Autumn is official

The Druid Order seem a very nice, friendly bunch of people who welcome photographers taking pictures at their events. The leaflet they gave me gives the “three fundamental principles of wisdom:
Obedience to the Laws of nature
Effort for the welfare of mankind
And heroically enduring the unavoidable ills of life
A little more learning from nature would certainly have helped us avoid the sad state we’ve got the planet into at the moment, and heroic endurance is likely to be in great demand in the future.

There are various Druid groups around, but the Druid Order seems to be the largest and more publicly orientated in England, with regular public meetings in Covent Garden and public ceremonies for the Spring Equinox on Tower Hill
the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge (outside the area I normally cover for ‘My London Diary’) and the Autumn Equinox on Primrose Hill, where I was with them again on Sunday.

Primrose Hill has a fine panoramic view over London, although the air is seldom really clear enough to enjoy it fully. It is really quite a noticeable hill, and most photographers will also recognise it as the location for one of Bill Brandt’s finest portraits, of painter Francis Bacon, made there in the early evening in 1963. This is an image I’ve written about before, in part as a good example of Brandt being very clear in his mind exactly how he wanted his images to look, making an appointment with Bacon to meet him at that exact place at the right time for the kind of light he needed. Bacon squeezed a little awkwardly at the edge of the frame, looking out of it stony-faced in his black leather coat (doubtless garment and expression also at Brandt’s order), the leaning lamp post with its light against the gloom of the burnt-in sky, the triangle of path leading to the scraggy trees at the brow of the hill and the darkened grass creating a surreal background, and a little light (available or added?) from the left bringing out the face of the subject and some detail in his coat.

Fenton, who I’ve also written about before at some length, had a rather nice house on the edge of the park with a view across it. A blue plaque marks the house, one of rather few in London related to photography.

This Sunday it was bright and fairly clear as I walked up the hill. People were running up it, jogging around the park, and admiring the view from the top. I watched a small group of the druids, still in ordinary clothes, practice a little of their ritual and read a chapter or two enjoying sitting in the sun while waiting for things to happen.

On My London Diary you can see my pictures from the hill and of the druids, both as they prepare for the ceremony – putting on their robes and lining up, and during it.

Unfortunately I had to leave before the end of the ceremony to get to St Paul’s Cathedral where I was meeting some friends for a walk – so perhaps I’ll need to go back another year to photograph the end of the event.

Incidentally I intend to rewrite some of my old features from another place (most needed revising in any case) and post the new features here or elsewhere. But 8 years of writing is a lot to tackle.

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