Tag Archives: Open Gorsedh

Open Gorsedh 2013

Poster for PrometheusThis year’s contest for the Bardic Chair of Ynys Witrin was won by Lisa Goodwin. The crown was awarded jointly to Harmony Davies and Hugh le Provost; Richard Field won the fool’s prize for the second year running and the Tim Sebastion Memorial Trophy was awarded posthumously to Graham Coles. The standard of entries was higher than ever and the atmosphere for the Finals was electric.

We had a gorgeous Gorsedh ceremony on Sunday afternoon – the weather held off ominously overhead. It is with great sadness we remember the passing this year of Graham Coles, Glastonbury’s Town Crier and Honorary Bard and Nikki Dorakis, who provided valuable magical support in the initial setting up of the Gorsedh. Gerry performed her duties admirably, initiating seven new Bards and graduating to Elder herself. We would like to welcome Thalia Brown – *Lady of Avalon, Senga Skylark, Duncan Batey, Steve Astronaut, Lisa Goodwin, Jeremy Bull and Hugh le Provost as new members of the college. It was lovely to have the Mayor attending this year and it was a profoundly moving experience to welcome Geoffrey Ashe as an Honorary Bard. I shall treasure the look on his face for years to come! Thanks to Lydia Lyte (Swordbearer), Denise Michell (Elder Druid) and Shamus Joy (Herald) for holding the energy of the ceremony so gracefully. It was great to be able to chill out at the Buddleia Bar afterwards and ground the energy with some mouth-watering cheesecake!

Open Gorsedh 2012

Initiaton Postergerry_the_bard 2012We’re thrilled to announce that Gerry Barnett won the 2012 contest for the Bardic Chair to become the 7th Bard of Ynys Witrin. The Crown went to Harmony and the Fool’s Hat was presented to Richard Field. The Judges decided to award the Tim Sebastion Memorial Trophy to Nathan Lewis Williams for his work in “the elevation of the word” and Tara was accepted as Younger Bard of Ynys Witrin for 2012.

The Circle of new members10 new Bards were initiated at the Open Gorsedh ceremony, so we welcome Richard Field, Denise Michell, Gerry Barnett, Lokabandu, Carol, Stuart Packer, Morag of he Moor, David Muir, Andy and Daygan into the fold. Honorary Bardships were also awarded to Pok and Graham Coles (The Town Crier of Glastonbury) in recognition of their unique contributions to the community.

The Chairing of the new bardWith 14 contenders in the Trials, this was the biggest contest we’ve held so far and the standard of the entries was phenomenal. Thank you to everyone who took part and contributed to making it happen!

Open Gorsedh 2011

This year’s theme was “Twelve Giants: The Glastonbury Zodiac”. Carly Roberts was chosen to be the sixth Bard of Ynyswitrin on St Dunstan’s day 2011. Tim Hall won the Crown and Oshia Drury was awarded the Tim Sebastion Memorial Trophy in recognition of her musical service to the community. Molly was installed as this year’s Younger Bard.

This means Tony Atkinson now joins the ranks of the Elder Bards. This year we admitted eight new Bards into the Order at the Annual Open Gorsedh ceremony.

  • Cat Watling
  • Jana Runnalls
  • Kat Brown :: TSMT 2010.
  • Carly Roberts :: Bardic Chair 2011.

Thanks to everyone who came and made this such a strong and inspiring event!

Open Gorsedh 2010

Flight Poster The theme for 2010 was “Flight”

New members of the Bardic College:

  • Stuart Carr
  • Vanda Lloyd
  • Phil Stretch :: Crown 2010.
  • Harmony Davies :: Crown 2012 and 2013.
  • Michael Malik
  • Pok :: Honorary Bard.
  • Alison Hall :: Regular Judge.
  • Amber le Faye Moon :: Lady of Avalon 2010.

Declan Millar became our first Younger Bard; Kat Brown was awarded the Tim Sebastion Memorial Trophy; Phil Stretch got the Crown and Tony Atkinson was chosen to become the fifth Bard of Ynys Witrin.

