Annie Maw, Lord Lieutenant of Somerset was there to open the event with Vicar and host David MacGeoch. The event was covered by BBC Points West TV and broadcast on the evening news that night. There was also widespread local radio, digital and print media coverage.
Glastonbury was once known as the Isle of Dead and according to legend was a portal between worlds. The town has had a long tradition of marking our culture's day of the dead which is also known as Sowhain, Hallowtide or All Souls. Glastonbury is also a multi-faith community, so holding a festival here seemed a good fit for our first year.
The interior of the church was magically lit up by LED lights on fishing poles thanks to the genius and generosity of the light artist Bruce Monroe. All of the contributors to the festival did so for free which meant all events were free too.
Recognising that for many there is no opportunity to formally share and remember the dead, a passage of remembrance was created. A mini pilgrimage around the building, allowing visitors to remember their loved ones (including pets) in different ways in 3 side chapels set aside for the purpose. In the Memorial chapel visitors were invited to put up photos of their loved ones while a gentle soundtrack played in the background. The experienced bereavement team were there to greet and chat to visitors.
The memorial chapel was set aside for trees of remembrance. There were places where people could sit and write and if they wanted talk to each other, or the bereavement team member, many did. Deep conversations took place here and all over the building. People shared their experience of grief and death, love and life.
St.George's chapel offered a space where visitors could light a candle and sit and listen to the voices project: this was a specially curated recording of local people talking about death and dying. Many found the honesty and beauty of the stories very moving.
On the opening night Maya Love and the Singing for Joy choir performed songs that tend to grief from around the world. The audience joined in on much of the programme uniting choir and audience in a soulful and uplifting and unique experience.
The sounds of 'Tones, drones and sounds of joy and loss' filled the space for two hours. We wanted to give young people a reason to come along. Interviews of visitors on the day suggest that 2/10 visitors were under 25.
World renowned soprano Charlotte Church sang 'Gorecki's sorrowful' songs accompanied by the British Paraorchestra and Friends and conducted by Charles Hazlewood.It was first time Charlotte had sung with an orchestra in 16 years: she was inspired by the spirit of festival. The church was packed and the audience were deeply moved and gave Charlotte a standing ovation.
On Friday and Saturday visitors joined in a discussion forum. Grave Talk cards with topics gave people a place to start. Funeral directors from Forsey's, a local death doula and the Vicar of Glastonbury were there to support and answer questions. The sessions were very well attended and the question and answer sessions with the 'experts' after was very revealing.
Funeral debt can be a real problem for many famillies; we hoped to bring attention to this any many of the other practical issues and choices around death and dying so that people at the end of their life can make informed choices. A stand providing information was open all weekend and was kindly hosted by St.Margaret's Hospice supported by local death doula Marisa Picardo.
Henrietta Lang - Curator
Hosted by David MacGeoch - Vicar of Glastonbury
and St.John's church
The Bereavement team
The Welcoming team
The Catering team
Charles Hazlewood – music
Charlotte Church - music
The British Paraorchestra
Bruce Munro – lighting
Maya Love – sound
Members of the Singing for Joy choir
St. Margaret’s Hospice
Ashley Wild . Wild Tree Services
Phillip Welch - Glastonbury FM
Annie Maw – Lord Lieutenant of Somerset
Blue Cedar Printworks