The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Building the Wickerman

.
It might be the middle of July but with a damp wind blowing in from the sea at a strength to make the whole structure noticeably sway it feels more like November. I zip my coat up and pull my woolly hat down over my head as far as I can to offer some protection for my ears and neck.

I’m 30 feet off the ground chatting to Trevor Leat who, along with his construction partner, Alex Rigg, is in the final stages of several weeks of work building a giant figure in willow. The entire thing will be burned at midnight on Saturday 24th July as the culmination of The Wickerman Festival, held every year in this corner of South West Scotland.

Not on the scale of Glastonbury or Scotland’s T in the Park, The Wickerman doesn’t attract quite the same headline bands. While I have at least heard of The Charlatans, many of the acts I haven’t, and I don’t think it’s just because of my age. I can’t imagine U2, Coldplay or Eminem playing here. However, I'm told by some who regularly go this makes it more intimate and accessible than many of the bigger festivals.

By contrast, earlier in the week the tickets for next year’s T in the Park went on sale. As they have a habit of selling out within hours, I was under strict instructions from my stepdaughter to be sitting at my computer at 9am with my credit card ready to buy 2 tickets. One for her and one for my son, Rogan, who will be 16 by then. At £200 each, I’m hoping it’s not too long before they can pay me back. Mind you, if they don’t, then I’ll be able to sell them for more than twice the price nearer the date of the event.

Oddly enough I’ve never been to a Festival before. For some reason these cultural experiences seem to have passed me by even though everyone I’ve ever met has been to at least one. However, I will be attending this one.

Storyteller and children’s entertainer, Tony Bonning, has asked me to accompany him on my bouzouki & mandolin in the Children’s tent. In return Rogan and I get weekend “artists” passes to what will be the first Festival we’ve both been to.

I find I’m more excited at the photographic opportunities than I am about the music and other events.

And with the chance to photograph the Wickerman as it goes up in flames, I thought it would be good to get some “before” shots while it was still under construction.

Fortunately I’ve known Trevor for a few years as he plays the fiddle at some of the folk sessions I go along to, and last year I photographed him and Alex building and setting fire to the Willow Tam O’Shanter in Dumfries as part of the Burns Light Festival (see http://kimayres.blogspot.com/2009/01/burns-light-festival-in-dumfries.html).

There’s no doubt it’s seriously impressive up close, just as it is at a distance, and I feel privileged to see and touch this amazing creation right up at shoulder and head height.

Fortunately I remember not to ask him how he feels about several weeks’ worth of work going up in flames as he’d be likely to throw me off the top of the scaffolding. It’s one of Trevor's most hated questions because it’s the one everyone asks, and few seem to understand that the whole point of building these giant willow sculptures is their fleeting life and dramatic exit.

As usual, click on any of the images for larger versions












.

29 comments

Ponita in Real Life said...

That thing is seriously cool, Kim! What a neat experience. I can't wait for the photos of the flaming event!

Rachel said...

I love those photos, looking forward to seeing him on fire. In my experience the smaller the festival the better. I am normally completely underwhelmed by headlining acts, the pleasure for me is discovering hidden gems, away from the main stage, in the middle of the afternoon.

hope said...

That is amazing already!

Can't wait to see him blazing in all his glory. :)

litzi said...

Hi Kim,
Terrific pictures! The Wickerman is the personification of strength and power. Why isn’t he wearing a kilt; it is Scotland!

Enjoy!

Roschelle said...

Wow what an awesome structure. Bet it makes for a fabulous bonfire!!

mapstew said...

That is an event I would just love! Next year?
What a structure, can't wait for the burning photies!
Too cool! :¬)

Jayne Martin said...

Wow! That thing is amazing. So beautiful. I can see why everyone asks how he feels to see it burned.

The festival sounds like great fun and I look forward to seeing your photos.

Ron Tipton said...

I never heard of The Wickerman. Sort of like a metaphor for life isn't it? To take a long time to build a magnificent structure and then it is destroyed in seconds. Looking forward to your pictures.

Sandy's witterings said...

I should like to think that he's pointing that bow in a Palnackie direction as at that height, he could probably drop one in my bedroom window (at least I'm not there)

Jacqui said...

Wow, this is seriously big. What a fabulous structure. I must admit that my only previous knowledge of the wickerman was an old film (which I think has been re-made0 which terrified the life out of me - I think it wsa an old B&W movie.

Kim Ayres said...

Pointa - I just have to hope my energy levels last until it goes up in flames...

Rachel - there is a tent devoted to punk bands which could be fun - one or 2 old original and a couple of tribute bands too :)

Hope - you need to time your next trip to Scotland for the middle of July :)

Litzi - Kilts are only worn in Scotland on special occasions like weddings, by people working in the tourist industry, or by Americans thinking they'll be blending in...

Roschelle - if you go to their website - leatrigg.co.uk - you can find video clips of previous wickermen going up in flames

Mapstew - a late 50th birthday treat, perhaps?

