Category Archives: Paddington Farm

Albion gathering history

At a political demo in London this summer I met a Radical Faerie from Atlanta, the city faerie clan in Georgia that currently has a reputation for being the most active and fertile group in the USA.  He told me that he had heard that the Albion Faeries are ‘very spiritual’.  By this I don’t think he meant that we go to church on time, or that we all line up dutifully for morning practice, nor even that we are super nice to each other (and compared to some of what I have seen in American sanctuaries, we actually are).  He may have been referring to the way we meet regularly to honour the moon cycles, and also to the way our gatherings are built to consciously get the most out of the energies of the seasonal festivals of the wheel of the year.  As I feel very fortunate to have discovered very early into my personal spiritual journey, our ultimate task while alive is to follow our spirit, not our given/chosen spiritual path.  Fortunate also to have discovered how the cycles of the Sun and Moon, and the rhythms of Nature, give us all we need to liberate the spirit, to heal and awaken the soul, if we become conscious of them.  Gatherings are a very effective way of discovering the gifts and subtleties of a season’s energy.

The Albion clan of the global Radical Faerie tribe are about to hold our 21st gathering since we first assembled at Featherstone Castle in Northumberland a decade ago at Imbolc 2006.

faegathEight times we gathered at the enchanted Featherstone, our Faerie Hogwarts, during the cold Winter months…. Twice over Christmas and SIX times at Imbolc.  These were thermal fashion, finding-divinity-through-the-duvet gatherings, with lots of cosiness around fires, intimate, slow heart circles held at sunset in the blue room (which most people attended) and freezing ballroom discos – divas dancing around the tall radiator heaters not their handbags.

The Imbolc gatherings were slow paced, cosy and for the most part mellow.  There was a lot of deep sharing and healing going on, also of course an element of high spirited partying, which for some occasionally seemed to become more central to the experience than the healing journey.  Whether related to that or not, we experienced a lot of physical sickness at the last few castle winter gatherings.  I suggest that if we do not attend effectively to the soul healing that spirit calls us together to address, it is easy for sickness to manifest in our bodies.

I also feel that the deep healing work that many of us did engage in for ourselves… and for the collective… during those deep and magical winter retreats (there was one stunning year that it snowed deeply before we arrived and didn’t melt until we left… we were outside doing naked photo shoots in glistening sunshine, we also built a snowhenge) was now done.  Spirit was pushing us out of our winter dream time space to explore new territories.  The conditions at Featherstone in February were proving too tough, but the wish to continue meeting to savour the sparkling energies of Imbolc, and each other as a respite from the dark winter period, was strong – so gatherings shifted to Paddington Farm in Glastonbury, where space is limited and we have to be cosy with each other.

Sometimes it is so exciting to escape the winter blues and arrive in faerie land it can be tempting to forget that the spirit at this time of year is asking us to light a small inner fire, not a conflagration… is inviting us to look within and heal, preparing ourselves for the busier time of year ahead.  Imbolc has an exciting energy of potential and promise, but it’s still winter.  The Featherstone winter gatherings gave us attendees a powerful experience of deep stillness – because the land holding us was itself so cold and still, while in Glastonbury the earth energy is much lighter and livelier.  It does not offer us the kind of deep winter spirit experience that many of us got to know in the Northumberland wilderness.

Imbolc is a time to come together for warmth and reassurance in the dark months of the year – the faeries of Albion have explored this season’s energy more than most other clans around the world.  Imbolc is also a much celebrated faerie festival in southern United States – an annual Brigit Ball is held in New Orleans, in a very different climate to our northern retreat.  So maybe that’s where the spirit of the British maiden goddess emigrated to after her people forgot about her here, somewhere much warmer!

In 2014 we gathered for the first Albion Spring Gathering, held over the Equinox shift from winter Pisces water to spring Aries fire energy, discovering powerful magic through consciously making that shift within ourselves in sync with the planet.  We returned to Featherstone for this and subsequent Spring gatherings, taking huge delight in the warmer temperatures both outside and within the castle, in the longer hours of daylight, the lambs in the fields and the bright Spring sunshine.

