From our Chaplain, Canon Graham Bettridge.
‘Friends of Bill’
“Here we go, here we go, here we go, here we goo here we go….” sang the 12 Union Jack waving khaki uniformed soldiers as they counter-marched across the wooden stage. The impact on the audience of American students was disconcerting, for these soldiers were also students from England offering their ‘timed’ interpretation of Henry V before the battle of Agincourt. The bare stage was set in a replica Globe which resounded all week with a series of ‘fifteen-minute offerings’ from each school of their choice of play written by the Bard of Avon.
The school had been invited to compete in this annual young people’s Shakespearian Festival for schools on the East Coast of America. ‘The school without walls’ presented a mixture of abilities with great panache and cheerfulness. The other end of the scale saw a well thought through offering of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, delivered by the students of the prestigious Quaker School where Bill Clinton sent his daughter, Chelsea.
We took the first prize back to Cumbria with us; I suspected the English accent as well as the stirring production carried much weight. (Incidentally the evening prayer service from the Book of Common Prayer was used, appreciated and understood by the audience).
This festival is a response to the work of the Folger Library Foundation, created in 1932 and donated to the American people by Henry Folger and his wife Emily. The Folger Library contains a unique collection of original Shakespearian works and letters, but also the replica of the original Globe theatre.
The phenomenon of the continuing revisions and adaptations of the classic Shakespearian plays comes from within the meeting of minds, the reader and the author. This suggests a duologue between the two, an alert respect for the vision and faith of Shakespeare and his time with the confidence to challenge and adapt. The Folger Library fosters and encourages this to continue.
Henry Folger and Sir William Milner were in many ways contemporary visionaries. Establishing a safe place for all people to visit, working with thoughtfulness and self-awareness. Both the library and the hall offer faith, art and history in its broadest sense. Emily Folger wrote of her husband’s belief: ‘the poet is one of the best sources, one of the wells from which we Americans draw our national thoughts, our faith and our hope.’ Sir William’s firm Christian belief lay in the equality of all created beings, unique and precious in the eyes of God. Parcevall Hall and its gardens were given to us in our time as the stage upon which the vision he started would be played out.
As the bare boards of the Globe stage echoed to the tramp of soldiers in mock array so in the real world of Parcevall Hall, the staff work to fulfil the noble vision. Visitors and guests are valued with regard for their individual needs. Soda bread and home-made biscuits, good conversation or companionable silence and prayer are all part of being Parcevall. The gardeners are very busy and the gardens are now open to enjoy. Jo is working hard with the staff to welcome us back in due course.
‘here we go…here we go….here we go” (nearly)
Graham W Bettridge
Hon Chaplain Parcevall Hall
4 August 2020