Weaving willow magic at Springhead


A story full of humour, pathos and energy, based on ancient of willow farming, is just one of Artsreach’s ‘must see’ events this year, says Fanny Charles.

Willow planting, growing, harvesting and weaving. It’s one of Somerset’s most ancient industries, and it remained at the centre of life on the Somerset Levels until the middle of the 20th century. Whispering Willows, a magical open-air show by Somerset based Wassail theatre company, is a moving evocation of the changing life of a willow worker, coming to Springhead Gardens, Fontmell Magna, on Saturday 11th June as part of the 2022 summer programme from Artsreach, Dorset’s rural touring arts charity.
It’s 1929. Morris has been planting, harvesting, basket making and drinking tea on his Somerset willow farm since before he can remember. Every year the pattern repeats itself. Plant, harvest, weave.
Plant, harvest, weave…

…she’s a complete nuisance!
One day he pulls up a particularly large piece of willow with a girl clinging to the end of it! She eats too much, breaks everything in his workshop and is a complete nuisance. But as time moves on, they teach each other the ways of the willow. Planting, harvesting, weaving… the cycle continues, and all is well until the chaos of the Second World War and the invention of plastic threaten to destroy the farm and their livelihoods. Can they find a new use for willow before it’s too late?
Pack a picnic and join Wassail in Springhead Gardens for a beautiful, non-verbal story that’s suitable for
all the family, with puppets crafted from Somerset willow and an evocative original soundtrack. It’s a story full of humour, pathos and energy.

Also showing locally…
The Exchange at Sturminster Newton has two very different Artsreach events – a visit by contemporary dance company New Art Club on 14th May, and the stars of tomorrow’s stage, Bristol Old Vic Theatre
School on tour with Vanity Fair on 30th June. New Art Club’s Cupid’s Revenge is a comedy dance theatre piece, exploring love in all its many joyful, tragic, infuriating and hilarious facets.
One of the greatest English novels, Vanity Fair is a brilliant satire on early 19th century society. It is a tale of intrigue, survival and sexual politics starring the irresistible but deeply selfish Becky Sharp and sweet natured Emmy Sedley tumbling their way through the exploitative and hazardous playground of the English upper class in war and peace.

Stomping bluegrass
Stomping virtuoso bluegrass trio Old Baby Mackerel will rattle the rafters at Winterborne Stickland’s Pamela Hambro Hall on 1st July and Marnhull village hall on 8th July. The band’s songs dramatise the small-town fascination with locomotion, the trials of murderous drunks and the veneration of whisky and bootleg liquor.

Lucky pigeons
A new name on the local summer scene, Brainfools come to Stalbridge village hall garden on Sunday 14th August at 2pm, with Lucky Pigeons. A young businessman struggles with the demands of city life and, after losing his job, takes his frustrations out on a group of pigeons. Karma soon returns however, and the man finds himself turned into a pigeon, where he quickly learns about the playful world of this misunderstood animal. The show is performed by skilled circus and aerial performers.

by Fanny Charles


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