The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Burning the Wickerman

Rogan suddenly found a signal on his mobile phone. Thumbs moving close to the speed of light he updated his Facebook status.

Right beside the Wickerman. Gonna go up in flames in a matter of minutes. Dad knows guy who makes Wickerman


I’m too old for festivals.

I’m too Chronically Fatigued for festivals.

I’m too squeamish to go near festival toilets.

I’m not used to the idea that not just my ribcage, but even my kneecaps could vibrate because of the sheer force of the sound coming out of the speakers.

I have to admit, if it wasn’t for the fact I’d got free passes for me and Rogan because I was accompanying Tony Bonning in the children’s tent with my bouzouki, then I probably would not have chosen to spend my weekend at the Wickerman Festival.

But it was Rogan I felt most sorry for. At 15 years old he needed to have a bunch of friends his own age to go off and explore with, not be saddled with a grumpy old man who would get worn out every time we had to walk more than 100 yards.

However, standing only a few metres from the 30-foot high willow sculpture as it was lit at midnight made up for everything, both for me and Rogan. The rest of the festival goers, including all the press photographers were much further back, with marshals ensuring no one could get too close.

Trevor, one of the builders of the Wickerman (see - Building the Wickerman) managed to get us in with him when he went up to light it. Apart from his partner, and the guy in charge of the accompanying firework display, the only other person allowed up there was a woman who had won a competition to be the one to set fire to the Wickerman.

Once the flames started to lick around the base of the legs, we headed down the field to get enough distance to be able to watch it go up in a blaze of glory with the fireworks exploding behind and above it.

It was all over in about 15 minutes, but they were a spectacular 15 minutes and my finger didn’t stop clicking the camera the entire time. For some reason it stirs something deeply primal watching a huge figure going up in flames.

Below are a small handful of images from the Festival, but there are plenty more at my recently created Flickr account and can be found here:

Rogan with the Wickerman in the background

The Sex Pistols Experience tribute band - pure theatre as they swore at each other and goaded the audience. Better musicians than the originals too.

Trevor prepares the base of the Wickerman with a last coating of straw

Heading up with the lighted torch ready to set fire to the Wickerman

Fireworks as the Wickerman blazes

Soon little more than the steel frame remains



Se2 said...

Hey kim...New to blogger...
And yours was one of the first site i came across...And even though i am commenting a little late, I have ever since followed every single of your posts...:)

Here in India, we have a festival by the name of Dusshera...Here we make effigies of three monsters that were killed by our mythological god...and on the auspicious day, we set the figures on fire, signifying victory of good over evil...
And there are fireworks accompanying it too...

So even though i was unaware about wickerman( had to google it), it kinda seems a lot like the fetival i described...:)

And i must really add, i so much like the style of your writing...

Carole said...

Oh my word. What an experience. I've never seen anything like it. I feel for your festival woes but am glad for Rogan. He is turning into quite the man. I love the pic of him.

JRS said...

I MUST see more pictures and the link to the album isn't working, at least for me. Amazing shots so far.

Mary Witzl said...

Wow -- I love those last three pictures! We missed this yet again. We manage to miss it every single time.

If Rogan gets tired of grumpy old you, think how our two feel. We're grumpier and older and we miss Wickerman every single year.

Jacqui said...

Brilliant - what a wonderful sight it must have been.

Kim Ayres said...

Se2 - welcome to my ramblings and thank you for your kind words! I'm definitely a convert to fire festivals :)

Carole - Rogan is now the same height as me and is desperate to grow at least another inch so he can be taller :)

Jen - thanks for alerting me to that - I've fixed the link now :)

Mary - next year, perhaps?

Jacqui - it was :)

Pat said...

I'm so glad it was all worth while. The sheer size is boggling.

Mimi and Tilly said...

Wow! It seems so primal somehow, even as you were describing it I got shivers imagining how powerful it must have been. The closest thing I've experienced is the running of the burning barrels in Otter St Mary in Devon, which I know isn't the same but the fire aspect was very powerful. I went there a few times as a student in the 80's and got dragged along in the crowd trying to dodge the men with the barrels on their backs who just hurtled through the crowds. They got so close to shop windows one year that the heat shattered them. Teams of men throwing enormous barrels, which had been tarred and set alight, to each other along streets full of crowds watching. It was each person's responsibility to get out of the way of the burning barrels each time it was chucked to the next team member, and so you just got hurtled through the crowd as it tried to move away from the barrels. There were no health and safety measures, we were just told to be fast on our toes. As a nineteen year old student, I loved it!

hope said...

