What time is it Dad? Lanterns time

Samhain01Last 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.

Light sabres were of course available, to encounter the darkness.

Light sabres were of course available, to encounter the darkness.

The drums of Batala led us off.

The drums of Batala led us off.

With the dancers of Movema and the further drums of Beatlife not far behind.

Then the Lanterns began.

Then the Lanterns began.

A city full of life and death and lanterns.

A city full of life and death and lanterns.

Samhain06 Samhain07 Samhain08 Samhain09 Samhain10 Samhain11With Carnival pancakes for the night to come.Samhain12

And more light sabres.

And more light sabres.

Waiting for the Lanterns to arrive.

Further along the route, waiting for the Lanterns to arrive.

At which point we arrive at the annual conundrum. Out late in the dark, looking for something warm and wholesome?

No chance.

No chance. You missed the pancakes earlier, so it’s this or doughnuts now.

Parked alongside the usual sanctimonious reminder. Oh well.

Parked alongside is the usual sanctimonious reminder. Oh well.

Never mind, let’s get back to the story of life and death.

We are being watched over by the darkness.

We are being watched over by the darkness.

And the recently dead?

And the recently dead?

To the fascination of particularly the very young they sing gently that all of us must someday die.

Then end with the sacred gospel of Laura Nyro.

Then end with the sacred gospel of Laura Nyro.

“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.

Are we being selected here?

Are we being selected here?

'You're next?'

‘You’re next?’ Say the scientists from The Suitcase Ensemble.

Is the cat in charge?

Is the cat in charge?

Or is chaos in charge?

Or is chaos in charge?

Looks like the darns is going to do...

Looks like the darkness is going to do…

What the darkness always does. And explode.

What the darkness always does. And explode.

In some way abetted by Michael Jackson.

In some way abetted by Michael Jackson.

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.

As Michael and the other leading Lanterns set the four big trees alight.

As Michael and the other leading Lanterns set the four big trees alight.

And the night fills up with fireworks.

And the night fills up with fireworks.

Whatever the ‘story’ might be we are now getting the ending we came for.

The ending, the dying down of life, is always fire.

The ending, the dying down of life, is always fire.

And we are still and quiet.

And we are still and quiet.

Watching the fire.

Watching the fires.

Dancing as the fire burns down.

Peaceful as the fires burns down.

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?

Then the poet speaks.

Then the poet speaks.

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.

The City roars back into life.

The whole place, the whole City roars back into life.

Something elemental happens to all of us there.

Something elemental happens to all of us here.

It's joy, it's life...

It’s joy, it’s life…

It's the Liverpool Lanterns.

It’s the Liverpool Lanterns at their central ever moment?

This is sacred now.

A sacred place?

Every year we gather here now. All of us. And we celebrate life and each other.

Every year we gather here now. All of us. Celebrating life and each other. But never more so than this?

This is Liverpool.

This is Liverpool.

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.

We are the people of this place.

We are the people of this place.

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.

The power of stories told in darkness.

The power of stories told in darkness.

 

 

10 thoughts on “What time is it Dad? Lanterns time

  1. Cathy Alderson

    Thanks Ronnie, I had to miss it this year, but your blog brought it to life for me so well.
    We are curious beings, we all love to watch fire in the darkness and the sea in the daylight. We can’t explain why, but it really IS necessary and fascinating, we all do it. It bonds us all. I love it. Thanks.

    Reply
  2. Alison

    Had the pleasure of being with the phenomonal RAWD drama group and carrying the magic beans this year Ronnie. It was a great one wasn’t it. Magical!

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Well done Alison. Yes, this year’s was particularly magical. For all the miscellaneous reasons of course. But one of them was certainly the central role of the lanterns and the people from beginning to end.

      Reply
  3. Theresa

    Great pictures and write-up Ronnie. I always love the lantern parade. I’m curious about what you said about people and lanterns being more central this year – I thought that this had been the case each year – what was different – did I miss something …?!

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Hi Theresa, While the parade itself has always been about the people and the lanterns I feel they’ve sometimes been a bit sidelined once the parade gets to the big ending. With just the ‘main’ giant lanterns getting onto the finale field. Like last year, a very attractive ‘tree’ display was made of a lot of the people’s lanterns (pictured on my previous post) but it was to the side of the main field.

      This year though all of the lanterns came into the field and were there right to the end, silhouetted dramatically in the final fire photos. There was also a special enclosure for all the ‘lantern people’ – closer to the front of the action than the rest of us. So, properly honoured, I thought. And it changed the whole texture of the climax of the night.

      Reply
      1. Theresa MacDermott

        It’s a shame, but I couldn’t see any of that – too short and too short-sighted … Did you get a good spec? I do remember all the homemade lanterns having a separate “strip” at the front of the crowd right round the “stage” a few years ago – maybe they are trying to find the best way to do it. There were definitely many more people this time, which is great, but makes it harder to get an idea of what’s going on at the front!

      2. Ronnie Hughes Post author

        I went right round the far side for a good spec. I’d visited on Friday afternoon, knowing I was going to be writing this. So I worked what would be the best angle when those ‘trees’ went up!

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s