2014 was the year of our second Summer Solstice Gathering at Paddington Farm under the Tor, but the first year the magic really took off there for us.  Powerful workshops releasing shame from our lives prepared the ground for a ritual rise into blissful communion around our hot and sizzling Solstice fire in the woods.  Many a faerie’s deep rooted dreams of passion and play in nature were fulfilled that night, and our merry mystical dance with the woodland spirits has continued at the Solstice gatherings since. 2014 Solstice brought a glorious sunrise witnessed by many Fae up on the top of Glastonbury Tor.  We arrived there at dawn, a very merry band of kissing, cuddling queers livening up the atmosphere amongst the local hippies and characters of Avalon.

2015 the Albion Faeries filled in the last remaining gap in the seasonal calendar with our first Autumn gathering, Featherstone providing the most perfect setting for 9 days of Samhain sorcery and spooky delight.  Within a decade we have held gatherings in each of the four seasons of the year, this seeming to me like a very significant statement from our collective to the cosmos that we are not messing around, the Albion Faeries are a spiritual tribe and we mean business.

An issue that comes up for us, it seems every few years, is around substance use and abuse.  The issue seems to arise when we have become accustomed to a venue and start to take the magic for granted.  Or maybe we just get lazy about doing the work that opens the gates to it?

When we cosmic queers gather together and open the gates to the heart and spirit we are inviting the potent powers of the universe to come be part of the journey with us.  Those powers answer the call gladly when they feel the sincerity behind it, and they bring the possibility of profound awakening and transformation to our conclaves.  Having invited super powered cosmic guests to the feast it is silly to ignore them, and seek illusory transcendence through quick fixes.  Sometimes of course suitably blessed and prepared sacraments are part of the exploration of our faerie nature that we undertake.  As we are in community space and not a gay holiday camp it would seem vital. and natural that those using substances as part of their experience would aim to do so consciously, with awareness given to how their choices impact on others.

Our self-defined and self-declared community has grown rapidly in a decade. Is this the moment for us to take a collective breath and consider how, where, when and why… we do what we do.  Our last two gatherings at Paddington have led to some disturbance and, it seems, division, amongst us.  By contrast the last two Featherstone outings have been extremely well blessed on all counts.  It is noticeable to me that while the castle gatherings have had several faeries stepping forward to be part of the organising team, there has been a shortage of new energy in the Glastonbury team.  There even seems to be some element of ‘consumer’ culture seeping into Paddington.  I also think we have been sticking to a tried and tested formula in our gathering spaces and not really adapting fully yet to the differing energies of each season.  What works for a cosy Winter or lazy Lammas retreat may not be the best formula for the highly individuated energies of the Summer Solstice.  These high energy gatherings, which have become very large very quickly, could perhaps be held more ‘lightly’, with less expectation of a tightly bonded faerie unit than at other times of the year. They could be more like a faerie ‘festival’ than a conventional gathering.  It simply does not seem practical to expect large numbers of fae to achieve the type of bonding and intensity that we know so well when our numbers are so large and the space we are occupying is also used by other people, when we are so close to the attractions of Avalon and when the Sun energy is at its peak.  But a less formal faerie festival that embraces these factors as gifts might manifest a lovely energy.

2017 looks like being a different kind of year for the Albion Faeries.

Featherstone Castle has been booked for a Global Gathering in August, to which we will invite a number of activist queers from countries in Africa/Middle East/South America/Eastern Europe/Asia to come tell their stories and have an experience of the kind of compassionate community the Faeries create.  This gathering is being run in collaboration with the organisers of the first Global Gathering in California held two years ago. With a limit on the number of places the organising team is asking only faeries who feel passionate about the global rights of lgbtq people, and who wish to input into the creation of a global queer shamanic conscious community, to come along.

The castle has not been booked for a Spring gathering next year, Team Butterfly figuring that after 3 successful Spring events there a fallow year was appropriate.  Dates have been booked for October.

