The directions were to walk along the Rusthall Road as far as the red Victorian letter box and cross to the other side, then follow the willow wands into the clearing. It was as simple as walking a Celtic Ridgeway.
A beautiful little oak tree stands on a rise, waiting with spreading low branches to receive decoration.
We set up camp with two brand new marquees, thanks to the ‘Heart of the Community’ award we received for last year’s Community Arts Festival. The Mayor in his regalia, accompanied by the Mayoress, opened proceedings in style, and we were at once joyously entertained by the local Rock Choir singing their latest repertoire.
A constant flow of adults, children and their dogs came through our clearing, many of them enthusiastic to make their own ‘leaves’ by drawing, leaf rubbing, or paw printing, to hang with their names or messages on the Quirky Tree. The Abstract Artists provided materials, some ready made leaves and also put up a small exhibition of their work in encouragement.
The programme of events unfolded as the day progresses and everything planned was performed.
The Djembe drummers energetically entertained us after lunch. Then followed an informative and interesting lecture by the local archaeologist, Nigel Stapple and his colleague, pointing out that by celebrating the end of winter and thanking the tree with our careful ornamentation, we were extending the Celtic tradition into our own era.
Finally there was a short poetry reading of work by the local poet, Arthur Tribe, who was born around 1870, and died in 1961 at his home in 15 Rusthall Road. We could tell he had known and loved the Common well, as familiar landmarks are readily recognisable from his words.
We were nourished and warmed throughout the day with scrumptious cakes, from Baketastic and inexhaustible hot teas and coffees, thanks to the day’s catering team.
25th February, Quirky Tree Day, was a very happy event, marking the start of our new season of the arts. There will be much more to follow as the year progresses. Please be watchful for posters and online notices inviting everyone of all ages and abilities to join in workshops and future events.
Written by: Sonia Lawrence
Photography: Denise Dallender