Thursday 30 July 2015

July Weddings | Themes and Elements

A few days ago I began early preparation for a wedding that I am officiating in July 2016. My clients are planning to do the legal bit the week before elsewhere in Europe, with a number of their nearest and dearest in tow, returning to England for a larger ceremony and celebration. 

The theme of the ceremony that I am preparing in consultation with the happy couple is vintage, village fete. The ceremony itself is taking place in a village hall and following this all guests will have the opportunity to indulge in some fete day games and activities in the grounds. All key players will be wearing a combination of red, white and blue and I'm already planning my outfit. 

At our first meeting we talked about possible extra elements and under consideration are Hand Wrapping, Wine Box/Love Letter and Rose Ceremony. There’s plenty of time of course and other options are possible (see Elements page for details).

It’s never too early to begin thinking about your wedding/renewal of vows/commitment ceremony so do get in touch to discuss themes and possible elements.

Monday 20 July 2015

Grief as an Embodied Experience | Occupations and Relationships

This last week has been a busy one. On Tuesday the 14th July it would have been the 84th birthday of my mum Dorothy Thornton. I bought plants and flowers and some sparkly birthday table decorations and with my friend Vanessa travelled to Coverack for the day to visit the graveyard where my mum and my dad are buried. 

The day my mum died my life changed forever, not just because I’d lost the most significant person in my life but also because I’d lost another part of my identity. As I’ve written previously I am a widow and sadly have never achieved biological motherhood. Having no siblings I don’t know anyone else with a similarly ‘rootless’ identity. And yet, I feel lucky to have in my life a number of VERY significant others; close friends and extended family members. One term for unrelated family is ‘fictive kin’. But despite agreeing with others who suggest that the word ‘fiction’ no longer equals falsehood and the opposite of ‘truth’ I struggle with the suggestion that fictive kin are ‘unreal’. So  I prefer ‘family of choice’ and ‘friends as family'.

Some of my most significant others came with me/I met at the annual summer conference of the British Sociological Association Auto/Biography Study Group which took place in the beautiful Dartington Hall in Devon Thursday 16th-Saturday18th July. The theme of the conference this year was Formal and Informal education: lives, works and relationships and although we worked hard sharing our work and commenting on each other’s ideas there was time for discussion of more personal concerns and for the nurturing of good friendships and the making of new ones. My paper ‘‘Active Recovery’: reflections on embodied learning’ was the third in what I’ve come to think of as my grief trilogy. In July 2010 in my paper ‘Auto/Biographical Reflections on Personal and Other Legacies: much more than money’ (Letherby 2011, 2014) I focused on my relationship with my late father Ron Thornton (1923-1979) and husband John Shiels (1948-2010) highlighting the interconnections between us and supporting the continuing bonds approach to bereavement and loss. In ‘Myself and Other Human Animals (Or Babies and Bathwater)’ (Letherby 2015) presented at the 2013 summer conference I continued my analysis to include my experience of grieving for my mother Dorothy Thornton (1931-2012). This year I extended my argument further reflecting particularly on my experience over the past couple of years. In the paper I focus on various occupations, including  my changing writing style (this blog included) a new engagement with physical exercise and the experience of retraining to become a civil celebrant with the UK Society of Civil Celebrants (UKSOC). For me these experiences have been important emotionally, physically and intellectually and have led me to argue for an embodied, sociological understanding of grief. In addition to giving a paper my book He, Himself and I (which is a further development of my 2010 paper) was launched at the conference and I will be ever grateful to the Auto/ Biography Study Group for their support in the production of this project (and my other related work as highlighted here) and their positive responses to it/them.      

Letherby G (2011) ‘Auto/Biographical Reflections on Personal and Other Legacies: much more than money’ in Sparkes A (ed) Auto/Biography Yearbook Durham: BSA Auto/Biography Study Group

Letherby G (2014) He, Himself and I: reflections on inter/connected lives Durham: BSA Auto/Biography Study Group

Letherby G (2015) ‘Bathwater, Babies and Other Losses: A Personal and Academic Story’ MortalityPromoting the interdisciplinary study of death and dying 20(2)

Friday 3 July 2015

Carnivals, Celebrations and Ceremonies | Cornwall and Up Country

This is one of two signs outside Penzance Railway Station (the one pointing north) that I took a photograph of last Saturday (27th June) when my friend Vanessa and I arrived for the Mazey Day celebrations. At this time of year there are many outdoor carnivals, festivals, music and theatre productions taking place in Cornwall. Not that such celebrations are restricted to mid-summer as Helston Flora Day (May), Padstow Obby Oss (also May), the Gorsedh Kernow Ceremony (September) and other such  events testify.

Personal celebrations and ceremonies - including weddings and renewal of vow ceremonies, namings, funerals and memorial ceremonies -  can also take place outdoors, local to the place where you live or elsewhere. So if you live in Cornwall you may want to travel 'upcountry' for your ceremony or alternatively travel to Cornwall from elsewhere in Britain or further afield. Like many other UKSOC celebrants I am happy to travel with you or too you in order to ensure you have the bespoke ceremony that you want. 


For those of you interested in the origins of Mazey Day the following is taken from
The Golowan festival (Cornish for midsummer) is the festival of St. John and is held in Penzance each year in late June. Although it is an old tradition, it was revived by a group of artists and local schools in 1991 in order to remember the local area heritage. The festival is ten days long, culminating in the Mazey weekend and notably Mazey Day on the Saturday.
Golowan was one of the last mid summer festivals practised in Cornwall. In the 1890’s, the Penzance government outlawed the festival due to the rising insurance premiums for the towns business community. Traditionally the towns streets were lined with alight tar barrels which were paraded around. . . . 
The modern Golowan is arguably a little less dangerous. The celebration of the area's arts and culture attracts thousands of visitors to West Cornwall . . . .  The core of the celebrations is Mazey Day, when the streets are filled with market stalls and entertainers and the town's school children parade up and down Market Jew Street, setting out from St.Johns Hall, holding aloft large paper mache and wicker creations. It truly is a sight to behold, with some figures being larger than the building around them. . . .

OR check out the Golowan official face book page