Imbolc at Paddington Farm is booked for us but as yet I believe there is no organising team for a Summer Solstice gathering.  I think we could consider also taking a year off from the Solstice gathering, giving time to reconsider how we gather in that space should we wish to continue using it.

This potentially would leave a huge gap between our Imbolc gathering and the August Global, and both of these two have restrictions on the numbers that can attend.  Could this space be an opportunity for new initiatives to manifest?  To perhaps try out smaller gatherings in new locations, perhaps built around themes that some people wish to explore?  I would also like to encourage as many Albion Fae as possible get off our little island and go experience the spirit at American and Euro Faerie sanctuaries, to make connections with other parts of the tribe and learn from how they do things.

The Albion Faeries are part of a global network of queer healers and agents of change and transformation.  There is surely something significant about the Radical Faerie spirit finding a home in the pagan homeland Albion, reaching here via the United States and European gatherings and sanctuaries.  We are exploring the crucial link between our sexuality, nature and consciousness, we are birthing the Age of Aquarius. We are also a crucial beacon for lost, confused and abused queers who are not finding their place in the soulless modern world, nor in the shallow end of gay life.  We offer a plunge into the radical depths of being, and a lot of fun while plunging.  It is well worth us taking stock of what we have achieved and plotting a way forward with consciousness, compassion and care. The Albion Faeries are a ‘very spiritual’ clan of queer magicians, a fact that needs to be properly honoured and understood as we enter our second decade of community building.

-Shokti

In the wake of Orlando, what do ‘safety’ and ‘inclusivity’ really mean?

Personal reflections on what happened when a couple of faeries were asked to leave the summer solstice gathering

by Lulu Luna

Most of the faeries at the summer gathering at Paddington Farm this year will be aware of what happened on Sunday 19th June. A number of complaints had been made about ‘John’ (the names of the two protagonists have been changed) – a young man who had been brought along by ‘George’, both of whom were staying in an adjoining campsite. Unable to ignore the unease building in himself, organiser Ananga – backed up by Bright Eyes – bravely asked John to leave. John then became angry and threatened violence in a manner which concerned both Ananga and Bright Eyes enough not to wish to spend another night in a tent. And in an unprecedented move, they both left the site.

Asking a faerie to leave feels contrary to our ‘inclusive, community’ vibe. But as others pointed out, we are a community built up over time on trust. Earned trust. And although there is some joyful partying, faerie space is not a party. Still, questions were asked as to why this was not a mediated process – why we didn’t sit in a heart circle with John to ‘heal’ what was going on. And why it was necessary to inform the police.

 

Different space, same shit

It was at this point I found myself feeling simultaneously both angry and resigned. I was one of the people who had complained about John. To my knowledge there were five others, four of whom were women, and the other, a man dressed in drag. And there were women unconnected to the faerie gathering who had also been made uncomfortable and who felt threatened by his behaviour.

I had already spent the previous day feeling unsafe in faerie space – something that had never happened before. I started making sure I was never alone. I avoided going to the fire circle in the camping field. I was nervous about walking to my car. (To add insult to injury, this was on the same day that several cis male faeries casually flashed their penises at dinner. They were obviously feeling safe.)

And I was chilled at how easily I accepted the restriction of my movements and my expression. Because you see, this is standard for women. We are expected to make up for the lack of action to protect us from predators. And if we don’t, we are blamed – for the shortness of our skirts, or for walking alone in the dark. So I clicked seamlessly into my role – before Ananga acted.

Canaries in the coal mine

Where women don’t feel safe, that is an early warning sign to act. Women are the canary in the coalmine. Study after study shows that all over the world, on a macro and micro level, the lack of respect for, and the lack of safety of women is both a predictor and indicator of the likelihood of male violence against everyone. In other words, women usually get it in the neck first. This was even true of the Orlando shooter – whose domestic violence record against his female partner was not taken seriously. But the problem is, women’s warnings and complaints are so often not ‘seen’ or heeded until it’s too late.

