‘A Druid’s Pilgrimage’ is a documentary about modern day Druids and what they do. The documentary follows the narrative screenplay of a young girl, Gemma, who stays with her aunt and uncle, only to catch her uncle in his robes and performing a prayer to a tree. Her uncle introduces her to the concept of Druidry and takes her into the Derbyshire countryside on a pilgrimage. Asking questions along the way, Gemma learns about the spiritual path, the outdoors and herself. Throughout the film, footage of interviews with real-life, Druids will be shown to answer either one of her questions, or to back up a point the characters discuss.
How and why did I get involved?
In that weird and wonderful way of being contacted by a friend, who has a friend who knows a friend making a film. Seeming that I was one of the few Druids my friend knew who might be up for getting involved, he contacted me, then I was put in contact with the film director Roly Keates.
Roly had made more than a few documentaries previously, all based in Derbyshire: ‘The Wheel’ – a documentary about a spring in Belper. ‘If Walls Could Talk’ – the Romanticism of Drystone Walling. ‘Shred of Rome’ – A documentary on Romans in Derbyshire. ‘Lost History of Belper’ – a historical look at Belper, Derbyshire.
After talking with and meeting Roly, I felt relaxed in that he was sincere and genuine in his interest regarding Druidy. He came across it and felt it important enough to make a doumentary on the subject. I was initially an advisor, telling him my interpretation of Druidry as well as what little we know of them historically. In talking and chatting, and yes I had mentioned I am an actor, he asked if I’d be interested in playing the part. Well, I wasn’t going to say no to that kind of opportunity!
So, why did I do it? Because there is so little media representation that makes Druids and Pagans look good. Let’s be honest, we’re often portrayed as either being middle-aged hippies to be laughed at best, or robed lunatics seeking attention at worst. After talking with Roly about his project and seeing for myself he was taking Druidry seriously and wanted to portray this in a good way, I figured this would be a good thing for modern day Druidry and Paganism too.
What did I learn from it?
I learned to see Druidry through the eyes of another, how they perceive what I practice in a different light. The character I played (Dylan, very apt as that’s also my stage name) saw Druidry as a force for good in the world and seeking harmony in our existence. This made me realise how ‘bookish’ my Druidry tends to be and made me question how much and how little I actually practise it in my everyday life. I also learned that I can never learn my lines enough. One scene includes a huge monologue which, when filming, I just couldn’t stop getting wrong! I was very frustrated with myself but I learned something valuable: it’s not enough to know your lines, you have to know them backwards and upside down too. Kinda goes without saying, really, but hey-ho.
I learned how essential it was to use play to make my co-star feel at ease. By this I mean the girl who played Gemma, whom at 11, was playing in her first proper film. I felt it important for her to be relaxed, so we got to know each other through chatting, making faces at each other and playing games in between takes. Apart from going through our lines too! By the end, we’d developed a good camaraderie and when Roly told us to talk amongst ourselves in the Pilgrimage shots. It might look like we’re in deep conversation, but we were really talking about favourite colours, what our pets are like, pop songs and even a one-word-story game. She was cool, we made each other laugh.
Not really something I learned, but feel I have to say was how beautiful the Derbyshire countryside is. Whether it was standing before the oldest pear tree in the county (In Roly’s Aunt’s huge back garden, no less!), walking up to the stone circle at Arbor Low in both sunny and cloudy weather, walking amongst the buildings of Magpie Mine, sitting on rocks in a stream at Shining Cliff Woods, or standing on tall rock and visiting the “Druid’s Chair” at Harborough Rocks.
Would I do it again/get involved in another project like it?
If we had to reshoot something, absolutely! Would I do another project like it? No. Once I finish a project, I consider it done, so why would I do another of a similar ilk? I enjoyed performing in this one and I’m looking forward to it’s completion. If there was another documentary being made on the subject, I’d have to question the maker before joining in.
Well, hello there! It’s been a whilst since my last blog post. Sorry about that. Life stuff. Will explain later, I promise.
For now, I Just wanted to share this link showing a clip from last week’s filming.
I’ve been involved in a documentary about Druids called ‘A Druid’s Pilgrimage’ Directed by Roland ‘Roly’ Keates. In fact the snippet shows me (under my actor name “Dylan Knight”) playing in the drama narrative that threads the interviews with real life Druids together. I’m currently on day #3 of filming and can’t wait to see it when the whole thing is done.
Anyway, here’s the link, sorry it’s on FB at the present, but more blogs will follow in regards to making it as well as the premier.
Go and put the kettle on and make yourself a drink….. Locksley’s been offline a few months and now, he’s turned up and written this long post!
How I got involved (aka- ‘Oh boy was I suckered’…..)
BA: Locksley, auditions are next Thursday at…….. School for our new, original community theatre musical ‘The Last Revolution’.
Me: Thanks guys, but I don’t sing so I’ll have to miss this one out. Thanks for letting me know though!
BA: Locksley, what can we say to convince you to join in? We’re running low on men, we’ll even give you a non singing role!
Me: ……. Ok, when is it being performed? I have another project in the Summer that is tbc.
BA: 23rd-25th June.
