Tag Archives: Winn’s Common

Rain Didn’t Stop Play

Panto cast 6


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.



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.


Who can stop the dastardly Dick Day?


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?


The dragon is about to pounce!


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.


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.

Panto cast 6

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

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.


The adventure begins


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


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.


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.




The true tale of The Cage in St Osyth, Essex

The three headed expert answers questions on the supernatural


Taking a bow


Halloween 4 – Hanging About, Feline Scared


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.


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.


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.



Plumstravaganza – Once more unto the Beech

Most of the people who came for the Edible Tree Trail had attended in Spring, but there were a couple of newbies to swell the ranks.

The route was exactly the same as before, but the intention was to retrace our footsteps and notice how the trees had changed since May. Broadly speaking, flowers had been replaced by fruit, with some more ripe than others. The Rowan berries, being fully red and ripe but not softened were at peak condition. They were not to everyone’s (anyone’s) taste, being tart and quite bitter. The meagre crop of Elder berries showed they were ready for harvesting because they were black, plump and beginning to droop. There are others in the vicinity which are more generously laden with fruit.

For some trees, the time for harvesting was past. The Lime leaves were no longer the succulent morsels they had been in May, and the flowers had been replaced by hard, dry fruit. These are alleged, somewhat fancifully, to resemble chocolate in taste when less ripe. They certainly don’t taste of chocolate in September. The Beech masts were evident, but apart from one that contained a nut, the rest were wizened and empty. Acorns from the Sessile and English Oaks were as expected, extremely tannic. However, after a while they had a surprisingly sweet aftertaste. Meanwhile, the Hawthorn had been completely cut down!


Plumstravaganza – Workhouse Wood 2

This was the first ‘official’ tour of Workhouse Wood led by Nick Day, but anyone who came to May’s Edible Tree Trail had already dipped into it as an added bonus just after we had passed the Sweet Chestnut tree. Then, we were grateful for the shade because that day was very hot. This time, the weather was somewhat cooler but humid.

The tour commenced with a look out towards the river and the main site of the workhouse. There is a boundary tucked down inside the foliage that has been the same since the 18th century. We then walked over to the southern entrance of the site, where Nick explained how the notice board had had to be replaced already, having been vandalised. The tour proceeded clockwise, with Nick picking up litter for the entire route.

At the north west corner of the site we lingered by the remains of the piggery. Nick explained that formerly there was a farm on this site, attached to the Workhouse. More recently, in the 1970s there had been several attacks on nurses in the hospital which is what prompted the erection of a much higher fence around the perimeter. In due course, the site became a dumping ground which is where PCEG stepped in. All the bricks lining the paths had been found on or around the common. Meanwhile 6 tons of metal, mainly the fence referred to above, have been removed from the site to make it more accessible. As more funding is secured, the area will be managed to maintain biodiversity and increase its use by the public.



The Tasty Dozen

IMG_5761IMG_5764IMG_5766IMG_5773IMG_5774IMG-20160508-01984No PMS students this year, but no matter, the twelve trees were the stars of the show for this, the second Tree Trail on Winn’s Common. For 2016 the focus was on recognising the different trees, describing what they are likely to look like in September – when the walk will be repeated during Plumstravaganza – and explaining which parts of each were edible.

IMG-20160508-01989IMG-20160508-01991At this time of year, it’s all about leaves. The succulent Common Lime leaves were voted the most palatable – but not everyone was up for a tannic treat from the Hawthorn, Birch and Beech trees. The point was made though, that all of us were only here because our long-distant ancestors had no option but to trudge around eating mainly leaves at this time of year. Something similar must have been the case in Africa, America and Asia. The Scots Pine infusion had to be for information only since its needles are high up the trunk and it is tucked away in the newly reopened (thanks to Plumstead Common Environment Group) Workhouse Woods. As a bonus, Nick Day gave us a sneak preview of the Workhouse Woods walk which he will lead during Plumstravaganza. It was beautifully cool under the shade of the burgeoning leaves. In the summer, Elder and Lime trees will provide fragrant flowers for snacking or drying for use in a tisane.

IMG-20160508-01993IMG-20160508-02000IMG-20160508-02002IMG-20160508-02003Come Autumn, and fruits and nuts will be in abundance. The Whitebeam will probably not deliver the goods, since the fruit on that particular specimen never seems to ripen even in an Indian Summer. On the other hand, it is unmistakeable since it leans at a very jaunty angle and will be useful for anyone wanting to learn what a Whitebeam looks like. Whether anyone has a go at making pickled Ash keys remains to be seen, but they will have to be ready to come back and gather them while they are young and fresh. It is a centuries-old recipe and was made during the war, when food was in short supply. Perhaps in September we could have a tasting of goodies made from the trees in this year’s Tree Trail!IMG_20160508_152005319



Midsummer Madness

Msummer birdmaking afterwardsThis year Art Plumstead decided to stay put instead of devising a promenade performance. It was just as much fun, but all in one place, on Winn’s Common. There were three different workshops running concurrently, aimed at all ages, because adults need to play too! The first activity was making a paper cockatoo, embellished with additional feathers and optional beak. As people finished, they were free to choose which of the next two activities they wanted to try next, which made space for the steady stream of new arrivals.

