Tuesday, 23 June 2009

William Morris Society Activities: 1

Having just been to my first-ever William Morris Society Committee meeting, I found myself speculating, on the train back to Lancaster, as to what possible new directions the Society’s Programme Sub-Committee might venture into. I think we would want to be faithful to the stress in News from Nowhere on the holistic nature of creative human activity, i.e., that it should involve the body as much as (or more than) the mind, and that it should ideally take place outdoors – in that perpetual Nowherian June sunshine! – rather than indoors.

So among my preliminary thoughts on this topic would be:

Fafnir hedge-clipping competition – reach for your shears and, re-enacting Morris’s own annual ritual at Kelmscott, we see who can carve the most persuasive hedge decoration in the shape of Sigurd the Volsung’s dragon, Fafnir.

Singlestick demonstration and training – this was, after all, Morris’s great passion in MacLaren’s gym in Oxford and singlestick is, one gathers, making something of a contemporary comeback as a native British martial art.

Outdoor bathing and swimming – as happens in News from Nowhere, over and over in Morris’s late romances, and on Morris’s own expeditions up the Thames on the Ark.

Society camping expeditions – as in News from Nowhere itself, where ‘tenting’ is a very popular pastime, and as organised by the William Morris Labour Church after WM’s death.

Searching for snakeshead fritillaries in the Oxfordshire countryside – as May Morris was wont to do during her years at Kelmscott after her parents’ deaths.

Pike-fishing on the Thames – but I have written about this in this blog already (see entry for 9.10.07).

Outdoor political preaching – as among the 1880s socialists themselves. Perhaps, as a charity, the Society could not be too directly political, but it could preach a Morrisian message of craftsmanship under a suitable banner at various London pitches.

Cycling from Oxford to Kelmscott – which admittedly wasn’t something that Morris himself did, but cycling was popular among young socialists in the 1890s and several of them did arrive at Kelmscott Manor by this means.

Please add your own suggestions to this list via the ‘comments’ facility. Several of the ideas above could be combined together, of course, and what a healthy and wholesome vista then opens. If I could but see a day of it, if I could but see it!


ianmac55 said...

I'm up for cycling from Oxford to Kelmscott. Is there a local branch of the Clarion Cycling Club (motto = "Fellowship Is Life")?

Elrond said...

Outdoor activities, yes indeed! For as Friedrich Nietzsche finely says somewhere, 'only trust those thoughts which come to you when you are out in the fields using your muscles'.