Even where they are – again, all credit to Ananga and Bright Eyes – men (and yes, it is usually men, because other women have generally experienced the same danger before and know the score) will question whether it was not an ‘over reaction’ that should have been dealt with another way. In this case, another way that would have put the women in the gathering, and the women in the campsite in danger. The infuriating thing is that these same men will often blame women for not having ‘said something’ when something untoward does happen.

At this point, I will pause, because I know you’re saying ‘not all men’ and pointing out that women can be shits too. I agree with you. But the vast majority of violence in the world is committed by men – and even if you don’t agree with that statement, the problem at the gathering had a gendered flavour to it. For that reason, I need to continue putting gender at the heart of what I’m talking about. To ignore it would be to perpetuate the very ‘invisibility’ of women’s voices that I’m highlighting.

Safety

In faerie space we talk about shared values. Community. Honesty. Vulnerability. Support. Freedom to be ourselves. And yes, we all love a drag dress up as well as ritual and celebration. I know these are precious things. But beneath them is something even more precious. I’m talking about safety. Without safety, we cannot be free to have any of these things.

Too often, when faeries say ‘safety’ we mean emotional safety. How can we have become so complacent as to ignore the dangers to our own physical safety – less than a week after the Orlando shooting? How can we hold a minute’s silence in the town for the victims, and not see someone with precisely the shooter’s psychology in our own midst? How does that kind of disconnect happen? Well, I’ll tell you how.

Inclusivity

‘Inclusivity’ is a lovely concept, but we haven’t thought it through. Instead we’ve taken the easy route. Inclusivity, this solstice, seems to have meant ‘inviting anyone and everyone to the gathering and not throwing them out’. It is inclusivity and safety for those outside our circle, without looking at our inclusivity and safety within the circle first. And this fluffy definition of inclusivity has disconnected some of us from our very sensible instincts.

By contrast, real inclusivity starts from within. And it involves more pain than I think many faeries are willing to admit. Because if you’re going to include people, you have to take their experience, history and context into account. Which means you can’t sit there in your ‘white, male, cis, ‘out and proud’, able-bodied’ reality, pretending that nobody else’s reality exists, so that you don’t have to make any effort to understand their worldview and what is happening for them. You have to actually learn about who they are, and what they’ve come from – and that takes time, effort and humility. More importantly, you have to make actual adjustments, both to your attitude and to your facilities. And before you object, remember it’s they that usually have to make adjustments to a world completely geared to you, all the bloody time.

The faerie blind spot

Is this really an issue? Well, let’s face it – by sheer number, most Albion faeries are cis male. And that has implications. It means that faerie space is geared to cis males, just as wider society is. This is a particular problem with gay men. Straight men have to learn about how unsafe the world is for women – yes, even in Britain in broad daylight – because they date and marry them. Gay men are often allowed to remain oblivious.

I know that for many of you, your first reaction here will be that you’ve never heard that women feel unsafe. Well, we don’t mention it, because we get shot down in flames because of your denial, when we do. I have seen groups of women hastily change the subject – after talking about safety – when a male approaches the group.

We don’t want to hear ‘Well you should’ve… [add smart alec 20/20 hindsight suggestion of choice here]’ for the millionth time. We don’t want to be victim-blamed by a group of blind, tone deaf people who have the privilege of ignoring what we live with every day, and be effectively told that WE are responsible for policing dangerous men, so that no one else has to act.

And if you’re one of the ‘good guys’, you won’t ever see it happening either. Because most of the creeps and the dangerous men who intimidate us aren’t stupid. They’ll wait until you’re gone before they start threatening us. Fortunately, John was a rare exception. Bright Eyes saw him acting strangely. But I wonder what would have happened if he’d cosied up to the organisers and menaced the women behind their backs as usually happens? (This is not a slight on Bright Eyes and Ananga – I’m sure they would have acted responsibly anyway. I’m just highlighting how difficult it is to believe women about an abuser, when your experience of them is that they’re a ‘great bloke’… And that’s exactly why they cosy up to you.)

‘Still don’t believe me, huh?