Msummer birdmaking 1Msummer birdmaking 2The second workshop was all about quick sketching in unfamiliar ways, such as with eyes closed, scribbling constantly to create a tonal study of the landscape, or using the opposite hand from usual. To end, everyone was invited to make a life study of Andrew, the facilitator, using all the skills that they had practiced so far. The final workshop was an informal group exercise that allowed freestyle weaving of natural materials onto a framework of branches prepared by Marje .

Msummer sketching 1Msummer sketching 2Msummer sketching 3Msummer sketching 4Msummer weaving 1Msummer weaving 2After all that sitting around it was time for a bit of physical activity in the form of dancing with partners, led by John and Erik, who were suitably dressed for the occasion. Weaving a bit of humorous banter into their teaching, they managed to coach the group through a routine involving steps, kicks and doh-si-dohs. To round off the festivities, we all adjourned to the Art Plumstead pop up bar, where snacks and drinks were on offer.

Msummer dancing 2

Msummer dancing 1Msummer dancing 3

Tree Trail

Tree Trail Sylv pic 1

A long time in the planning, the Tree Trail was first mapped out in the Autumn of 2014 before the leaves fell. But it was the involvement of the 6th Form Events Management students at Plumstead Manor that brought the site-specific illustrated talk to life with elements of performance. Twenty trees were graced with the presence of an attendant ‘tree spirit’ who drew attention to particular features of the tree, or deposited a clue to its identity – so the rough bark of the Black Locust tree and the characteristic leaves of the Whitebeam tree were caressed tenderly, while there was a bucket and spade by the Beech tree, and a citrus lime by the Lime tree, for example, before the spirits fled at the approach of the over thirty-strong crowd.

Tree Trail Sylv pic 2

To put participants in the mood before the Trail started, Erik led an actors’ workshop which would prepare them for the walking and later, singing, they would have to do. It wasn’t what people expected, but then nobody knew quite what to expect as they were led around a topographically interesting route albeit in a relatively familiar area for local people. Apart from being told which features to look for when identifying the tree at different seasons, there were interesting facts to be gleaned as the tour progressed. There were also references to the myths and legends associated with some of the trees, with witches featuring recurrently. Kevin, the walk leader, was assisted by his psychic sidekick John who was identified as ‘having the gift’ after a dramatic manifestation of ectoplasm near the Rowan tree, the first tree on the walk.

Tree Trail Sylv pic 3

At the penultimate tree, where an apparently discarded ash tray gave a clue to the tree’s identity, everyone recited the Firewood Poem after hearing about the Ash Tree’s sometimes confused sexuality. As the final tree had a German connection (Its wood is placed inside the house to protect against witches), Alison, as the only other person who could speak German, was invited to steal across with Kevin to the tree and take a few red leaves while the tree spirits were engrossed in their ritual under the boughs. Away from the tree spirits, the characteristic milky sap showed the tree to be a red variety of the Norway Maple. It was then that everyone moved across and enjoyed each other’s company while partaking of the refreshments laid on under the newly decorated tree which now sported the Norwegian flag as well as pom-poms.

Tree Trail Sylv pic 4

Stroll On!

What could be more evocative of an English Summer?

What could be more evocative of an English Summer?

The Midsummer Stroll was a resounding success, attracting over sixty participants and the occasion of several ‘firsts’ – Andrew made his acting debut in a scene involving several characters (another first) and there was live music provided as part of the event. Everyone joined in, wearing head dresses made from locally sourced greenery and walking round the facsimile Swedish Maypole in the manner of various animals. Refreshments were provided en route.

Erik demonstrates the Swedish Midsummer Maypole

Erik demonstrates the Swedish Midsummer Maypole

After making floral chaplets, the audience were led to the refreshment table. Then Erik told them about the origins of the Swedish Maypole with its characteristic twin wreaths suspended on the cross pole. Alison appeared from the side path as a hiking fairy and recited a verse, before fleeing. When the crowd followed in her footsteps. they encountered the Pyramus and Thisbe scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, before chancing upon John as The Green Man, resplendent in embroidered cape and lime green merkin.

Just another bloke in a wig or two - John as the Green Man

Just another bloke in a wig or two – John as the Green Man

The final leg of the journey took everyone through the margins of the Common to a secluded nook where two young girls demonstrated their skill with the clarinet, before Erik recited a solemn piece about the English countryside…before changing to an upbeat piece of music and inviting anyone who was willing, to parade across the Common, rustling and jingling, to the Old Mill where we congratulated ourselves and celebrated what we had achieved.