Saturday, 21 June 2014

Midsummer, St. Magnus, and a (knitted) mouse

Despite the low cloud, the slightly chilly air, and a lack of sun, it is in fact midsummer. Here in Orkney this means not only an excuse to celebrate what George Mackay Brown described as 'the over-brimming of the year's well of light'*, but also to enjoy this year's St Magnus International Festival

Today in Stromness Town Hall at 5.30pm the first performance of this year's Johnsmas Foy will take place, when Sarah Jane Gibbon will direct 'The Raven Banner, Twelve Valkyries & a Ghost Army'. This will be a commemoration of the 1000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf, through song, poetry, story-telling and Old Norse writings performed by Sarah, along with poet Emma Grieve, composer Aimee Leonard and storyteller Tom Muir

For those who would like to know more about how midsummer and Johnsmas were traditionally celebrated, then we would recommend Midsummer, Johnsmas and bonfires on the UHI Centre for Nordic Studies website and also the excellent articles on Orcadian Bonfire Traditions  and A Year of Orcadian Tradition from the Orkneyjar site. 

In a break from tradition this year's St Magnus Festival features two workshops by Norwegian knitting celebrities Arne & Carlos. These have proved so popular that both Kirkwall and Stromness workshops have sold out, but we know that at least some of our library Yap and Yarn group members have been lucky enough to get tickets - including our library assistant Becky. During the workshop Arne & Carlos will be leading participants through their pattern for Magnus Garden Mouse, from their latest book Knit-and-Crochet Garden, which is, of course, available from the library.

We hope Becky will bring her Magnus into the library for a visit when he is finished and we'll try to get a photo to show you. If anyone else has knitted Magnus do please send us a photo and we'll share them on the blog. 

 Arne and Carlos

Magnus Garden Mouse

So it's going to be a busy weekend here in Stromness, but however, and where ever, you are going to be celebrating, we hope your solstice, St Magnus Festival, and Johnsmas  are full of midsummer magic.

*  from "Solstice of Light" in Under Brinkie's Brae, 1979, p.147

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