Women face danger every day of their lives. On the street, in pubs, on buses, in the workplace, in their homes. Effectively, we live in an open prison, because we are the ones who have to ‘police’ our behaviour when our safety isn’t taken seriously and we are disbelieved and blamed. Everywhere, we are insulted, threatened and assaulted – even, and especially by, the people who we should be able to trust. And this starts in public spaces from the time that we begin growing breasts.

I want those of you with penises who are unaware, to hear this. If you sit down to actually ask the apparently un-traumatised ‘normal’ women you know – and they’re willing to honour you with their confidence – you will hear a litany of half-forgotten assaults, threats, harassment, near misses or actual rapes. I myself experienced sexual abuse in my home from both my parents, and other family members and family friends. But outside the home I was also assaulted on the tube in full and correct school uniform, groomed and groped by a male teacher (and blamed by the headmaster for not ‘doing something about it’) and harassed, groped and threatened by other male strangers countless times, all before I was 18. I bet you’d never have guessed that, huh?

And it has not stopped. My drink has been drugged at a fetish munch and my concerns ignored by the organiser. I have been called a prostitute by my boss as a ‘joke’ in front of other members of staff for daring to ask a question. I have been menaced on buses in broad daylight. I have had my breasts grabbed in the street. And going into a pub and being propositioned to be some old, drunk bloke’s ‘submissive Asian wife’ happens regularly, like clockwork. This is just what has happened in my 40s by the way. The worst thing about it is, I consider myself lucky that I’ve experienced nothing worse as an adult. And, that I can’t tell you most of what has happened because it’s so common now, it’s like wallpaper for me. Always there. You almost stop noticing or remembering the minute after you’ve escaped.

For the men who might think I’m just unlucky, you’ll find this story repeated over and over at the Everyday Sexism Project website and on Twitter under the hashtag #YesAllWomen. Take a minute to look at these sites. It is harrowing. And it is every single woman you know. What you’ll realise is that the world in which you fear violence for being visibly queer, is the same one in which we fear violence for being female. Only in our case, we are scapegoated and blamed for not ‘controlling’ our attackers more effectively. (Yeah right…like a long skirt is going to deter a man who’s convinced that raping a woman is the only way to prove his masculinity. I wanted to insert a ‘sarcasm’ emoticon here, but there isn’t one.)

We are fighting the same fight

What flabbergasts me about gay men that don’t see the problems women have with safety, or who don’t place any importance on the issue, is that we’re fighting the same enemy. Men who hate women, also hate what they perceive as ‘femininity’ in gay and queer men. That’s why they attack them.

And something that I think most gay men haven’t twigged, is that the very important legal changes that heroic LGBT activists have been able to effect in the last 50 years, are built on the foundation of the cultural ‘sea change’ that feminists have fought for. These may be straight women who have no interest in gay rights per se. But over and over and over, what they have done is loosened gender straightjackets to the point where most men are now able to accept and cultivate their feminine sides. To a significant degree, they have pricked the balloon of toxic masculinity that sought to annihilate ‘queerness’ or ‘campness’. They have been the ‘worms’ tilling the soil in which your legal rights were planted. And without them, I doubt you’d have achieved those rights to the same degree.

So – and I’m talking to the gay and queer men in our midst here − the concerns of women in general may apparently have nothing much to do with you. But they’re important because our struggle is connected with yours. And I have deliberately avoided saying ‘we’re your mothers, your sisters, your cousins etc.’ because frankly, we shouldn’t only qualify for your support because we have some sort of relationship to you. No, we deserve your support because we are worthy of safety and respect as a group in our own right. But sadly, at the moment, women (both gay, queer and straight – and whether you really intended this or not) are getting the message from the wider gay community that because you don’t want to fuck us, our rights don’t matter to you, and you can’t be bothered to learn about what we’re facing.

