Last night when it was all over we all set off for home using our internal compasses. Which we all have in Liverpool. The main paths in Sefton Park were well and considerately lit of course. But as the fires and the fireworks of this year’s Lantern’s Carnival finally died down I was more surprised than I should have been to find myself accompanied by so many of us there, apparently just walking off into the darkness. We all knew were we where we were going of course, we were gong home. Along the ‘secret paths’ it turns out we all know.
At which point one of two little girls, gamely stumbling through the undergrowth and ducking under the branches just behind me said:
‘What time is it Dad?’
‘About ten past eight’ he replied.
‘I thought it was at least one in the morning!’ she said. ‘And so did I!’ her sister joined in.
Both of them had clearly moved outside of time. As had we all. A city celebrating the liminal space between here and now, and light and dark, and life and death. In Liverpool. You might call it the Day of the Dead, or All Hallows. For ten years or so now, we’ve been calling it ‘The Lanterns.’ And this year it looked like this.
With the dancers of Movema and the further drums of Beatlife not far behind.
At which point we arrive at the annual conundrum. Out late in the dark, looking for something warm and wholesome?
Never mind, let’s get back to the story of life and death.
To the fascination of particularly the very young they sing gently that all of us must someday die.
“And when I’m dead, and when I’m gone
There’s gonna be one child born in this world,
To carry on, to carry on!’
Now the story gathers as the Lanterns arrive at the finale field.
I well realise I’ve now completely left the story as set out on the posters about tonight. But this is the story everyone around me is now saying we’re watching.
Whatever the ‘story’ might be we are now getting the ending we came for.
And some turn to leave. Because The Lanterns always end as the fire burns down. But can you leave a fire that’s still burning? Can we leave a story that hasn’t finished?
Behind the dying fires, fragile and newly green you might just see up there and struggling to the sky. A beanstalk? A weed? Whatever. It’s new life out of death.
And the poet says, the gentle female voice of tonight’s version of T.S. Eliot says:
“To make an end is to make a new beginning. The end is where we start from.”
And in this moment I am completely pulled in by the power of poetry and darkness and fire.
And we celebrate home. Like all people everywhere who love their place. And gather like this to celebrate life and its continuance. In whatever darkness might be visited upon us all.
And our light, our Lanterns, will never go out.
It was, as you can probably see, great. And as I walked away, like the little girls and their Dad, I knew I’d been somewhere out of time, somewhere special. Best ever Liverpool Lanterns? I’d say so. Well done Lantern Company and everyone else involved.
Sometimes other years it’s felt like the Lanterns themselves, the people themselves, have been slightly pushed aside at the big finish. Not this time. This time the people of Liverpool, and our light and our fire and our darkness were the big finish and the new beginning. As the poet said:
“The end is where we start from.”
As I said the other day, we love a good do here. And I bet the little girls slept well last night after all that. I know I did.
And all of that story, all of that fire, told by hundreds of handmade lanterns around the four simple ‘trees’ that got built the other day.