Those were the numbers. 11 + 1; 11 + 1; 8 +3. The number of guests at my Digging Down events in the Yr Hen Ysgubor, the old barn in Nant Uchaf on Thursday 23rd April, Friday 24th and Saturday 25th . The +1, the absent guest. We set a place for them each night. Fragmented. Absent. We had +3 absent on the final night. No show-ers. But otherwise we were at capacity.
We sat round an L-shaped table to eat, discuss, explore the found objects and fragments dug from my garden, and questioning why we gather these things, what do they say about us, about the people who threw them away, about this place … as a way of understanding ourselves, our relationships, the universe and everything. In the next room, a store of objects sat, awaiting visitors to pick through, find and choose the pieces that appealed to them. We used these as the focus for the evenings, and the inspiration for the food. A cuckoo clock called every half an hour. But it was running fast. It was past, present and future. Jumbled.
I’ve written about what happened on the Thursday night, the ‘event proper’, the ‘sharing event’ that included a 7 course fragment-inspired meal, a mini dig, performance, sound scapes (including live streaming of the stream) and live music, with use of the table cloths as a way of recording what went on. It was an evening developed with my collaborators Chris. Dugrenier and Sam Fox for National Theatre Wales here:
Our Dramaturg, Louise Osborn, wrote a poem about the development process (including my transformation into a quarrywoman) here: http://community.nationaltheatrewales.org/profiles/blogs/digging-down-r-d-week-before-the-sharing-a-reflection-on-process
And Rhys Mwyn has a page about the evening in Herald Cymraeg section of the Daily Post today: See his blog here: http://rhysmwyn.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/digging-down-herald-gymraeg-6-mai-2015.html?spref=fb
On the Friday and Saturday nights, Gert Vos ran his Oren pop up restaurant https://orencaernarfon.wordpress.com/ in the same space, around the same table, working with the same table cloths to carry on the conversations. We carried on looking at the treasure, discussing what it all means, why we gather these objects, which ones appeal to us and why. The guests were all local, welsh-speaking (welsh-learning) on the Friday night. On the Saturday, half were holiday makers, Scottish and Irish, staying in Frongoch next door Coed Gwydr. A parallel: The barn, currently full of local ‘stuff’, will soon experience its transformation into a holiday home.
I few weeks later, I am just starting to follow the traces of those three nights, to work out what to do with them, and where to go next. I haven’t been able to do my usual immersion in photographs, my computer seeming to need two new logic boards in quick succession. So I’ve started with the table cloths. The words. Looking at them now, they offer tantalising glimpses of the conversations, the performances, the spilt wine, the coffee, the fragments under edible soil, the pulls where people left the table and moved places. I notice too, the absent records, what happened to the conversation about the special status of the practice ringed slates? What about the idea of the 3-day durational caban? The perfect fragment? Universal fragmentation?
I wonder if any individual person could piece together what happened? Perhaps we all have a part of the picture. Perhaps we all have different versions of events. I was there for three nights, and Gert too. But we remember different bits, interpreted things in different ways. Will David White's photos of the evening offer a different view? I’d like to document in a way that somehow offers partial stories, glimpses. You’ll have to dig down to find or create or imagine a whole. If you want to.
So for now, pending mending of logic boards and downloading of photos, here are some of the words from those table cloths, with thanks in particular to Martin Daws, Young People's Laureate for Wales.
Here is Martin's poem which I discovered on removing his chosen object from the midden, a circle decorated slate:
to hold time – own it – possess it
to take it with me
in my pocket
for a moment
a frozen breath
This is my work;
To stand at the end of time
Listening through my feet
Scratching the surface
Scribbling for bits
Pieces out of a life
I feel like I belong
Until my hands harden
In honour of working men
I will wait until the slate won't cut me
Then I will belong
Just next to this, added by Paddy on Saturday night, an excerpt from a Seamus Heaney poem:
"Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it."
Perfect! Martin says its from Heaney's most famous poem, Digging http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/177017 (thanks to Martin for the link!):
Originally conceived as a last supper, the Digging Down turned into a caban, for all comers, where anything goes. As Rhys Mwyn said, a ‘cultural event’, "Its about questioning things" wrote another, "It has inspired us all. It’s touched us all", "We should all do this… we collect … find the stories .. we should lay things out … create the place … remember the time … the people … A celebration! We are adrift!"
And so, as at the last supper, we have many more questions. It feels like it is - or could be - just a beginning…
With thanks to everyone who came, those who helped to make it, and who have helped in the aftermath, in particular to Simon Coates, Chris. Dugrenier, Sam Fox, Louise Osborn, Gert Vos, Jony Easterby, Ed Straw, Rhys Mwyn, Kate Lawrence, Maggi Pendrell, Shari Llewellyn, David White, Eifion Roberts, Gerallt y Wal and my welsh class, friends and neighbours. Diolch yn fawr iawn o'r galon.