Tag Archives: Halloween

Hallo again to Workhouse Wood 2018

Clown a

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

 

Halloween 4 – Hanging About, Feline Scared

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The fourth Art Plumstead Halloween Event began with a rendezvous at a specified meeting point on Winn’s Common. The assembled audience were comprised of a mixture of keen returnees and excited newbies. They were met by a ‘medium’, played by John who was to be their guide and chaperone for the evening.

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Slowly the party advanced down Lakedale Road before veering over onto the former gravel pit alongside the Paddling Pool. Above them, the silhouettes of the trees were outlined against the night sky, and three spooky figures in black moved down the slope by the light of flickering lanterns. There the audience was regaled with a reading by Alison of a self-penned piece based on the life of Edgar Allan Poe’s fiancee, Sarah. Meanwhile, two of the shadowy figures moved away to take their places for the next stage of the proceedings.

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The audience was led down a narrow pathway to the old boundary wall of the former hospital, nestling in the shadow of oaks and sycamores shedding the last of their leaves in the chill Autumn air. Here, Erik gave a dramatic performance as the unnamed narrator in Edgar Allan Poe’s story The Black Cat. Joss sticks and appropriate music set the scene for the final performance of the evening, an adapted version of A Hanging by George Orwell, performed by Kevin. After all that horror, the only way to lighten the mood was with a drink, much like the characters in the final piece. However, whereas they had whisky, we imbibed mulled wine, followed by a selection of beers from the Beer Festival in The Old Mill in honour of Andy’s special birthday.

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Halloween Free

The evening begins on an ordinary street in Plumstead

The evening begins on an ordinary street in Plumstead

There was no excuse for anyone to stay indoors if they didn’t want to on the warmest Halloween on record. While the players waited in their appointed area in the Nature Reserve in keen anticipation, Jan and John loitered on the pavement, dressed as a masked witch and in a kimono respectively. No-one could have missed them. By the time John had taught four volunteers how to repeat a simple Japanese phrase for use later, the crowd had swelled to just over twenty people. Exhorting them to be mindful of their wellbeing, their journey began.

The stage is set; the battlements

The stage is set; the battlements

The tension mounts

The tension mounts

...Hamlet, King, father, royal Dane...the ghost appears

…Hamlet, King, father, royal Dane…the ghost appears

The audience were led down the first set of steps to ‘The Gates of Hell’ where they encountered an exotic creature in big hat, feather boa and silk wrap. It was Alison who explained how, in times past, the Japanese scoured the country to gather spooky tales. She finished her set with a blood-curdling cackle. The torchlit procession wound its way down through the trees to the acting area, Music, smoke and flaming torches added to the atmosphere. A huge oriental banner set the scene; the battlements where Hamlet encounters the ghost of his father (or does he?), all with a Japanese flavour. Next, accompanied by eerie music, Erik told a mysterious tale of a strange maiden who appeared one day in a bizarre sea-craft.

A mysterious tale unfolds

A mysterious tale unfolds

John then re-entered the arena and gathered his four volunteers. As they repeated their phrases, the three torches were extinguished one by one. When the final phrase was said, the main light was killed to leave the audience in darkness. Then it was re-lit and the audience invited to linger while enjoying sake and authentic Japanese snacks. At last it was time to break the set and adjourn to the Old Mill. Art Plumstead’s Third Halloween had been a success, re-animating a long-stashed collection of Japanese costumes to provide a memorable experience at no cost to the audience.

And soon the darkness

And soon the darkness

Reviews

“Loved last night. Well done all of u” M D by text

“Dear Eric,dear All,

“What a marvellous experience you made for us – the journey into the unknown dark, alone but together, the touching humanity of small lights, and then arrival into a different world.The music and the trees circled all, like the princess’s boat,& gave such space to really listen to the spare words,as the stillness did for the masterful movement.
I didn’t think you could surpass Beowulf, but perhaps you did.
Thank you.
Till next year, please”
J by email
“It was such a wonderful happening. Thank you Art Plumstead for everything you do for us ! We are so lucky that you put on these performances which are interesting, stimulating and FUN. I loved it and I learnt something new about Japanese culture. The traditional tale of the woman adrift in the boat will stay with me – haunting!” J on Facebook

“Very enjoyable. 有難うございます” D (the Japanese translates as thank you very much -Erik)

“Thanks for a fabulously different Hallowe’en. Arigato gezaimasu!” D

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A Stroll in the Darkness

If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I might not have believed it – an open air promenade performance with 40 attendees, all organised and resourced by members of Art Plumstead. Luckily the weather was on our side, mild and dry with very little breeze to play havoc with the lanterns.

Halloween - a chance to get creative with a gourd and a lino cutter

Halloween – a chance to get creative with a gourd and a lino cutter

At the appointed time and place a veritable throng, some of them in suitable attire and carrying lanterns, gathered to hear about the origins of Halloween traditions in Europe and America, before being offered Soul Cakes, part of a late mediaeval custom that persisted in parts of England into the 20th Century. Then the audience was led on a mysterious route past a dazzling light to an area beside the pond where they were greeted with smoke, incense and the sound of drums to hear excerpts from Beowulf.

Erik holds the audience in thrall

Erik holds the audience in thrall

As soon as the acting area was plunged into darkness at the end of the performance, the audience was led to a different spot to enjoy mulled wine and savoury scones, while Alison performed her poem, ‘Beware the Banshee’. Then after a short interval, it was time to visit the final setting, where Erik read an adaptation of ‘The Sexton’s Adventure’, by Sheridan le Fanu. Meanwhile, let us not forget the vital input of Karen, John, Rose and Andrew who beavered away to make all the effects appear and disappear as if by magic, and everyone who entered into the spirit of the event by loaning equipment and bringing treats to share.

 

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Whoooo-ooooo!

Erik waits for the first arrivals

Halloween Evening saw two dozen local people gathered at a secret location on the windswept Winn’s Common, where they were regaled by Kevin with the Legend of Stingy Jack, followed by amusingly shaped jelly sweets to reference the Irish tradition of leaving treats outside the house on All Hallows’ Eve to deter spirits from entering the house and stealing the bodies of the living. Then all made their way to the specially prepared area, for the main section of the evening’s entertainment where Erik read them an Edwardian Ghost Story.

The audience listen, enthralled to Erik’s Tale

Refreshments, in the form of mulled wine were served to take the chill off while they were treated to an open air performance, not in a trendy part of London but right here, in Plumstead. Mercifully it didn’t rain, and although the savage gusts of wind saw off all but the most windproof of the lanterns made by Karen and Kevin, it allowed them to shine in the dark long enough to add to the spooky atmosphere.

The setting was perfect

After tidying up, a number of us went to The Old Mill where we discussed further ideas for future events. We now know, from experience, that aside from walks acting as a hook for a shared artistic activity, and home-based workshops staged in members’ own houses, that we can organise and deliver open air performances. We are fortunate in having plenty of settings around here that can serve as a backdrop for these in the future.

relaxing in the pub – beer and lanterns