A pyramid at Glastonbury

THE FIRST PYRAMIDICAL STAGE at the site of the annual music festival at Glastonbury was built in 1971. It was designed by Bill Harkin, who died on the 11th of March 2021, aged 83. He was inspired by a dream he had back in 1970. The story goes as follows (https://www.avalonianaeon.com/content/bookextracts_content_text.html):

“The contents of ‘The View Over Atlantis’ hung in the air, like an esoteric energy transmission, around the inception of the 1971 Pilton festival. Powerful forces were at work. The story of the famous pyramid stage is a good example. In 1970 Bill Harkin was camping with a friend on the south coast of England. One night, gazing at the stars over the sea, he experienced an intense feeling of light. He decided to allow himself to be guided by it and they set off in his car, navigating solely through the vibe, with no sense whatever of any destination. Eventually they saw a road-sign for Glastonbury and arrived at the Tor. The synchronisation beam got them there in time to meet a group of extravagantly dressed hippie characters descending from the summit. One of them was Andrew Kerr. He and his friends were on their way to meet Michael Eavis to discuss the possibilities of a solstice festival the following year. Harkin fed them with tea, honey and oatcakes. They exchanged phone numbers. The next Wednesday, Harkin was out driving when he saw a vision of Andrew Kerr’s face on an upcoming phone-box. He immediately stopped and rang him. The news was that the festival had been given the go-ahead and that Kerr and his associates were moving into Worthy Farm to begin the preparations. Harkin offered to help them that weekend. On the Thursday night he dreamt of a stage with two beams of light forming a pyramid … Within a few days he arrived on the festival site. Kerr showed him a location he had dowsed as being auspicious for the stage to be constructed upon. Harkin recognised his dream landscape. Before long, his model was on a table at the farm and a phone call was being made to John Michell for advice on the sacred dimensions for the pyramid stage.”

Bill Harkin

Those of you who are kind enough to read the daily essays, which I post on Facebook, or, after a short delay, on my blog (http://www.adam-yamey-writes.com), might recall that recently I wrote (https://www.facebook.com/YAMEY/posts/10224916932141143) about John Michell, who lived in Notting Hill, west London. This is the same John Michell as that mentioned in the long quote above. “The View over Atlantis” was one of Michell’s most successful books. Michell was deeply involved with the mathematics and geometry of esoterica (in my opinion) such as ley-lines and unexplained phenomena that he believed to be the basis of civilisation, which he believed had been introduced to mankind by visiting extra-terrestrial aliens.

The stage was:

“… conceived by Kerr and the designer Bill Harkin as a one-10th scale replica of the Great Pyramid at Giza. Harkin told me, “I had a dream about standing at the back of a stage and seeing two beams of light forming a pyramid and took that as a message. Andrew gave me John Michell’s number and we spent some hours discussing it…” (www.independent.co.uk/news/people/andrew-kerr-writer-and-festival-organiser-man-who-helped-make-glastonbury-festival-stunning-success-9783179.html)

In his book “The View over Atlantis”, published in 1969, Michell had:

“… recently elucidated the spiritual engineering which, he says, was known over the ancient world.”

According to Michell:

“…All bodies in the universe , according to Michell, give off natural energy. The combinations of these energies , existing when a man is born , makes up one quarter of his character. At the summer solstice, energies from the planets, the sun and the constellation are at their height. The earth gives of[f] energies through certain values in its surface, called blind springs. The Great Pyramid in Egypt, Stonehenge itself and the great pre-reformation Gothic churches were designed to accumulate this terrestrial current, to conduct the solar spark and to fuse the two.”

(both quotes from www.ukrockfestivals.com/glasmenu.html)

Andrew Kerr, the creator of the festival, hoped that the pyramid designed by Harkin to the measurements that Michell had based on celestial geometry would on one of the days of the festival:

“… concentrate the celestial fire and pump it into the planet to stimulate growth.”

Whether or not it did so, I cannot say, but the Glastonbury Festival has thrived since 1971, but it had to be cancelled in 2020 because of the covid19 pandemic.

Was it pure coincidence that I happened to write about Michell and ideas, which are usually way off my radar, a few days before Harkin died? Or were my thoughts conveyed mysteriously along an invisible ley line that happened to intersect with that along which Harkin was travelling? Just because strange phenomena that fascinated the brilliant mind of John Michell cannot be pinned down by conventional scientific method, it is best to keep an open mind about their existence or non-existence.

A theatre resurrected…

Early in November 2018, I saw the opening performance of a new production of “Love Lies Bleeding” by Don de Lillo, which was premiered in 2005, at the Print Room in London’s Notting Hill Gate. The play deals with the question of euthanasia in a situation of a person with persistent vegetative state. The playwright deals with moral and other questions relating to this in a sensitive way. As with most Print Room productions I have seen, the acting was superb, at times gripping.

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The Print Room theatre began its life in 2010 in a converted printers’ warehouse in Hereford Road, close to Westbourne Grove. We attended several excellent performances there, seated on not very comfortable chairs. In summer the warehouse, which was poorly ventilated, could become very hot. I remember watching “The Kingdom of the Earth” by Tennessee Williams one hot May evening. The heat in the theatre complimented the seediness of the characters. A year or two ago, the Print Room shifted to the Coronet in Notting Hill Gate.