Open Gorsedh 2009

All that glisters posterThe Bardic Chair was contested in 2009 by several local poets, storytellers and musicians, with opening heats at Glastonbury Assembly Rooms, each contestant performing for up to 15 minutes on the given theme, chosen by the outgoing Bard.

Dearbhaile BradleyDearbhaile calling upon the Awen to open proceedings.

All that glisters is not gold

The Open Gorsedd attracted many outstanding performers and entertainers as well as visiting Bards and Druids from other orders. Entries were based on the theme – “All that glisters is not gold”.

The Contenders

Amanda GazidisAmanda made a powerful debut

Daru McAleeceDaru shocked and cajoled us with his poetic storytelling

David ReakesDavid warmed our hearts with his piece Little Golden Children EstebanEsteban sang a selection of exquisite songs Tony AtkinsonTony defied the laws of grammarye with 9° = 2° Magus Wes WhiteWes entertained us with his “The Great Global Gowk-Hunt”

The Entertainment


Badly Housebound Girl Badly Housebound Girl

Nathan Nathan Lewis Williams

Pete Pete

Stevie P Steve Potier

and Willow Willow Seeger

New Members and Initiates of the Bardic College:

  • Wes White
  • Johanna van Fessem
  • Sheena Johnstone :: Lady of Avalon (2008)
  • Seano

Deliberations and Prizes

Judges deliberateThe panel deliberates …

TheoTheo announces the judges’ decision

Jo Waterworth receiving the TSMTDearbhaile and TSMTJo Waterworth wins the Tim Sebastion trophy

The Chairing

Tim and Silver BranchDavid ReakesTim explains the origins of Glastonbury’s Silver Branch

After a long and difficult discussion, the judges chose to chair David Reakes as the new Bard of Ynyswitrin and install Tony Atkinson as his deputy.

Photos: Barnaby J Hodges

The Gorsedh Circle

Open Gorsedh 2008

The theme for 2008 was “The Spirit of Trees”.

New members:

  • Stella Joy
  • Moyra Lynch
  • Amanda Gazidis
  • Daru McAleece :: Bard of the Borders.
  • Karen Smith
  • Nathan Lewis Williams :: Nathan has been one of the main organisers of Gorsedh events since the Order’s inception in 2005.

Theo Simon was awarded the Tim Sebastian Memorial Trophy, David Reakes won the Crown and Ash the Rhymer snatched the chair with a dazzling performance.

Open Gorsedh 2007

2007′s Open Gorsedd was organised in conjunction with the “Megalithomania” conference, which was also being held on the same weekend at the Assembly Rooms. Our thanks go to the Megalithomania team for helping to promote the Open Gorsedd along with the conference. It was with the greatest of sadness that this year’s proceedings had to be conducted without the presence of Tim Sebastion, former Archdruid of Caer Baddon and prime catalyst in the re-establishment of the Bardic Chairs of Albion, who died earlier in the year. This event became quite a moving memorial to his vision.

Nine Maidens

Tim HallWith the theme having been announced by Tim Hall , residing Bard of Glastonbury 05-07, as “Nine Maidens”, the competition was opened to ten contestants each performing for up to fifteen minutes and being judged on the following qualities : Inspiration; originality; working with the audience; presence; emotive appeal; spontaneity; artistry/craft; wisdom and/or foolishness and of course, relevance to the theme.

Judging the ContestThese qualities certainly were in evidence on Tuesday night, creating quite a task for the five judges, Tony Thomson, Denny Michell, Oshia Drury, Thalia Brown and Taruna Das, who had to choose six finalists from amongst them for the final on Saturday night.

Merlin of the WoodsFirst to take the stage was Merlin of the Woods, with his beautiful nine part symphony of the Tale of Nine Maidens. As he spoke his story unfolded, he sang his words and played his lute, and the magic of the evening immediately came to life. A true minstrel and storyteller in our midst, really, one thought the evening couldn’t get much better.

