Our community project
The 14th century Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight features chivalry, romance, temptation and a beheading challenge. At our weekend celebration in November, members of the public will be invited to take part and make their mark in a pictorial retelling of the tale guided by local, internationally known artist Sue Prince http://www.sueprinceartist.co.uk. People will also be able to listen to a talk, eat medieval food and take a guided walk to the stunning Lud’s Church with Gawain specialist Clive Foden.
Image - British Library, manuscript Cotton MS Nero A X/2
Most scholars now agree that the unknown author of the Gawain poem came from this area and tell-tale signs of this are not only the local accent and words which appear throughout the work, but also local features, such as The Roaches and Lud’s Church, which figure in the action. The event is being organised by the Dr Plot’s Lesser Known Leek committee who celebrate the poem each July with a parade through the town, complete with giants, culminating in a re-telling of the tale to delighted crowds.
Dr Plot's parade 2018. Image - www.jennyharperphotography.com
Before the public workshops, Sue will teach the skill of painting a ‘bonad’ (a style of narrative folk art in egg tempera) to students at Leek College of Art, and some will become her expert helpers. Then on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th November, everyone is invited to come to the college, learn the technique and add to Sue’s version of the story, which will be painted onto four large panels: they can even paint a medieval version of themselves along the bottom of the artwork!
(Unfinished) detail of the bonad, created by Sue Prince for the Ashbourne Treasures project in 2017, showing figures painted by members of the public at the bottom of the artwork. Image - Lindsay Trevarthen
Eat, talk and walk
Clive Foden, a skilled woodcarver and Gawain specialist, will travel from Norfolk to deliver one of his enthralling talks on the evening of Saturday 17th November at the Foxlowe Arts Centre. He will discuss the poet's interest in craftsmanship as well as the unmistakeable landscape clues in the poem. The following day, Sunday 18th, Clive will also lead a guided walk over The Roaches and down into Lud’s Church – the poem’s Chapel in the Green where Gawain meets the Green Knight to submit to beheading!
Lud's Church. Image: Jason Snape
Here's Clive's version of the tale - it's slightly shortened and plastic features more than the original!
The folk art painting is a completely new and exciting way of retelling the Gawain story, inviting the local community (young and old, and everyone in between) to participate in making a piece of local history. When the work is complete, copies of the panel will go on permanent public display and the original will go on tour - a new version of the Gawain journey, though hopefully without woodwoses...
All the events will be free (apart from a small transport cost to the guided walk). We have some financial support from Leek Arts Forum, Leek College of Art (who’ve also generously made their studio space available) and SW Peak Landscape Partnership (via Borderland Voices, Arts for Health and Well-being), but we can't make it happen without your lovely money!