Darlun Culture Colony Vision

A YEAR OF SEASONS 

When Pete (Telfer) casually asked me if I had any ideas that might work in Culture Colony’s new Machynlleth studio, I knew immediately what I wanted to do.  It was the beginning of January 2021, in the early days of the darkest and most difficult pandemic lockdown yet.  We were all struggling. 

In a flash, the idea came that I should mark each of the eight Celtic festivals of the year – the two equinoxes, two solstices and the four in between – with a live online broadcast, where I’d join up with some of my favourite writers and performers.  Even if we couldn’t meet in person, we could hang out together, share readings and ideas and chew over the turning of the year.  We could still celebrate, we could still commune!  Pete got it immediately, and so the Season Salon was born. 

Though there was no money for anyone, fellow authors were keen too.  We kicked off at the end of January for the festival of Imbolc, with Jay Griffiths, the brilliant author of Wild, and Katherine May, whose book Wintering, a rallying call to embrace our own inner winters, had been turbocharged by the pandemic and had just landed on the New York Times bestseller list.  It was a cracking start, and I received numerous messages from people who’d watched it.  They all said much the same thing, variations on the theme of ‘I didn’t realise quite how much I needed that.’  Neither did I. 

There were so many highlights throughout the year: comedians Tudur Owen and Janice Connolly whipping up a hoot; poet Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch leading us on a high summer tour of Cei Newydd; Kris Hughes (a.k.a. Maggi Noggi) giving us a scintillating lesson in the Welsh druidic calendar; artist Fern Smith taking us dancing at dawn on Cadair Idris; Richard Scott whirling us round a virtual maypole with some of his gorgeously horny poetry for Beltane.   

A screengrab of Mike Parker interviewing one of his guests during a livestream

Sometimes, real magic happened.  All of the discussions were fascinating, but the best I think was with authors Manon Steffan Ros, joining us from Tywyn, and Simon Moreton, in Bristol.  It was Calan Gaeaf, Halloween, and our topic was death – a bigger subject than ever in the middle of a global pandemic.  It was heartfelt and searingly honest, unafraid to go into the dark, but also joyous and bright – exactly what I hoped the Season Salons would be.   

Throughout the year, most of the participants were based in Wales, from Anglesey to Cardiff, though I was able to hook up with Pamela Petro in Massachusetts for the autumn equinox, in order to talk about her new memoir, The Long Field.  And to finish it all off for the winter solstice was another American writer, albeit one based these days in London: the great Armistead Maupin, creator of the totemic Tales of the City novels.  It was a warm and wonderful end to the series. 

Watch the recordings, and you’ll see how much we all got into our stride as the Salons progressed.  Producing live broadcasts with participants dotted all over was a big technical ask, and there was the odd inevitable glitch in the early days.  Those were soon overcome, and things began to zip by so smoothly, thanks to the dynamic work of Pete, Felix, Kieron and Lowri at Culture Colony.  To make life safer, we could of course have pre-recorded them, but I felt from the off that it was important to do the Season Salon as a live happening, because that would give it a particular energy.  I believe it did, and I enjoyed having to think on my feet and follow conversations where they chose to go, rather than try and dictate from behind a stopwatch and clipboard.  Having only ever done live broadcasting on TV and radio, where there’s always a producer waving frantically at you to stop, start, go faster or slower, having no particular time constraint was unbelievably liberating. 

When we first mapped out the eight Saturdays on which we’d broadcast the Salons, I remember wondering if by the time we reached the final one, a week short of Christmas, the pandemic would be history and everyone would be out partying.  A little voice, even a year ago, said to me that that was unlikely, and so it proved to be.  This has been such a tough time for so many people, and if there’s one thing I wanted to do with the Season Salons, it was simply to wallow in our collective and infinite creativity, and to have them act as a small reminder that that’s what gives our life meaning, shape and joy.  I’m so pleased that they will be there now for ever, calibrating the wheel of the year as it turns again and again.  I’m proud too that they’re there as part of Pete and Culture Colony’s astonishingly rich – and important – archive. 

by MIKE PARKER 


Links to each Season Salon:

Season Salon 1: Imbolc/Gwyl Ffraed https://culturecolony.com/en/broadcast/season-salon-no-1-imbolcgwyl-ffraed
Season Salon 2: Alban Eilir https://culturecolony.com/en/media/video/season-salon-2-alban-eilir
Season Salon 3: Beltane https://culturecolony.com/en/media/video/season-salon-3-beltane
Season Salon 4: Midsummer https://culturecolony.com/en/media/video/season-salon-4-midsummer
Season Salon 5: Calan Awst/Lammas https://vimeo.com/581492078/05eba57ddf
Season Salon 6: Calan Elfen https://vimeo.com/608903531
Season Salon 7: Sanhain https://vimeo.com/639219356
Season Salon 8: Alban Arthan https://vimeo.com/658589810
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