Ezmerelda SangerEzmerelda Sanger, an artist who entered the competition as a result of a broken arm, came up with a wonderful performance, the story beginning with the virgin Mary, who gives birth to hope, and then wended her magical way, to bring us up to date with the birth of her own daughter. Her impersonation of Margaret Thatcher being a particularly funny and unexpected note in this gem of a piece.

CraigCraig presented a forthright interpretation of the nine-fold theme with his own brand of high performance poetry.

Marco CoppenhagenMarco Koppenhagen gave us a whimsical, bittersweet folksong and a rather humorous treatment of the theme.

Dearbhaile BradleyDearbhaile Bradley,who originally had thought the theme to be the number nine, had clearly researched her subject thoroughly and as a result brought to the Gorsedd a most thoughtful piece of poetry, “The Power of Nine,” full of power, stunningly written, and delivered with a passion that had the entire audience hooked.

David ReakesDavid Reakes, the Fiddler; told his tale in the style of the Pied Piper, disturbing, original, brilliant. The tale of a wedding, the guests transfixed by a spell, they danced till they became stone. Unfinished was his tale on Tuesday, but still remarkable enough to get him through to the final, we had to wait in anticipation to hear the end of his story.

Tony AtkinsonTony Atkinson took the theme of Nine Maidens to a genuinely Bardic level, creating his poem “999” with nine verses, nine lines to each verse and nine syllables to each line. His tale of classical allusion was a remarkable structural achievement.

MichaelaMichaela, a true Bard in the making, has clearly worked really hard on her performing skills since entering last year, and brought us a ballad of the maidens, alluringly sung and accompanied by Merlin, a beguiling performance.

John JohnsonJohn Johnson’s contribution seemed a little ill-prepared, although pleasant enough, it didn’t really touch on the given theme.

Rohini 2007The evening of profound entertainment was wonderfully wrapped up for us by Rohini, who unfortunately had not realized there was a theme for the competition , but was still kind enough to entertain us with his talking drum and his beautiful words. He began with a Sanskrit invocation which then led into a song of three parts. The first part tells us how the sound of nature inspires the song writer, the second of the appreciation of mother earth and the nurturing and shelter she gives us, and finally in the third part talks of the spiritual world, that as we roam the physical world we are each making our personal journey to our spiritual world. This piece was possibly not quite what the judges were asking for, but nevertheless a fine reminder of what we were doing there and a fitting end to the evening.

Tony ThompsonWe were back to the Assembly Rooms on Thursday for open mike night where artists who did not wish to enter the competition were invited to take to the stage. We were treated to a wealth of talent which included more from the fabulous Tim Hall, still the chaired Bard,performing alone as well as with the uber talented Oshia Drury, who also performed solo this evening. Beautiful guitar playing from Tony Thompson, bespoke guitar maker and chair of judges, the deeply haunting sounds of Brian’s vocal improvisation. Kevan, the third Bard of Bath, treated us to his version of the story if Taliesin’s birth. A memorable experience and an honour to be present.

Gorsedh Circle 2007The traditional open air Gorsedd ceremony was held at the Fairfields on Glastonbury Tor and four new Bards: Merlin of the Woods; Ezmerelda Sanger; Craig and Bryan Holder were given the Awen initiation and admitted to the order. We remembered Tim Sebastion and gave thanks for his life and closed with the cry for peace, then the newly initiated bards along with the Elder Bards and the judges made their way back to the Assembly Rooms for the final heat.

We were again treated to the six finalists performing their entries, starting off with more wonderful songs from Tim on this, his final evening as chaired bard.

Guest performances included:

Ash MandrakeAsh Mandrake, Bard of Caer Baddon (Bath);

Kevan Manwaring reading the Brown BookKevan Manwaring;

MarkMark Lindsey Earley, Bard of Caer Wyse (Exeter);

and Bryan Holder, demonstrating the art of the Awenyddion.

After much deliberation the judges returned with the verdict being eloquently pronounced by the leader of the panel, Tony Thompson.