Me: …….. Ok, I’ll do it. Where’s the audition, again?
Me: (looking around in the audition) Hang on, there’s a lot of men here!…….
Was pretty much how the conversation went via text message with me and Big Adventures, the theatre company I worked with last year on their comedy version of Conan-Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles. The conversation took place in January and the production finished three weeks ago.
Acting, I do. Dancing is how I got into the Performing Arts in the first place. Singing? No. Just no. I still remember when in college, my mate, Dwarfer turned around to me during one singing session and said “Sorry, but I’m going to have to move away. You’re putting me off…..” Any confidence at giving singing a go was shattered after that. So I never did. There were the couple (only two come to mind) of times I went on drunken karaoke (is there any other way?), and the one time Pipes told me not to ruin Metallica’s version of ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ the one time I was actually trying…. Thanks guys, fuck you very much. So, I was content with absolutely no singing in my life. Ever. I even mumbled lyrics in the shower.
So imagine my terror when I discovered I had to sing in my audition! Luckily, it was part of a male ensemble, but then we had to sing individual verses……. I hadn’t been that scared for a long time: my heart beat was bursting from my chest, my stomach no longer existed and my legs wanted to collapse underneath me. Oh! And my mouth dried up. And then I started thinking about singing in tune….. How did it go again? What the hell does an ‘E’ sound like (I still can’t tell you)? What about pace and rhythm? And so it came to pass as the piano was played and my turn came up, my lyrics came out as: dhdydjfndiaa!?#+$%#!?@$%$ but hey, I made the acting audition!
We were called the week after and found out what parts we were given, and what did I do once I was given my script? I do what any performer does, skim the pages until I find my bits….. ‘Hang on! There’s lyrics here! And there are a few lyrics I have to deliver all by myself! Shiiiiiiiiiiit!’
Over the next few months we met every week for rehearsal, sometimes twice a week. And as time went on, I learned how to sing. Or hold a note, at least. The Director took care of, well- directing. Whether it was setting the scene, offering feedback or helping everyone with how to deliver lines or try scenes in a certain way (community theatre has a mix of people from different performing backgrounds, some of which had none. There were more than a few for whom this was their first show- everyone did wonderfully!) The musical director made everyone comfortable, often by joking with the cast or about himself. But he was good enough to know if you were struggling and help you get through it by being patient, persistant, firm but fair. They had both created ‘The Last Revolution’ and steered us with patience and enthusiasm.
I learned two things that really helped:
1, As someone new to the singing lark, I found you don’t actively think about keeping the pace, after doing it a few dozen times, it becomes automatic. You still need to keep an ear out for the tune, but it’s not something you can read about on how to do, you have to just do it and find it. So I stopped worrying. I found this easier to do live rather than listen to a recording and sing the lyrics to it.
2, I have a problem with thinking and listening and the same time. You can tell me your most painful secret, but if my concentration wanders, I won’t take a word in. More than a few times, I’d be over thinking a song or so busy acting something and getting involved in that thing (such as background chatter in character) that I’d miss my cues. I found this also applies to everyday life, too. To listen to you, I have to 100% stop what I’m doing and take in everything you say. Because I had to balance this and act as well as listen out for my singing cues, I learned how to do this! The trick is to appear busy and active, but actually am listening out…… Cats do it all the time.
What was the musical about?
The musical itself was based on the real historic event of The Pentrich Uprising of 1817. An event you won’t just find in your everyday history book. The uprising was the last act of rebellion against the Crown and His Majesty’s Government in England. Back then, the Napoleonic wars had just finished leaving the country financially drained. Poor harvests meant crops were lost (due to a volcano sending dust particles into the air and obscuring the sunlight!), the Industrial Age had created machines that replaced manpower and living conditions for the poor were squalid. In short, England was in a dissatisfied place indeed. Various uprisings around the country took place, but the Government got smart. They employed spies to go into places of known dissent, get the local communities fired up and snitch the rebels in. And this is exactly what happened to the revolutionaries of Pentrich. A government informer, under the alias of ‘William Oliver’ was sent into Derbyshire to find traces of rebellion, which he did. He also became involved with the local rebels and urged their leader, Jeremiah Brandreth to press on under the belief that various towns and cities were joining in and all ready to storm Westminster….. All they needed was the right man to start it all off. The men of Pentrich, Wingfield, all other surrounding areas (apologies to any readers from Derby, I’m not a local lad) came together on the very early hours of the 9th of June and began their course to Nottingham. It was at Nottingham they were told they would be met with other revolutionary groups from The North, they would receive ale, meat and money then march all the way down to London. It was raining heavily as they went from village, to village, pressing men into service along the way, taking weapons and dealing with deserters. One young man was murdered, being shot dead and before the men even reached Nottingham, a whole military force was waiting for them…… William Oliver had done his job well. In November that year, Jeremiah Brandreth and the other ringleaders, Isaac Ludlum- the Elder, William Turner were hanged by the neck until dead and beheaded for treason against the Crown. It was this event that lead to the formation of workers unions that are in this country today.
Interestingly, one other man was tried at the same time. George Weightman was sentenced to live out the rest of his days in the colonies of Australia….
