Back when I was 17, we broke into Highgate Cemetery after dark and I can only remember being terrified by the silent windowless mausoleums.
Not so scared this time – too many people around and anyway, it never seemed to get as dark as I’d feared.
I looked a bit exotic, I think. I love wigs as they save ages curling and primping to get that all important vintage hair look. However, this time I accidentally put on an old one with randomly sticking-up curls like springs from a broken mattress. I was forced to adopt the pretty headscarf you can see in the photo.
There was a stillness about the Cemetery after dark, a really magical atmosphere, almost like a place in a dream.
The audience were, as always, warm, enthusiastic and well-equipped with every possible convenience: folding chairs, blankets, picnics, torches and candles. And waterproofs. Personally, the rain didn’t bother me and it was great to see that the others felt the same way.
Nigel and I had a real difficulty choosing the acts for such a special event, but in the end we were delighted with our ace storyteller Sarah Rundle, the tall and eerie french poet Gulliver, and shamanistic playwright and champion of Crossbones Graveyard, John Constable. Not to mention wonderful local band The Effras, who write beautiful songs about things that are above the River Effra and only perform in venues directly over the river’s course.
Our emcee Chris Roberts kept the evening rolling brilliantly with a few hands of ‘Cemetery Canasta’. You can hear his voice on the video below:
We found time between acts to release a couple of Chinese lanterns to honour the living and the dead. Meanwhile, I fell in love with Wolf’s Head and Vixen Morris, Rochester’s finest Gothic Morris side. You can see them below in a very brief film of the event. (We would have filmed more but it was mostly too dark for our camera!) The song in the video is by Nigel and was a special commission for the project. It’s inspired by the unauthorised grave clearances of the 1980s. It makes me cry.
Finally I can’t end without mentioning the amazing ever-encouraging Jane Millar. She is a genius artist who curated the art trail in the Cemetery. She herself made a most desirable heavy plastic tombstone, with flowers created from old pieces of biro! Jane gave us all kinds of invaluable practical help above and beyond any call of duty. She’s an artist who manages to see the best in everyone, without compromising her own vision. Hats off!