Nathan TSMT 2007The Tim Sebastian Memorial Trophy was awarded to Stevie P. and received by Nathan Williams in his absence.

Merlin receives the crownThe Deputy Bard’s Crown was awarded to Merlin.

Dearbhaile Bradleyand Dearbhaile Bradley won the Chair
All hail the Bard!

Story: Jo Raphael
Photos: Barnaby J Hodges & Jo Raphael

Open Gorsedh 2006

The Open Gorsedd of the Bards of Ynys Wytrin was held on Saint Dunstan’s Day, the 19th of May, with a preliminary round on the 17th. Entrants were invited to contest for the Chair with its current incumbent, Tim Hall. The theme specified was ‘Gwyn ap Nudd, the King of the Fairies’.

A panel of judges was recruited from the Glastonbury cultural Establishment, consisting of Jo Waterworth, Sonia Guinnessy, Oshia Drury, Tony Thompson and Matt Tweed. The Bardic Council is deeply obliged to the judges, who took on this onerous task generously and, in some cases, at short notice.

The Bardic Trials

Tim HallThe preliminary round was held at the Glastonbury Assembly Rooms, which provided both their usual high standard of informal comfort and two of their permanent staff, Paul Perry and Liz Gilbert, as MCs.

After an introductory song from Tim, the twelve candidates were invited to perform. Each was allowed fifteen minutes, at the end of which a timekeeper would, if necessary, sound a gong. The order of performance was determined by drawing names from a hat.

Jamuna, a well-known local bard, delivered a complex and carefully-timed recitation on the specified theme, its quietly hypnotic verse-forms accentuated by the accompaniment of his Mbira, a small Central African instrument resembling a hand-played musical box.

Tony AtkinsonTony Atkinson, new to the Gorsedd, introduced a note of classical rigour by reciting four sonnets of his own composition upon the theme, being one for each of the four Seasons, and, as a technical tour-de-force, each representing one of four classical sonnet forms (Tony adds the Wordsworthian form to the usual three).

Bryan HolderBryan Holder performed a most unusual (and untitled) work which he describes only as ‘sound and motion’; essentially a vocal tone-poem or song without words, in which his voice, interacting with the room acoustic as he moved slowly around the whole venue, produced quite unprecedented effects.

David ReakesDavid Reakes recited a finely-crafted satirical ballad, using a carefully-chosen verse-form and contriving not only to follow the prescribed traditional theme but also to send up the whole Glastonbury magickal scene; his line ‘It makes all the people wear crystals, and purple’ reduced some of the audience to tears of laughter.

MichaelaMichaela, by far the most gorgeously-attired bard of the evening, accompanied herself on a Native American medicine-drum and performed two quite different chant-sequences, demonstrating the potentials of her instrument, her voice and the dramatic language in which she works.

Brian Conquer, a bard of long standing, firmly maintained tradition by avoiding modern, experimental forms and delivering a ‘proper’ acoustic-guitar-accompanied, singer-songwriter’s ballad, his kindly voice and gently humorous lyrics providing a fine start to the proceedings.

Dearbhaile BradleyDearbhaile Bradley performed an impassioned poem on the theme of the banishing of Gwyn ap Nudd and his courtiers from a hilltop by former Abbot of Glastonbury, St Collen. This poet did a fine job of showing how with early Christian myths like this there are ‘two sides to every story’.

Willow SeegerWillow, a bard of great experience, delivered an intense and demanding dramatic recitation in a free-verse form, its force and power greatly enhanced by his voice, upon the theme; he then returned to a lighter note with a ballad, accompanying himself on the octave mandola.

John JohnsonJohn Johnson, possibly the youngest candidate, stuck to traditional ways and delivered a fine ballad, accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar, his style being refreshingly light and informal.

At this point the judges retired, to consider a short-list of six candidates who would proceed to the final. During their absence, a number of fine entertainers who, for various reasons, were unable to contest the Chair, generously gave of their time and talent.

