We had the remarkably talented harpist Shani Liz Wyman travel up from the far west to perform a series of beautiful pieces on two harps which her late husband had crafted for her. It was a very inspiring performance and the interludes between each instrumental, where Liz introduced the piece and spoke about both her life and inspirations, were both moving and informative.
The replacement activities for the unwell performers seemed to go down fairly well, with one set of poetry readings and another discussion on how the arts can be used to help create community in paganism (which seems to be an uphill struggle on the best of days - I'm feeling increasingly bleak about the future of paganism in this country) and the ways in which we tell our collective story both to each other and to the wider society.
The day finished on a jovial note with a series of seasonal songs from Freyja's Fire, a Suffolk-based folk trio. I particularly like a rousing harvest song they do, and they always draw the pageant together.
The event has always run as a charitable activity, raising cash for animal welfare. This year we were only able to make any money at all because of the considerable generosity of both Liz and the musical trio who all donated their travel expenses (particularly large ones for the harpist) to the good causes. Every year has been a struggle to either get enough performers or to draw a decent-sized audience, and it's now reached the point when the continuance of the Pageant into 2017 is frankly debatable. How long can one go on trying to push a gathering when the majority of pagans have dozens of things they'd rather be doing instead? The Pageant was inspired by the vital presence within a statue of a pooka (a shapeshifting Gaelic nature elemental) that was given as a Yule gift eight years ago. He has come to every Pageant and numerous people have commented on the magnetic quality of the statue. It would be a real shame if an event that seems a genuine novelty in the British pagan scene went to the wall, but getting any kind of activity to run these days feels increasingly like wading through congealing porridge.
Maybe someone will come up with a dazzling suggestion that would treble the audience size and make it all viable for 2017, but at the moment the pageant floats in limbo.