Summer Solstice in the Paper Garden

Thursday 21st June was the longest day of the year and so we celebrated this Summer Solstice with Alfred Salter, Albion and Redriff Primary schools at the Paper Garden. At 4:00pm the children and their parents arrived and were ready to begin. First, the children put on their decorative costumes that they had prepared from previous sessions at the Paper Garden. These included headdresses, armbands and necklaces made from different coloured fabrics and papers. They also picked up colourful shakers that they had built using cardboard, seeds and grains.

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At 4:30pm the celebrations began. Jane introduced everyone to our special day and then told a story of the Sun Man. This is a traditional tale from Africa of a boy called the Sun Man who had a ball of fire under his arms. When he lifted his arms up it became day and went he put his arms down it became night. The story continues until he is thrown up into the sky and turns into the Sun.

After the story we heard a recording of 3 children from Albion and Alfred Salter schools, who read out some of their ‘freefall writing.’ Written in 1st person, their writing described their journey from being seeds deep beneath the ground, to growing to fully fledged plants and trees. The children did a wonderful job in expressing the inner values and qualities of being seeds as they broke out of their casings, rose out of the ground and then grew into the sunlight, before finally reaching maturity. Following this, a group of children performed a ceremonial dance/chant that they had created. Miraculously, the Sun Man then suddenly appeared!! He had a big bushy grey moustache and beard, a golden face and was carrying a huge sun lantern. Praising the children for their wonderful writing and dancing, and much to everyone’s delight, he also greeted everyone to the Summer Solstice celebration itself.

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Offering his blessing to the day, the Sun Man led us all on a procession out of the courtyard to plant some seeds in the planters. Children then sowed many seeds, we heard some more wonderful seed writing and the second group of children performed their own dance. 

Finally, the Sun Man lead the procession to our final station to the fire pit while everyone beat out rhythms on their shakers and percussion. It was here that we heard some creative and descriptive poems written about the Sun. All of the poems, from the year 4 Redriff children, showed a deep appreciation for the Sun and all of its magical qualities. Then the last group of children performed their own ceremonial Summer Solstice dance. The Sun Man closed the ceremony with his blessings and an invitation for everyone to share in the delicious food that he had helped grow, through his great powers of warmth and light!

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Our Events Chef Lead, Sadhbh, and her wonderful cooking team then provided a delicious meal of home-made pizza – cooked in our very own clay oven – and many other tasty items including a beautiful cake designed to represent the Sun and many other mouth-watering treats. Everyone ate and drank as ‘Here comes the Sun’ by The Beatles blared through the speaker. It was a special day and one made particularly memorable by the children’s creativity, enthusiasm and the rare appearance (once a year!) of the Sun Man.