The morning after the Edinburgh event and the evening interview was definitely a morning after. Having pulled ourselves together somewhat, we went off to do interviews – notably at BBC Scotland, where some Gardener Hymns punctuated the proceedings and the interviewer got converted, at least to the idea of playing the music in her car. The Mole Day Hymn was especially popular. Then we took the train to Manchester, and, true to our green intentions, walked across the street to the Malmaison Hotel, hauling our increasingly heavy bags.

Who knew that Manchester is going green? Having been the epicenter of the Industrial Revolution, it is now on the forefront of this new revolution. Locally grown Bangers and Mash with recommended wines (I thought it was always beer with the bangers, eh? No more!), organic and vegetarian choices on the menu – and there were all the hearty Manchester United fans, not blinking an eye over it! A green airport (??), building regeneration to cut energy expenditure, recycled-clothing shops – for instance, “Rags to Bitches”  (will Edinburgh have a challenger for the title of Queen of the Recycled Shops?), and on a larger scale, Affleck’s Palace and the Trafford Centre – all have, as it were, taken the pledge. Give the Mancunians a goal, and they’ll shoot for it. “We like being first,” they said, with the confidence of a city that has a top football team. Perhaps because it rains so much in their city, Mancunians are bluff, warm, and strangely jolly, “Can’t complain,” they say, although actually they could.

The next day, off we went to the 15th century cathedral. We had an organic veggie lunch, with organic fair trade coffee, in the cathedral café, where a Tinnie made by artist Paul Harrison from recycled pop tins sat reading a tin newspaper. (See picture, and also There were genial Canon Andrew Shanks and also Michael Schmidt – a literary connection  — and we had a catch-up. Then we went into the cathedral proper to rehearse. Damaged during the war and again by the 1996 IRA bombing, the cathedral is still miraculously  standing, though during the rehearsal the heavens opened and so did a hole in the roof. Water poured through, making a noise like a hundred tin pans falling down the stairs. “Has it leaked before?” I asked anxiously. “Not there,” they said, with restrained stoicism..

This performance was very different from the Edinburgh one. Again, the participants had jumped into the general idea with great enthusiasm and had given it their own spin. After gracious introductions by the Mayor—Chancellor Allison Firth — and the Canon, the sellout 600-strong audience heard the Gardeners singing before they saw them. Then they came in procession from behind the rood screen, in two files – one on each side – carrying the stellar banners made by the Literary Festival’s Cathy Bolton and Ali Wilson from cardboard scavenged from skips (dumpsters, to North Americans), with UK endangered species lovingly drawn onto them. The singers were a capella – no instruments – assembled by the astonishingly energetic Musical Director Jeff Borradaile from the Blackburn Community Choir, the Ordsall Acapella Singers, and the Lesbian and Gay Chorus. Their voices echoed beautifully in the stones spaces of the cathedral.

Samantha Giles gave a thoughtful and beleaguered Toby, and Samantha Sidall a tremulous but resourceful Ren. Both also did severa other voices, to great effect. Jeff Harvey was a fervent, strong Adam One. They all did Manchester proud. (If you don’t do Manchester proud, you’d hear about it!)

The RSPB volunteers were very happy. “We filled up our robins,” they told me. “What?” I said, wondering what new English quirk I had stumbled upon, before realizing that their collecting boxes were robin-shaped.


Filed under YOTF Tour Blog

4 responses to “

  1. Saber

    Dear Margaret,
    It’s Saber from Topping & Co Booksellers in Bath. During your visit to our bookshop, you were particularly interested in Benedict Gummer’s The Scourging Angel: The Black Death in the British Isles. It is published by Bodley Head, and the ISBN is 9780224077675.



  2. I was very pleased to be a member of the audience in Llandaff Cathedral on Friday night. Found the experience thought provoking, personally challenging and hugely enjoyable thanks to the actors musicians and author. As always the Cathedral was magnificent but for a moment none of us sat in that place rather we were transported somewhere not so far away which made us smile and wince in equal measure and I hope walk away considering where we all stand today.

    Thank you for the experience. I’ve tried to say a bit about the event on my blog but suspect I will continue to process the experience for a while yet.

    Safe travelling to you Margaret and the team, I trust that arrivals will be gentle, partings sweet and home coming

  3. whoops the last word should be joyous, but then it always is isn’t it:0)

  4. Michelle Girouard (Ren)

    Dearest Margaret –

    This is Ren from the Kingston, ON ‘YOTF’ writing to you
    with thanks and warmth – I’m sorry to have missed
    you after the show – my cold sent me straight home
    to bed for much needed sleep.

    Travel well during the rest of your tour,
    all feasts, hymns and celebrations to you,

    Little Ren xo

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