gather-ing: venue 35

On Sunday afternoon I was able to accompany Christopher to view and help dismantle the ‘gather-ing’ installation in Stoke-sub Hamdon’s tithe barn.  This contemplative yet fleeting exhibition has now come to a close but there are plans for it to tour other tithe barns nationally and I sincerely hope these plans do come to fruition. The nature of the building and the commissioned installations imbued a symbolic calming atmosphere which was mellow and totally captivating – I am so pleased I was able to view it first hand.



The project was curated by Deirdre Figueirdo of Craftspace who invited four artists to create work directly in response to the site with particular reference to its historical function as a space to not only collect, store and gather tithes (taxes) but also as a meeting place for ritual celebration. The artists selected were Stewart Francis Easton, Jacky Oliver, Helen Snell and Gillian Widden. Christopher was brought on board as an ‘interpreter’ and drawing on his skills as ‘poet technologist’ was able to encompass the final commissions by inviting visitors to gather their own word hoards derived by these contemporary installations. He also wrote ‘Hollow Husk’ in response to the project and now that the exhibits have been removed and carefully stowed away the empty barn is once again that hollow husk…

How many blisters are in these walls
How many hours how many toils
How many shoulders have stooped to its graft
How many lives has it carried through its past
How many limbs have burdened and broken
Twisted and turned labouring to its token
How many fingers with arthritis twist
How many rickets and pains in the wrists
How many creases have cut across faces
Of laughter
Of life
Of stifled grimaces

So how many hours to dress this stone
Quarry and cut and lay with mortar
Plan the plot
Segment and quarter
Fell the timber
Adze it clean
Raise each and every roofing beam
Thatch the eaves and stitch it neat
Then every year repair repeat

Then forge new hooks to hang these shutters
Iron tools to chase up gutters
Drawing deep from the blacksmiths art
A task of which no small in part
First coppice hazel and willow hoods
Charcoal them deep in the Somerset woods
Fire the hearth
Soften the metal
Hammer it thin as flower petals
Make a blade
Temper a chisel
Shear the sheep
(Then card with teasels)
Farrie a shoe or a pin for your cape
A hoe for your hand or a tooth for your rake
And finally a latch to secure this hoard
Tithes collected for the coffers of the Lord

Winter spent spring at its heels
Time to drill the seeds in the fields
Barley wheat spelt and rye
Dangle with ferns to snare the flies

Despair encroaches as the mildew blooms
Wash the moth worms from the looms
Wheat weevil breeding and spider mites
Pressing plagues
And parasites
Devastations leaving yield so thin
But still the brethren weighs out
their one tenth this nothing
And lock it up tight against a plunder
As they shelter souls from brimstone and thunder
Protecting the precious and pious and meek
Prayers for the soul
With the washing of their feet
To guide
To guard
In these times so hard

And what of today’s idling hall
With no tithes left within these walls
Barn builders gone and long passed to dust
Shutters fixed up
Locks left to rust
Legacy left and cleft into this stone
Those guardians who scribbled
with tithe counting scratches
The same hands which threw open these latches
And ledgered and counted
Noted and numbered
Revelled and flouted
Harboured and lumbered
Perhaps the same in heart who gather here still
Though none proper soiled by the grist of this mill
But still honest selfless blood
With honourable thoughts
Upon hard this packed mud
Now it’s ledgered and secured by our National Trust
Is this the final tithe of this hollow husk

links connected to this post

gather-ing tumbler


Stewart Francis Easton

Jacky Oliver

Helen Snell

Gillian Widden

Christopher Jelley

WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY by Davina Jelley

Hollow Husk © Christopher Jelley 2015

Published on October 12, 2015 // Davina Jelley