Hippie Hoard retake Wiltshire
....The totem pole at Lower Pertwood farm, site of the Big Green Gathering, was
erected in July 1997, following discussions and an agreement between the farmer,
Mark Houghton-Brown; Brig and the B.G.G. management team; Nik and Marie Piper
for Green Crafts and the "Not just a Bunch of Carvers" group.
.... Mark invited the carvers to choose a tree from a stand of sycamore trees beside the festival site, which were due for thinning. The weather was hot as one of the largest, though bent, individuals was selected then felled and trimmed by Nansi and Tim. A design had been sketched out after consultation between the interested parties and this was roughed out on the log by chalk and chainsaw. This work was carried out in the seclusion of the wood as we knew from past experience that some festival goers have a less than positive attitude towards chainsaws.
.... It had been arranged for the log to be moved from the felling site to the carvers awning by tractor. When this failed to turn up it was decided to make the move by people power. A suitable number of lifting poles were trimmed and sling ropes tied. With 20 people lifting, two to each pole, some adjustments to sling lengths and a lot of coordination it proved surprisingly easy to move the log in two stages with just a brief pause halfway. After a few trials and considerations of shade and shelter it was raised on blocks.
.... It was only now that the serious, full on, hand carving began with often the three carvers, Nansi, Hobs and Tim, working on three different figures simultaneously. Mallet blows continuously weaving in and out of unison, the tree proved to be a nice piece to work on. .This was the longest period of the making, change taking place painfully slowly. The woodchips disappearing to light fires as fast as they sprung from the wood.
. .... As Sycamore is not a durable wood it was decided to char the bottom of the pole in the manner traditionally used for fence posts and the like to retard rotting. This involved a long night of rotating the pole in a carefully tended fire which roared in the rising wind. All this time the relentless carving continued, Hobs at times carving beneath the pole by the light of a tilly lamp and the bonfire which swirled by his feet.
.... Meanwhile, unnoticed around us the festival packed up and went home as the weather began to lose the feel of summer. James and Lol agreed to park their "decker" across the front of our canvas to provide a wind break and then joined us along with others in the next stage of the making.
.... The painting like the carrying proved to be another communal event as the pole beneath our many hands stroke by stroke came into being. All the while the carving continued, paintbrushes following fast in the chisels furrow. The activity becoming increasingly frenetic as the planting time approached. At one late stage a generator was started up, in contravention of the festival guidelines, to run a hairdryer to dry the paint on a crucial area. Meanwhile the wings were cut, carved, painted, fitted and then removed to avoid damage until later.
.... Unknown to us a hole had been dug by hand. Two feet across and five feet deep. A spectacular achievement in that hard, flint, Wiltshire ground. Even though the hole was a considerable distance from the carving site it was decided to carry the pole by hand following our earlier success. It was already beginning to darken as the impromptu procession of musicians, children, assorted types and caterpillar of pole carriers emerged from the camp and set off across the grassland. Then we were there, the butt was tentatively in the hole and ropes were attached. After pushing, heaving, pulling and a lot of standing back and checking for uprightness, the first handfuls of earth were thrown into the hole rapidly followed by shovelfuls firmly tamped into place. A truck was then backed up close and the wings finally attached. It was dark as, amid cheering and trumpeting, strong spirits were drunk and the achievement celebrated.
.... The following morning saw the totem pole standing in the distance, a new addition to the landscape. Before at last abandoning the site we returned in the drizzle to check it over. For the first time it was possible to see the pole in it's entirety as it faced the dull morning light.
.... On the back of the totem is a sunflower to represent the Big Green Gathering crew who organised the whole party and had to make those impossible decisions on the gate without which this festival would have long ago gone the way of so many others.
.... The crowning figure is the Red Kite, facing out of West Wales where we, the carvers, come from. Also a symbol of ecological and cultural regeneration having at one time being reduced to just a couple of breeding pairs in a remote Welsh valley. Now with careful tending, they are frequently seen and are even said to be even spreading into England. The kite's wings are painted in the fashion of native American Indians.
.... Below the Kite appears the owl, reminding us of the serious thought that must accompany our flights of fancy as we dream our future.
.... Further down stands the badger representing the guardianship of the land as exhibited by Mark the farmer who by organic methods is repairing the surrounding land. Land damaged by the ignorance of those who still see reality as a resource to be consumed. Between the badgers protective paws is the smallest figure of all, humankind, our future.
....The largest figure at the base represents our Mother Earth.