion. The pictures and text can only hint at the meaning behind the art pieces presented on the evening, and the only way to fully appreciate them was to have been there.

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Same world, different problems

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So, which one came first?

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They are their own work of art

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Real or fake – and does it really matter?

By the end of the evening, a range of theories had been aired and examined through animated conversation, all accompanied by a drink or two. There was plenty of non-art related chatter at the same time because after all, participation in Plumstravaganza is entirely voluntary.

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Luckily, Alison was on hand to see that no Crimes against Art were committed

 

 

A Reason to Rhyme

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No Plumstravaganza would be complete without the Finals Night of the poetry competition at The Old Mill. The audience gathered in small groups around each table to hear a selection of poems which were being heard in public for the first time. One of the supporters had traveled from Forest Hill and two of the poets had even traveled across the water from Canning Town and Camden Town respectively. The lurid green spot light added drama to the announcement by John that as the previous two winners hadn’t entered this year, it would be a new person winning first place.

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The initial stage of the competition had already run behind closed doors whereby all submissions had been scrutinised and a selection of poems earmarked for performance on the night, either by the poet or by one of the actors who had formed the judging panel. However, for the Finals Night the poems – like the pickles in December – are peer judged, with poems being heard in three groups of four in each heat. The winner of each heat goes through to be judged against the other winning poems, before the overall winning poem is selected and the author crowned Poet Laureate of Plumstead. John kept the audience entertained with snippets of information while the votes were counted, such as that William Wordsworth lived in Nightingale Vale in 1835, and Albert Craig made a tidy sum selling his poems in the first Arsenal programmes.

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The team of vote counters were kept particularly busy during the last stage. There was only one vote between third and second, and second and first place. As last years winner wasn’t available, the presentation of the artisanal laurel chaplet – made from locally foraged organic bay leaves  – was made by Her Most Gracious Majesty The Badge Queen of Plumstead. Third and Second place went to James Miller from Canning Town, but this year, the Laurel Wreath was won by Caroline Barnett who was born and bred in Plumstead. It had come home.

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A Fine-tuned Performance

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The penultimate concert in the Plumstead Peculiars concert series became an unexpected informal Art Plumstead meeting, with several members of the group turning up independently to enjoy the Abraxas Ensemble. It was a treat to sit in the cool interior of the Ascension Church away from the heat of the afternoon and enjoy a vibrant medley of familiar classical tunes played with panache and good humour. By the end, everyone felt thoroughly invigorated.

As always, there was tea and cake served by volunteers with a chance to mingle. Donations to the retiring collection are split between the church and the musicians. There is only one concert left in the series featuring Julia Macdonell on horn and Alexander Thomas on harp so if you are interested to find out what is on offer, Sunday July 22nd is your last chance of the summer!

 

 

 

The Plumstead Wyrm. A Tale for Midsummer.

 

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The Wyrm?????

Art Plumstead’s Midsummer event was a bit different in style from the last couple of years, having a different artistic director, but it took place on the 21st June as before, and there were still a few floral headdresses to be seen to help set the mood as well as the knee tremblers from last year.

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Starting at The Star Inn, there was a chance to mingle and for the early birds to have first dibs on a variety of jaunty head adornments, freshly constructed from local greenery that very day. This prepared them for a brief synopsis of the tale of The Plumstead Wyrm (pronounced worm), penned by our own Poet Laureate Dee, whereby the key players of the piece were identified before a brief rhyme, accompanied by a ringing of bells, explained how everyone would know when it was approaching time to move on. Naturally, it included the words ‘Hey Nonny-Nonny-No’ as you would expect.

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The assembled party then moved in a suitably jolly fashion to The Old Mill where the Resident described what a Wyrm is and what is a Penwyrm – someone who helps the Wyrm. With another jangle of bells, all present trotted off down the steps to the Slade Pond. Here, the Wyrm spoke for the first time to describe its birth on Shooters Hill in the River Woghbourne that ran down to the Thames. Jelly worms were distributed to munch on the next stage of the journey.

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After the bells jangled for the penultimate time, the audience climbed up the opposite flight of steps, walked past the young men playing volleyball and all the way to the far end of Winns Common. This was the setting for the waves and the wind to give advice to the Wyrm, describing local characters, some of whom seemed to bear a remarkable resemblance to certain members of Art Plumstead. The knee tremblers and party blowers were issued to the participants who went clattering down Purrett Road and into the Plume of Feathers. By now, the person who was to play the Wyrm had mysteriously disappeared.

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The grand finale in which the Wyrm and lover are reunited took place in the garden of The Plume of Feathers. Just to add to the excitement there had been recent works undertaken to excavate the old Anderson Shelter since the previous planning visit by Art Plumstead. This meant the Wyrm had to make a last minute change of hiding place (against the wall with a few wisps of ivy pulled across) before emerging. Thanks to a couple of handy umbrellas and a biddable audience who were happy to be shepherded into the lower part of the garden, no-one suspected a thing. As the imaginary curtain fell, there was a round of applause, the playwright heaved a sigh of relief and beer a-plenty was consumed before those who remained to the last tottered back up to the Common where a memento of the nights revelry was suitably displayed.

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The Woghbourne today – Home of the Wyrms.

The attachment below is the script with directions.

The Plumstead Wyrm A.P. website copy.

And this is the bibliography.

The Plumstead Wyrm Bibliography version 2