What is it about fire that draws us?

Can't wait to get a moment to go check out the rest of your photos.

It's okay, you can sit down while I got rambling through them. I don't mind. [And you'll STILL probably be taller than me]. ;)

erika said...

I think it's so cool that you play the bouzouki :) Great pictures as always. Rogan is such a handsome boy! You must be so proud :) (Not that you would be any less proud if he was homely.)

Ron Tipton said...

I like the style of your writing too Kim. I've seen few blogs that are as interesting as yours. Most that I have read are shallow and superficial (redundant?) Yours is honest. No matter what the subject, your honesty comes through. It is appreciated in this quarter.

Roschelle said...

I LOVE the shot of the Wickerman going up in flames with the fireworks lighting the sky beside him!!

Kim Ayres said...

Pat - it was very impressive!

Emma - I'd never heard of the burning barrels - sounds amazing. and the way you describe it reminds me of the Bull run in Spain :)

Hope - are you short then?

Erika - he gets his stunning good looks from me, of course ;)

Ron - thank you for your kind words :)

Roschelle - it was really quite spectacular :)

Eryl Shields said...

One year I will get there and see it for myself. The photos are splendid, particularly like the one of its legs and Trevor.

There is something so compelling about fire, and such a huge fire must feel like the sun has landed.

The Birdwatcher said...

Who did they put inside?

Kim Ayres said...

Eryl - they had a poetry/comedy/acoustic tent there. Get yourself in as an artist doing poetry on the Saturday then stay around for the fire :)

Birdwatcher - it's stuffed to the gills with straw.

hope said...

All 5 feet, one inch of me. :)

I could be Rogan's hero. ;)

litzi said...

Hi Kim
You’re never too old for a festival! Your pictures are wonderful…thanks for sharing them.

snoble24 said...

so they do this every year?anyway great sure it was enjoyable at least somewhat to be at the festival

mapstew said...

Sorry I'm late pal, had quite a busy weekend gig wise (Yippee! Fancy food for us on Sunday!). Great photos as usual, and I'm sure Rogan enjoyed sharing the experience of Wickerman with his ouldfella! Enjoy the rest of your weekend. (It's a bank holiday here!) :¬)

Sandy's witterings said...

Some cracking pictures of the wickerman - completes the cycle, since you had pictures of it being made. Quite sure shooting a big bright thing in the night is a little trickier though.

Anonymous said...

I've heard of the festival. Looks like great fun! I find it interesting, as is observed in first comment of this post, how similar these festivals are in cultures around the world.
As always great photographs. In particular the top one.

Kim Ayres said...

Hope - Rogan already enjoys looking down on his big sister, Holly, who I think is about the same height as you

Litzi - when the festival seems to be mostly about music so loud it will make you deaf, and large numbers of young people getting very very drunk, then it does make me feel old...

Snoble24 - this festival has been running for about 8 or 9 years

Mapstew - hope your gigs went well :) I got an email from the drummer of the Sex Pistols Experience asking if it was OK to use some of my photos for their fan page, especially as one of has all 4 of them in the same shot, which is a bit rare. Perhaps I should look for more opportunities to do photograph gigs. So, at some point I'll not only have to get over to meet you in person, I'll have to have a go at photographing you and the band playing too :)

Sandy - getting the exposure right was a bit of a nightmare - I kept having to underexpose to compensate the auto settings on the camera which didn't know how to cope with it

Allen - thank you :)

Pearl said...

Oh, my! I had no idea. I thought the wickerman was only a movie!


Boltzmann's Brain said...

these are the best pictures of the Wickerman festival this brsin has ever seen, to be perfectly honest

Jayne Martin said...

Fantastic! It sounds like you and Rogan had an awesome time. I love the way you described everything and the photos make me almost feel like I was there. Awesome!

Falak said...

Your photos are brilliant as always:)

TalesNTypos said...

Och Kim, Rogan is so stylish. All voguish spiff. ;)

Kim Ayres said...

Pearl - a lot of the movie was filmed in this area, which is what insipred part of the idea for the festival. Although no coppers are shut inside it before it's lit.

Boltzmann's Brain - thank you for your kind words :)

Jayne - something to fly over to Scotland for next year perhaps :)

Falak - thank you :)

Adila - a fashion guru of the future, for certain :)

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