And so, it is with finely chequered feelings that I make the following point about what you stand to gain if you do support us. As I’ve said, the kinds of men who attack gay men, are those who cannot reconcile with the feminine within them. This hatred is derived from their fear of women – fear of being ‘like’ women, even if it’s only in the matter of being sexual with, or being penetrated by men. Consequently, when you pay attention to how women are perceived and treated, you make queer and gay men significantly safer. But to do that, you’ve got to actually listen to women, respect their superior experience with the issue and act on what they suggest.

So what actually happened with John?

Within 30 seconds of meeting me, John stared at me as if he wanted to eat me, and asked me if I’d give him a massage. George, the older ‘Daddy’ that he was with, said he was gay. John vehemently denied it. George pushed the point over and over, to John’s obvious fury. About an hour afterwards I found him aiming a laser light at me, much like the ‘sight’ on a high tech gun. He stared at me for minutes at a time on other occasions throughout that day too, and I found myself avoiding him and warning others about him. My instinct told me he was one of the most dangerous men I’d ever encountered.

Later, I found out that he had treated another female faerie at the solstice gathering in much the same way, and that he had been rude to one of the male faeries in drag. He had also been seen seated and waiting by the nearest toilet to the campsite to accost the female campers using it.

I have heard people comment that John’s friend George either couldn’t or wouldn’t ‘control’ his behaviour. What I saw was George actually making him worse, by whipping him up with comments about his being gay, all apparently for ‘laughs’. It was a powder keg situation.

And what was going on with him?

I do not know John’s story. What I do have, is a strong impression based on long experience of these sorts of incidents, and a number of likely guesses. It was obvious from his manner that he intensely resented being thought gay. My guess is that he was ‘gay for pay’ under severe duress – perhaps because he wanted a visa, was destitute, or for some other reason. Of course if I’m right, this was systemic abuse, and very sad. I wish the faeries could have helped him. But talking to him, it was crystal clear that he could not listen to a bunch of queer people. That his was a belief system in which being gay was so unthinkable, that he’d have done anything to prove himself otherwise. Maybe anything, up to and including raping a woman on site. Or perhaps, violently attacking a more ‘feminine’ man.

Also it was clear that John was from an ethnic minority – and no, it is not racist to notice that. For me personally, this was important information because it made me feel even more unsafe. That’s because, as an Asian woman, I am likely to draw the ire of Asian men who see me acting in an ‘untraditional’ manner. ‘Corrective rape’ is one of their ‘punishments’. And because I know that black men often have a ‘thing’ about Asian women. If you’re likely to be attacked, that is important information to acknowledge.

But still people objected…

Some faeries objected to John being asked to leave, even after all this. I know we like to ‘include’ people. To talk things through. And that’s a good instinct. But sometimes those people forfeit that privilege. Threatening the women on site meant that John did not deserve the courtesy of mediation with the faeries – and I do not know why that wasn’t obvious to the people who objected to him being asked to leave. Because the safety of the people you know and trust and love – and whom you have a duty to – obviously comes before being ‘inclusive’ to a creepy stranger who is resisting help.

John was a man in queer space that was clearly conflicted about either his sexuality or sexual practices – and very willing to take that conflicted-ness out on others. How can some of us be so ‘airy faerie’ as not to notice John’s psychological similarity to the Orlando shooter in the same bloody week? Why were those faeries effectively asking the women on site to quash their well-honed instincts and ignore the danger to themselves? What a fucking betrayal!

Some people objected to the organisers calling the police

Now, I’m under no illusion that the Somerset police are angels. I know of incidents where they have treated homeless women in the area with abominable neglect and disdain. I know the police are enemies to many queer people. But consider what would have happened if the organisers hadn’t called them?

Logging an ‘incident’ with the police means they will react faster if a threatening person shows up again. John’s threats led Ananga and Bright Eyes to fear he’d turn up in the dead of night with a knife. What if they hadn’t called the police?

What if he had come back an hour later and raped or stabbed someone? What would they have said if the police or a judge asked why they hadn’t reported his previous threatening behaviour? Would you feel they’d taken sufficient care of your safety if they hadn’t reported him and as a result you were now seriously injured? Where would your ‘joyous faerie space’ be then?

