ARTSREACH, Dorset’s rural touring arts charity, has developed an annual celebration of the county’s finest dialect poet, William Barnes, and this year’s event took place at Portesham hall, with Dorset food and music.
The William Barnes Supper has been devised as Dorset’s answer to Scotland’s Burns Night, and a Blue Vinny cheese is“piped” around the hall to start the proceedings!
This year’s second Barnes supper – the inaugural event in 2017 was at Broadmayne – again featured the Ridgeway Band and Singers, with historian and musician Tim Laycock and conductor Phil Humphries, and readings of Barnes poems and stories by actors Charles Buckler and Brian Caddy, who are members of the William Barnes Society.
William Barnes was an extraordinary polymath in an age when an interest – and expertise – in widely different subjects and disciplines was encouraged. He had a working knowledge of 70 languages (that is not a misprint), and was a poet, engraver, inventor, folklorist, musician, author of more than 30 prose books and countless poems, teacher and parish priest.
He had a deep love of and knowledge of the history, heritage old ways and old customs of the south west, and the Barnes Supper is a celebration of the poems and stories in which he captured a world that was rapidly disappearing. Like his great friend Thomas Hardy he grew up in a rural area where most people were poor, still spoke with a thick Dorset accent, still followed the same old tracks and droves, went to church or chapel and enjoyed the simple hymns and carols that were played by the village bands, often from the church’s west gallery. These slightly rough around the edge bands were fast being replaced by the new organs.
The Ridgeway Band and Singers play music collected from churches and village archives across Dorset, dance tunes by Benjamin Rose of Belchalwell, as well as some new songs and carols composed by Tim Laycock and members of the choir. This year’s Barnes Supper also included the first performance of a setting of one of Barnes’s poems by Phil Humphries.
The supper, a celebration of Dorset’s traditional and new food producers, included Dorset watercress soup, delicious crusty bread from Wobbly Cottage at Broadwindsor Craft Centre, Blue Vinny, savoury tarts and sausage rolls by Lizzie Baking Bird, biscuits from Thomas J Fudge’s, traditional farmhouse cheddar from Keens of Wincanton (who were allowed to creep over the border because their cheese is so good!) and Dorset Apple Cake by Lizzie with BV Dairy cream.
The evening was a fund-raiser for Artsreach, and the directors and board are very grateful to the food producers, the South Dorset Ridgeway Partnership and everyone who supported the event.
Pictured: Some of the food served at the Barnes Supper, the Blue Vinny being carried by Brian Caddy and Charles Buckler, fiddler John Dike and Tim Laycock, playing the accordion, as they “piped” the cheese around the hall.