When I began living near this place, the Coronet was a cinema. It was the last cinema in London to permit smoking in the auditorium. Smokers had to sit in the balcony seats, not in the stalls below them. The cinema had two screens, the larger of which was in what looked like an Edwardian theatre. Indeed, the Coronet started life as a theatre when it was opened in late 1898 (see: http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/CoronetTheatreNottingHillGate.htm).    It was designed by a theatre architect WGR Sprague (1863-1933). Eighteen years later, the theatre began to be used as a cinema. Many of its original features were retained. By 1923 it became a full-time cinema.

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In 1972, the Coronet was threatened with demolition. It was saved and made subject to conservation regulations following local residents’ successful protests. In 1993, when I first came to live close to the Coronet, the cinema looked run down but romantically picturesque. The local Kensington Temple Church bought the Coronet in 2004, planning to use it as a place of worship (as has happened with so many former cinemas in London). As a digression, it is interesting to note that cinemas in London have been converted to churches, whereas in Communist Albania the reverse was true during its period of official atheism.

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The Kensington Temple spruced up and restored the Coronet, but kept it running as a cinema. They used it occasionally as a place where their congregation could listen to preachers. Once on a Sunday morning I passed the Coronet, whose doors were open, and looked into the auditorium where a very enthusiastic clergyman was rousing his lively audience.

The Coronet cinema closed in 2014. It had been bought by the Print Room, which had shifted from Hereford Road. Thus, the Coronet became a theatre once more. The Print room have preserved many of the decorative features of the original theatre but have made some major internal modifications. A new stage has been built to cover the space where the original lower level stalls were once. This stage extends to the lower level of the raked seating that had formerly been the original theatre’s Dress Circle. The seats in this Circle have become the new auditorium. Although much has been done to preserve original features, the theatre has been decorated to give its walls a fashionable distressed appearance. The place reminds me a little of what I remember of the Theatre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris when I saw it in the 1970s soon after the British director Peter Brook re-opened it.

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Although the theatre and its productions are wonderful, the bar must not be missed. It is located beneath the new stage in the space where once the stalls were located. Its concave floor reflects the raking of the seats that were once affixed to it. A grand piano serves as the bar where drinks are sold. The dimly lit bar is decorated quirkily with all manner of bric-a-brac, largely chosen by the staff and, no doubt, sourced from the nearby Portobello and Golborne markets. The bar is open an hour before and an hour after a performance. It is closed during performances because its ceiling is the theatre stage. Even if you cannot manage a play, a visit to the Coronet’s bar is a treat.

Drama by the river: the Bridge Theatre

On Saturday the 29th September 2018, we had a wonderful evening at London’s recently opened Bridge Theatre. It is located on the south bank of the River Thames, a stone’s throw from the world famous ‘icon’ of London, Tower Bridge. From the glass front of the theatre’s foyer, there are superb views of: the new high-rise buildings in the City (including the ‘Gherkin’); the White Tower and the walls of the Tower of London; and Tower Bridge, which is beautifully illuminated at night.

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The Bridge Theatre opened for its first show in October 2017. The theatre is the brainchild of Nick Starr, of the former National Theatre, and the renowned theatre director Nicholas Hytner. Both of these two Nicks have been long involved with London’s National Theatre. Their creation, the Bridge, is an improved version of the facilities offered by the now ageing National Theatre on the Southbank. Excellent as the National Theatre is, the Bridge seems to have been designed to avoid some of the defects of the former. The newer theatre, which can seat 900 audience members, was designed by S Tompkins and R Watts of Haworth Tompkins Architects.

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Doorways in the wide glass façade give access to a vast foyer, well-illuminated by a myriad of lamps with curious shades that look like large translucent handkerchiefs. Ample tables and chairs are available for people to sit in the foyer, enjoying excellent food and drinks from the counters lining one side of the space.

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When you order food, you are handed a small flat, square receiver that looks like a drinks mat. When your food is ready, lights on the receiver flash alarmingly. The flashing object must be taken to a counter where your freshly prepared food is waiting for you. Despite the size of the foyer and its large capacity, it never felt crowded or noisy. It is a well-designed space.

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The cloakroom and toilet facilities are easily accessible, not hidden in odd places as they are in the National Theatre.

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The auditorium is large, but not too large to be without intimacy. No seat is excessively far from the very wide stage. Sightlines are either excellent or more than satisfactory. We had ‘restricted view’ seats, which we bought at the last moment. They were as good as many ‘full view’ seats in older theatres. The acoustics are excellent. We were seated quite far from the stage, but had no difficulty hearing every word. The play we saw, “Allelujah” by Alan Bennett, was well-staged, well-acted, and well-written. In short, it was highly enjoyable. Set in an ageing National Health Service (‘NHS’) hospital facing imminent closure, most of the actors play either the roles of geriatric patients or those of hospital staff and management. The plot is about the plight of the aged and the plight of the ageing NHS system in today’s profit-oriented, economically declining Britain.

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Our visit to the Bridge Theatre was enjoyable and uplifting. I cannot wait to see another performance there.

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