What amazed me about the Uprising was the passion for it today from both the people of the areas involved and the descendants of those revolutionaries who were sentenced to Australia. There are societies in both countries taking great pride in their families involvement, as well as trying to piece together everything that happened. It turns out that the Government had kept this part of our history quiet, the only information released around the time were the newspapers, but the Uprising was brushed under to be forgotten. The families of those involved kept quiet so they could keep their homes and jobs, after all the excitement and failure what else could be done? Very soon, The Pentrich and South Wingfield Revolutionary Group will be granted access to the archives of the Duke of Devonshire. Perhaps more information of what happened will be revealed?
The Real William Turner
I had the pleasure of playing William Turner, a stone mason and ex-soldier. He was 46 years old when he was involved in the Uprising, ten years my senior! He was described as tall, but there are no other indications as to what he looked like. Neither were there any portraits. He was survived by his parents, siblings and his nieces and nephews, having no children of his own. The house he built for his parents still stands today! In the case files, he was described by witnesses as being keen for the march to proceed and knew of every weapon in his home village of Wingfield. He was one of the men who helped organise the Uprising and even led part of the force that made its way toward Nottingham (but never reached it due to the militia waiting for them). During his trial, Turner seemed to give in to the resignation of the fate that beheld him, he sobbed as he was charged ‘guilty’. In his last days, he was keen to show repentance before God and hoped to be spared….. That hope was dashed once he was sentenced to be hanged and beheaded for treason against the King. After days of despair, he put on a brave face for his family and prayed for forgiveness from God. Asking about the state of Jeremiah Brandreth, both he and Isaac Ludlum were distraught that Brandreth did not seek the repentance they wanted so much. Before his death, Turner cried out this was all the fault of the Government and William Oliver. Which, of course, they disapproved.
I played him as a frustrated individual who had come back from war to find there was no reward for those who returned, the countries money was tight, meaning the wages were considerably less than promised and once back home it was ‘Wham-bam-thank-you-very-much-now-off-you-pop‘. My version of William Turner was waiting for a chance to lash out at those who treated him and others as disposable, and was bitter until the end.
The real William Turner was, as mentioned, a former soldier. I can’t say why he wanted to revolt. Perhaps he saw something when he was at war? perhaps he was disgusted at the state of his country with the rich and poor divide? Perhaps he wanted to fight so his family could live without starving? Or maybe he just got caught up in the zealous energy of the idea of rebelling against the authorities. Whatever his reasons, Turner felt strong enough to make a stand to try and make the world better in some way. I was told by a cast member that one of his distant relations would be coming to see the show. I don’t know if they did or not, but I hope I portrayed their fated ancestor with the respect he deserved.
‘The Last Revolution’ is a proud moment in my life, I made some discoveries about myself and made many friends during the production. I did something I’d never thought I would and pushed myself out of the comfort zone. I also learned a piece of English history that seems to have been glossed over, when it was actually quite notable, even if it was ill-fated. The common people turning around and saying ‘No!’
It was an honour to be involved, an honour to perform and an honour to the memory of those who wanted “…. freedom and fairness for all!“
June. That was the last month I wrote something in depth. I have managed to write something every month or so, albeit in the form of a poem, a saying, or even a prayer.
Actually, I don’t feel the need to write anything in depth. No examinations of what those legends may actually mean, no breaking down of Pagan concepts (Classical or Modern), no questioning of the values or ethics around us. In fact there are so many people reeling from the political victory of Brexit and Donald Trump, there are plenty already questioning the world around them….
Whereas my investigative flair has faded to nothing. Nada. Zip. Diddley-Squat.
During August, I feared I might have severed the link between myself and my spirituality. Since the end of June, I dedicated myself to learning my lines for a theatrical performance. In August, I did the same with another, both of them are now finished and performed. Having embraced my acting self as my Bardic self, I have sought to regain and discover new skills for being the actor I want to be. As well as discovering the actor I am turning into.
It would be wrong of me to say I ‘put my life on hold’ because of the two plays. Sure, I became less socially active and my days off were dedicated to line learning as were my evenings after work and then there were rehearsals.
Performance is a discipline. It is hours of line learning, practicing the mannerisms of another person, working with the energy levels of your colleagues so the show does not lag. Remembering where to be in the right place at the right time, thinking within a split second of a replacement word if you end up forgetting the correct one and doing all of this with a huge adrenaline rush once you are doing it. To do that and more requires focus and discipline in yourself.
And so, I threw myself into this creative path. To me, it feels so right to do so. It has stoked my inner fires and is my main focus. Where I may not be performing my Bardic Rituals everyday (the last was before I moved house in June) I have come to understand this, at the moment, is not what I need in my life right now.
I still light my candles to my deities, ancestors and the spirits around me. I still honour the seasons that pass and celebrate them; I still give offerings and have even done a little research into Japanese Fox spirits. I have discovered my spirituality is in who I am, not just what I do. This has also allowed me to view my spirituality, my beliefs and my self objectively. And in this I have learned much, including belief in myself.
But for the time being, I will post when I can with what I can give.
After all, if one’s spirituality is only defined by one’s work with ritual, then what is ritual if not a performance?