PokPok, the Bard of the Loyal Arthurian Warband, delivered an exquisite recitation in which he combined what seemed to be the verse-forms of Chaucerian Middle English with word-forms and phonetic values reminiscent of Anglo-Saxon or even Old Norse, without sacrificing for a moment the comprehensibility of the modern English in which, in fact, he works. This spectacular piece, which few but he could deliver, remains unpublished, though there are hopes that the artist may in the future allow publication.

Haylee, who is 10, and who had not, it seems, arrived with the intention of taking part, confidently took the floor to declaim a poem in eight parts, relating to the eight major Celtic festivals, which she had written entirely during the course of the evening. This impressive standard of creativity and drive surprised many older and more experienced bards.

Emma Harper, widely-known singer/songwriter, was able to find time in her busy schedule to perform several of her impassioned and heartfelt songs. Kev the Poet, of the LAW, and Singing Horse, who recites in the Lakota language and had travelled all the way from Oregon, also provided excellent entertainment.

On the judges’ return, it was announced that Willow, Dearbhaile Bradley, Michaela, David Reakes, Tony Atkinson and Jamuna were to be the six finalists.

The Open Gorsedd

The final round was held at the White Spring, the Guardians of which most generously allowed the use of this unique, and only recently restored, sacred space for this purpose. The Bardic Council, somewhat surprised at the numbers of people who attended, would like to thank the Guardians for their patience with and tolerance of a much larger audience than was expected, and to confirm that next year’s final will, in the light of this, be held at the Assembly Rooms in order to accommodate more people comfortably.

Before proceeding to the White Spring, a Gorsedd circle was held in the Fairfield (beneath the Tor). All of the candidate Bards, members of the Bardic Council and many of the audience attended. Dignitaries present included the Maenarch of Avalon, the Faerie Queene of the Glastonbury Outer Order of Druids, and Mr. Tim Sebastian, Archdruid of the Secular Order of Druids, present in his capacity of Elder Bard of Caer Badon. As part of this ceremony fourteen of the candidates and the Council accepted formal initiation by the Chaired Bard of Ynys Wytrin.

  • Dearbhaile Bradley :: Elder: Bardic Chair 2007-8. Secretary of Gorsedh Committee 2010-2013
  • Tony Thompson :: Chair of Gorseth Committee 2007-2009.
  • Chaz Heritage :: Secretary and Chief Scribe to the Gorsedd 2007-2009.
  • Petra Cook
  • Lydia Lyte :: Sword Bearer to the Gorsedh
  • Jo Waterworth :: Tim Sebastion Memorial Trophy 2009 and previously acted as Judge at the Bardic Trials 2006
  • Oshia Drury :: TSMT 2011 and a regular Bardic Trials Judge.
  • Viv Andreae
  • Jamuna Jivana
  • David Reakes :: Elder: Bardic Chair 2009. Crown 2008-9.
  • Tony Atkinson :: Elder: Bardic Chair 2010; Crown 2009. Treasurer of Gorsedh Committee 2011-2014
  • Dreow Bennet :: Honorary Elder Bard. Maenarc of Avalon.
  • Theo Simon :: Tim Sebastion Memorial Trophy 2008-9.
  • Sonia Guinnessy
  • Raga Richie
  • Willow Seeger
  • Brian Conquer :: ArchDruid of Hibernian Order.
  • Yanni :: Lady of Avalon. (2009)
  • Mikhaela

The artists appearing in the final did not alter their performances significantly from those given in the preliminary round, though it was clear that the latter had been substantially polished during the intervening days. Denny Price acted as MC, managing as well as did the performers the White Spring’s strongly ecclesiastical architecture and acoustic.

By the end of the finalists’ performances so many people had come to listen that there was nowhere left at the White Spring to which the judges could retire; accordingly they retired to a private house. The audience were then treated to a repetition of Pok’s fine recitation; Pixi, the famous Glastonbury singer/songwriter, arrived and, despite an unfamiliar guitar, produced a fine rendition of some of his memorable folk repertoire.