Do you think your fear of the police justifies another faerie’s injuries and trauma or even death? And if you’d acted as if your fear was more important, and persuaded Ananga and Bright Eyes not to call them, wouldn’t it be reasonable for that injured or dead faerie to feel you’d sold them down the river for your own self-interest? Just finally, do you think you would have been able to avoid the police if a serious or fatal incident actually had taken place? Or would you simply have expected a rape and/or stab victim to ‘forget about it’ in order to protect you?

If I sound angry, it’s because I am

Look, I’m used to people in general being blind to the physical dangers I face because I’m female and Asian. That hurts me, but it doesn’t surprise me. What fucking infuriates me however, is when ‘inclusive’ faeries talking about ‘safe’ space, throw me under the bus.

Inclusivity and safety are life and death issues for me – not some emotional ‘cherry on the cake’. Part of my definition of inclusivity and safety is that you need to take heed when a minority group – like women – consistently raise the alarm. And you need to believe, understand their context and act promptly to protect them, without worrying about the ‘hurt’ feelings of a dangerous person or some un-thought-through ethic. We need this, and we deserve it. And, as a bonus, doing this will actually keep the cis queer and gay men among us safer as well.

A new definition of inclusivity and safety

Beyond that, the faeries cannot call themselves ‘inclusive’ without doing this. Inclusivity doesn’t just mean treating everyone different as if they’re ‘one of us’. It also means regarding their needs as equal to ours while taking the trouble to learn about how life is different for them and why. And adapting faerie space accordingly – even if it means you don’t get everything your own bloody way.

That takes real work – and resisting the temptation to think of the white, cis, male, able-bodied experience as ‘universal’ and the only ‘credible’ or ‘expert’ one, as many of us unconsciously do. It means realising you don’t know everything, actively asking the right questions of people you don’t really relate to, and then shutting up, listening and believing. And making concrete changes that you regard as a pain in the neck, because others really need them simply to feel safe and included.

If we don’t continually do this work, our inclusivity is just lip service. We’ll tacitly crowd more diverse faeries out with our attitudes and behaviour, and see them quietly drop away, until we wake up one morning and ask ourselves why the faeries are so goddamned white and male? (‘Do you know?’ ‘Gosh, no I don’t. We’ve always been very welcoming… Why don’t they like us?’)

And making a ‘safe’ space means acknowledging the very real ways that any of us – minorities especially − can be in physical danger at times. This is the lesson from Orlando. March up and down in Glastonbury as much as you like. That’s easy. But remember that honouring that lesson properly in order to keep faeries safe, is worth 1000 drag vigils.

A personal P.S.

The opinions expressed here are my own and do not in any way constitute an official statement from the Albion Faeries.

I don’t usually write this kind of blog. As a woman, what I say is questioned far more than a man would be in my place. His pronouncements are generally taken on trust. We may be faeries, but we’re all socialised ‘out there’ in the big, bad, sexist world. I’m all too aware that the comments section on a blog like this – written by a woman – will possibly attract denial or insults. I fear I may even alienate the group sufficiently that I will never really feel welcome again.

In this case, I’ve been brave because I don’t want female bodied faeries to be in danger like that a second time. And yes, before you ask, not writing blogs like this is one more way in which I ‘police’ my behaviour as a woman in public space to protect myself.

What I ask, is that if you’re a cis male faerie reading this, you give me some credit for knowing what I’m talking about. Let yourself experience my world. See through my eyes. And try to care more concretely than via mere platitudes and hugs that are ‘oh-so-easy-to-give’, for the actual faeries that are different from you in your midst.

Just finally, thank you to both the male and female faeries that ‘got’ all this immediately and supported Ananga and Bright Eyes, both at the time John was asked to leave, and later when the issue was discussed after dinner. You have helped to keep me safe.

Loss reminds us of what we have

Solstice was fast approaching and again, I found myself looking forward to Glastonbury, the gathering and our solstice bonfire. That said: arriving at Paddington Farm was bittersweet this time round as someone special wasn’t going to be with us any more.

