Story: Colombine Neal
Photos: Neill Schofield & Colombine Neal
The Beacons Festival was not only intended to re-breathe life into Parkwood Springs, but was also a way for children to confront their fears.
When Shonaleigh started the Beacons story telling project she asked children what their greatest fear was, and “Jenny Greenteeth” was created. Now in their fourth annual event she’s gone back to the beginning of the trilogy.
This year it started out as a small gathering at the Heliport entrance of Parkwood Springs. Sheffield Council’s Parks and Countryside, the Friends of Parkwood Springs, timber sculptors Handspring Design and, of course, the children from Watercliffe Meadows and St Catherine’s Schools were present.
The adults huddled together drinking coffee while children ran around excitedly, until Shonaleigh put them into place. Stern, but lovingly, and with incredible voice and presence, she led us up through the woods, singing and marching along with beautifully-made paper fish, we started to get into the mood and warmed up fast.
Eventually we reached the windy peak looking out over Sheffield. Formerly this was the end of the story and the Firebird would be set alight. But bad weather made this impossible, so our story started here. With the wind whipping the flags and the children lined up listening intently, she started to tell the tale of Jenny Greenteeth and the Firebird. With a view over a cold and grey Sheffield, she painted a magic picture with her words.
Half way through, we took another trip through the forest to a clearing. On our way we encountered beautifully crafted artefacts and a storm of props, sound and light effects. Once at our destination Shonaleigh started out with a riddle. “What can you keep, but also give?” Many answers were shouted back including ‘love’ and ‘friendship’, but what I personally thought was ingenious was a young boy who said ‘knowledge’. Then she moved on to the story and a children’s race of Rats and Cats. The atmosphere was perfect, as Simon Haywood played a melancholy tune on his accordion, joined by the sounds of a storm rolling in the background.
From there we moved on to the humungous figures of Jenny Greenteeth, the Firebird and its egg. Candles surrounding them were lit and, as it got darker, the feeling of magic and wonder grew. Children told us their names, what they mean and why their parents called them that.
Shonaleigh said that the whole idea of the event was to honour who you are, your identity, the sense of togetherness, inheritance and community. I heard a boy shout to his parents that he remembered sitting here four years ago on haystacks. And that’s what it’s all about: keeping the memories flowing and the people together.
The show was, as expected, spectacular. “Then the firebird burst from the throat of Jenny Greenteeth, leaving her mist as upon the water, which began to recede. The firebird soared over the city, singing its song and bringing hope to all those who saw it.”
As she said this, fire burst from Jenny Greenteeth’s mouth and lit up the surroundings. The egg started to twirl with fire shooting off in every direction as the Firebird came to life. Its wings were set alight and fireworks started shooting into the air, as if now it was truly airborne.
As the night sky lit up and you looked at the crowd, you could see the wonder in the eyes of children and adults alike. Despite a malfunctioning firework right at the end, it was an amazing and touching event. I am looking forward to next year and hope for more people to join in on this trip through a world of image and music, created by storytelling.
“What can you keep, but also give?” – “A Story”
For more information about Friends of Parkwood Springs go to
http://www.parkwood-springs.org.uk, or call 07858 758 340 to get involved.
Wednesday 8th December Christmas wreath-making at Parkwood Springs 4pm – 6pm by the Cooks Wood Road/Shirecliffe Road entrance. Join the Rangers and Friends of Parkwood Springs for a festive afternoon on Parkwood Springs and make your own Christmas wreath. All materials provided, free! Come along and do something a bit different under cover in a festively-lit tent! All welcome!