Sarah Curtis, lead singer with folk band Savernake, performed a beautiful song written specially for Mayday. Entitled ‘Bear and Swan’, the lyrics had no specific reference to the ‘King of the Faeries’, but the image of the banishing of the darkness by the light was perfect for the time of year.

Theo, from ‘Seize the Day’ sang one of the band’s more mystical numbers, ‘Child of the Universe’ and Nathan Williams, a local musician and teacher who also gave many hours of his professional time to the task of organising the Gorsedd, delivered in both Welsh and English ‘Propaganda’r Prydydd’, translated as ‘The Poet’s Propaganda’, by R.Williams Parry, a sonnet on the qualities of a true Bard, and sang ‘Woven are the Ways’, a song from Penmaenmawr; Merlin also performed a lengthy incantation to the Goddess Bridgit (or Brigit, or Bridie, or Her other names).

Eventually the judges returned, looking somewhat worn, and amid a frenzy of excitement it was announced that Tim Hall’s tenure as Chaired Bard of Ynys Wytrin was to continue; none of the candidates were judged to have exceeded the standard of Tim’s winning performance.

regaliaThe formal Chairing then took place. Denny Price and Oshia Drury robed the re-Chaired Bard then the Silver Branch was presented by Shamus Joy as Honorary Grand Bard on behalf of the late Richie Bond and representing the lineage of Bards of Ynyswitrin, Tim Sebastion then completed Tim’s formal initiation as Grand Bard with the presentation and recitation of the Qualification of the Bards, following which Tim played the winning song, The Ravens, as an encore.

The event being officially over, the informal entertainers once again took the floor, Pixi forming an impromptu duo with Helen Tucker, a fine local folk violinist; the entertainment did not stop until the venue finally closed.

The Bardic Council are deeply gratified with the response to the Open Gorsedd and once again would like to thank everyone whose time, effort and talent went into making it such a fine event. We all look forward to next year’s Gorsedd, which we hope will be even bigger and even better.

Open Gorsedh 2005

NickOur first Open Gorseth was held on June 17th (St Hervé’s Day) 2005. The proceedings opened with the presentation of our first Gorseth stone by Tim Sebastian from the Bath Order. A welcome was given by Nick and returned by our Honorary Grand Bard Shamus Joy on behalf of the late Richie Bond, Followed by the Call to the Four Corners of the Nation. We then performed The Ceremony of Peace where The Grand Bard asks “Is There Peace” and everyone replies “Peace!” – we did this three times and then the Gorseth was declared open.

Gorseth Prayer (Talhaearn Tad Tanwyn)

Grant, O God and Goddess, thy protection,
and in protection, strength
and in strength, wisdom
and in wisdom, knowledge
and in knowledge, knowledge of righteousness
and in the knowledge of righteousness, its loving
and in its loving, the love of all existence
and in loving all existence, the love of God and Goddess
God, Goddess and all goodness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Horn of plenty is presented to the Archdruid by one of the flower maidens, who urges him to drink the wine of welcome.

The ceremony of the Offering of the Fruits of the Earth – The Lady of Avalon is escorted across the circle by two young attendants and the Sword Bearer, presenting a sheaf of flowers and corn to the Grand Bard.

Tim Hawthorn and Tim SebastionThe Deputy Grand Bard offered prayers for those Bards who have passed on during the past year. Richie Bond, Alison Colyer, Tomy, Jaqueline Memory Patterson (the author of ‘Tree Wisdom’) and Ray Kerleigh were specially included, followed by a short address from Tim Sebastian, as our visiting Bard from Bath.

Next came the chairing of the Bard, followed by much music and dancing.


Declaration of PeaceOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACeremony of the sword – the sword is half unsheathed over the altar stone and the Cry of Peace is repeated (see above) whereon the sword is re-sheathed. We join hands hands for the final prayer and the Gorseth is declared closed.

We Swear by Peace and love to Stand
Heart to Heart and hand in hand
Mark O Spirit and hear Us now
confirming this Our sacred Vow

So mote it be.