On April 8th, our Faerie Tribe lost a unique friend who took us to heart and delighted in our magic and sense of community. As many of you already know, I’m talking of Suki Key who passed unexpectedly from an acute kidney infection. She was an all too youthful 65.

I first met Suki in the camping kitchen at last year’s Solstice Gathering. Having both retired and divorced she had sold her house, somewhere in Lincolnshire I think, and begun a quite remarkable odyssey. She was living in a large bell tent on the Farm’s second camping field (complete with sofas and log burner). At some stage, she was planning to ship out to India, fulfilling her own spiritual quest whilst travelling and doing some charity work.

We initially crossed paths when Suki saw me doing a tarot reading but she became doubly fascinated when she realised I’d designed my own cards. This was our first common ground for Suki’s son was an amazing artist with his own successful design studio. I also discovered the best way to make her face light up with pride was to get her onto the subject of her children.

My experience wasn’t unique. Suki had connected with lots of us during the course of the gathering and I think she loved every minute of our mischief and our colourful sense of fun. She was a tiny, willow like woman who reminded me of children blowing bubbles. Bubbles themselves shimmer and sparkle with an astonishing spectrum of colour yet they are delicate and fragile, vanishing in an instant. They encapsulate all the innocent joy of childhood and that’s why they remind me of her. Suki was that rare combination of age earned wisdom and childlike wonder. God knows how she’d done it but she’d managed to retain her youthful sparkle in a way that most of us can only marvel at, even though we were younger.

She re-appeared at our September gathering. Now lodging in Glastonbury for the winter months, she’d checked our dates and made sure she was back up at the Farm to come and visit us. It was a joy to see her and I still smile when I think back to our long conversation in the Farmhouse living room. Better still, I remember her moving around from person to person, watching their faces light up as she sprinkled her own particular brand of faerie dust around the room.

For all of this, my fondest memories will be of our last meeting at January’s Imbolc gathering. Once again she visited but this time she came laden with foil wrapped packages of gluten free chocolate brownies. She’d known we were coming and had set to baking. India was now looming on the horizon and she wondered if any of us had contacts with aid workers or volunteers heading for Calais. Her bell tent had served its purpose and she wanted it to go to the refugee camp where it would give someone in need a good home. She said she’d return to the farm later that evening, to join us around the fire for some drumming.

Sure enough, as dusk was falling she drove back to the Farm and that small red car, cluttered to overflowing with all things useful (rather like Moominmamma’s handbag) pulled onto the car park and a slightly breathless Suki came looking for volunteers to help her empty the boot. To my incredulity, the boot was stacked high with drums, apparently gifted to her some months previously.

“I’ve always wanted to try these!” she told me with a beaming smile.

Suki’s drum collection was temporarily added to the Faerie drum collection and I sat next to her for the rest of the evening while we let the fire and the rhythm hypnotise us. I was aware of the circle, of friends, of music and of the joy of being alive. I think Suki was too.

She came to say goodbye the following morning, giving many of us sticks of her favourite incense as a parting gift. I still have mine, as something inside wouldn’t let me burn it straight away. I didn’t know it would be the last time I would see her and the incense stick remains on my bookshelf. Sometimes I’ll breathe its fragrance to remind me of her. I may even bring it to a gathering and offer it to the fire as an act of remembrance when I’m ready to let go of it. For now it remains as a reminder of a special spirit who flew briefly into my life and left a trail of sparkle behind her for a short while.

The loss of Suki has reminded me just how important our Faerie friends are. There are many of them, Tanya, Michael, Robert, Leila, Tiffany and Holly at Paddington Farm for instance, who think of us as their favourite visitors. There’s also John Clarke at Featherstone who makes us feel that his home is our home whenever we stay there. These are but to name a few. They may not be directly part of the tribe but they enable us, celebrate us and even love us. We also love them and the loss of one friend has reminded me once more to cherish the others.

Fly away joyfully dear Suki; for I know you’ll light up wherever it is you journey on to. For us, we’ll celebrate you but we also missed seeing you at the Farm this summer.

Brighteyes.