Jayne - my biggest concern is if my energy levels hold out, but I'm looking forward to it :)

Ron - it all depends on your life - ones that don't go up in flames eventually just rot away...

Sandy - Trevor had thought about putting some kind of flaming arrow on to it, but as it's actually pointing at the main stage it was decided it might be a bit risky :)

Jacqui - The original film The Wickerman was in colour and starred Edward Woodward, Brit Ekland and Christopher Lee (follow the link). A lot of it was filmed around here and it acted as the inspiration for the theme of The Wickerman Festival.

Alice said...

That may be the coolest thing I've ever seen. And these happen frequently over there? I've been to plenty of music festivals here, but nothing of that magnitude and I'm overwhelmingly jealous. Enjoy!

As to your first paragraph, if you could send some of your weather over here, I'd greatly appreciate it. We are into our July thunderstorm heat wave, where the rain only makes you melt faster and does nothing to cool you down.

I saw them playing golf over your way and would give anything for that "breeze".

Kim Ayres said...

Alice - right now it's grey, wet and miserable. We don't have the heating on because it's July, but I'm sitting in the house with a jacket and gloves on because I'm cold. I would happily swap weather wih you :)

The Wickerman Festival happens every july, but Trevor builds these sculptures for burning at other events too.

angryparsnip said...

I am so intrigued with the 5th photo as you look over his right shoulder past the neck to the bow and arrow.. brave of you to climb up that high.
the way the willow is woven. Trevor and Alex are true artist.
The 6th photo is outstanding.

We are having some cooler weather in Tucson also. Only hovering in the 100 and the monsoons have now appeared.

cheers, parsnip

pilgrimchick said...

That is a beautiful figure--absolutely amazing!

Fay's Too said...

What a beautiful thing. If I don't get to Scotland in this life, you can bet your bonnets I'll be there in the next.

Eryl Shields said...

Be careful you don't end up in Edward Woodward's shoes when it all takes off.

I've never been to a music festival either, and looking at the prices I reckon I never will. Rogan will be 16 next year, jeez!

Ponita in Real Life said...

Kim, could I please point out the correct spelling of my moniker? P-O-N-I-T-A? You may have fingers like mine, that seem to go on autopilot for certain words, and I've had to learn to proofread everything I type carefully. You've spelled it POINTA twice....

Thank you and no offense is taken at all! It's not my real name, after all. :-)

Sarahlah said...

The photographs are very dramatic. I wish I could be there. I am glad that you will be and with your camera to catch the drama.

Pat said...

£200! B----y 'ell!
Oh those thighs! It must be glorious seeing it go up in flames. They die sooner or later as I know from the very expensive goose I had made for my garden. Vanished without trace. Not stolen - gradual disintegration.

Kim Ayres said...

Parnsip - Trevor studies books on anatomy to see how the muscles all work and this then gets reflected in the way he weaves the willow together. It's very impressive :)

Pilgrim Chick - it is :)

Fay - maybe you were in your last...

Eryl - He doesn't appear to have beuilt any kind of cage & hatch in the centre, but I'll keep my distance just in case :)

Ponita - my deep and humble apologies! I don't know why I had Pointa stuck in my head. I do suffer from an occassional mild dyslexia which also means I'm crap at proofreading. I much prefer talking to writing, but that requires other people to have a real-time conversation with, which is trickier with a blog :)

Sarahlah - I'm just hoping it won't be too wet and windy :)

Pat - come on up - I'll sneak you in through a hole in the fence :)

Chastity Flyte said...

I cannot tell you how happy this has made me. The creativity, the patience, the sheer exuberance of the exercise!

Have a silly grin on my face...

Chastity x

Kim Ayres said...

Chastity - then do follow the links in the post to find other work by these guys :)

Jacqui said...

My mistake, maybe we just had a B&W telly at the time!

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

Great pictures Kim. Can't wait to see the burning ones. I always thought the wicker man thing was down in the west country for some reason. (Straw - yokels - see how my mind works). This would be a good start to my next trip to Scotland before I take the Edinburgh festival by storm. Sadly not this year, but maybe in 2011. Let's hope the weather will be better than last time I visited!

Carole said...

You have a knack for being in the most amazing places, doing the most amazing things. For all your health issues you continue to live life-really live it-and spit in the face of cfs. Excellent

Kim Ayres said...

Jacqui - :)

Daphne - With Christopher Lee's accent and may of the tiruals looking decidedly English rather than Scottish, I'm not surprised about the confusion. It is supposed to be set on a Scottish island, but much of it was filmed around here.

Carole - That's a lovely thing to say - thank you :)

90% of it is making the connections with other people and then getting involved in the extraordinary things they get up to

Mimi and Tilly said...

Ooh, I know someone who is going to this festival! It looks amazing!

Kim Ayres said...

Do tell him or her to say hi - I'll be in the children's tent around 4.30ish playing the bouzouki :)

All content copyright of Kim Ayres. Powered by Blogger.