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The Hawthorn Halls (the new edition)

Talk Talk – NEW GRASS – 1991 – YouTube.

Back at the beginning of January whilst wrapped in the Atlantic lows I’d hoped that this weekend’s adventure would include songs of wolves and fairies and Gaelic tales of ice and fire. I was planning ahead and hoping for sun.

Midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, the village of Marsden has celebrated the festival known as Imbolc for the last nineteen years. The festival crosses a number of cultures and beliefs and although now regarded as a Pagan festival, the celebration is strongly associated with the Gaelic goddess, Saint Brighid and her role as a fertility goddess. The main point of the festival is to celebrate the onset of spring and in Marsden the sound of children cheering the Green Man in his eternal battle invites the first flush of colour to the Pennine landscape.

In what would have been the twentieth year the organisers took the difficult decision to cancel the festival due to a lack of funds and, sadly, volunteers. It’s a far cry from those early days when we walked with a small group of friends along a candle lit Huddersfield Narrow canal towards Standedge where we were met by wolves, fire dancers, drummers, magicians and fireworks. I often wonder what the passengers of the Trans Pennine train must have thought as they looked out to the darkness to see a few hundred people celebrating fire before the train disappeared into the tunnelled hills and their windows went black. Did they blink at their own reflection?

Now, regularly featured in both local and national press, the festival has become a victim of its own success and finally succumbed to a cancelled performance. It seems only yesterday that we jostled with thousands of people in the deep snow of 2011 dreaming of the imagined village where the roses grow vivid. Here’s looking forward to 2014 and for anyone local to Marsden; get volunteering!

Back within the sovereignty of nature’s kin, this week’s edition introduces New Grass by Talk Talk. It is sublime. Found in the zero rooms at the west wing; back in 1991 the album Laughing Stock was the headphone moment of the time. Not to be confused with a reasonable priced internet provider, the band, Talk Talk is very much an enigma. Initially marketed as a new wave pop challenge to the likes of Duran Duran, much to the dismay of the record company bank role, Mark Hollis and team had other plans. As critical acclaim increased, commercial success waned with the release of Spirit of Eden and then, in 1991, the final album, Laughing Stock. Find out more here:

Laughing Stock does take some work but the glorious opening to New Grass is one of the many highlights. The song is a journey of spiritual discovery. It’s a song of faith and optimism. Regardless of your beliefs it’s awe inspiring. Take it with you to the top of a mountain before sunrise and let the light in.