What is Hope?
If you keep hope alive, it will keep you alive…
From ancient times, people have recognized that a spirit of hope had the power to heal afflictions and helps them bear times of great suffering, illnesses, disasters, loss, and pain caused by the malevolent spirits and events.
Elpis (Hope) appears in ancient Greek mythology with the story of Zeus and Prometheus. Prometheus stole fire from the god Zeus, which infuriated the supreme god. In turn, Zeus created a box that contained all manners of evil, unbeknownst to the receiver of the box. Pandora opened the box after being warned not to, and unleashed a multitude of harmful spirits that inflicted plagues, diseases, and illnesses on mankind. Spirits of greed, envy, hatred, mistrust, sorrow, anger, revenge, lust, and despair scattered far and wide looking for humans to torment. Inside the box, however, Pandora also discovered and released a healing spirit named Hope.
In short, wherever there is darkness, there is hope. The two cannot exist without each other.
In the week prior to The Longhill Burn, the Fire-Smiths asked people what makes them hopeful.
January. Watching old people dance. Disco music. Chocolate.
The answers were as eclectic and unpredictable as you’d expect. The Fire-Smiths were always clear that they wanted to collect these hopes and burn them; there is something galvanising in flames, the idea of burning hopes collectively to harness their collective power. Fire of course has great symbolism throughout history, including forging will and determination – from a spiritual perspective, fire represents our passions, compulsions, zeal, creativity and motivations.
To start at the beginning:
The news of the Longhill crate first became public back in May, when Margaret Cranwell reported a crate in her allotment shed. It had always been there, but she hadn’t taken much notice of it until the interest in our investigations.
She opened it to reveal what looked like a jar of ashes, a megaphone covered in ribbons and a constitutional document inside for the formation of a “guild” of local residents.
When the article came to our attention, we started working with Margaret to try and decipher the meaning of these items. We believed the jar of ashes might well hold the key to another Act of Wanton Wonder, following in the footsteps of The Search for the 7 Alleys in East Park and the legendary Gold Nose of Green Ginger, currently displayed at North Point Shopping Centre until Friday August 18.
With this in mind, we contacted a group called the Fire-Smiths, specialists in celebratory and ceremonial fire-making, to investigate further.
After scrutinizing the jar of ashes under a microscope, pouring water on them and attempting to light them, they finally combusted and left the ambiguous wording ‘hope can grow through fire and water’ seared the wood beneath them.
This led the Fire-Smiths to develop plans for The Longhill Burn, a ceremonial bonfire intended to bring the community together in collective purpose.
Margaret also brought together a group of local people – in accordance with the instructions found in the crate – who worked closely alongside the Fire-Smiths to create the event. They helped to spread the word, supporting friends, neighbours and other local residents to make their contribution to The Longhill Burn.
The people of Longhill were asked to bring their hopes, a small piece of wood for the fire (no bigger than a chair) and phials of water from those streets named after water (thinking here about the synergy of opposites, and how water and fire can be viewed as making each other stronger rather than cancelling each other out).
At the start of The Longhill Burn, the Fire-Smiths and Longhill Hosts continued to collect answers (about 500 on that night alone!) to the question ‘what gives you hope’, placing them in the crate found on Margaret’s allotment.
The Fire-Smiths built a beautiful bonfire with a hole-shaped heart. When people had finished contributing, the hopes were processed through the crowd in the wake of a marching band and a shoal of silvery fish, lifted up into the heart of the bonfire where they were set on fire to release their combined power and energy.
When the bonfire started burning, the fireworks started. Slowly at first and then more dramatically, they burst out in time to ‘Love Is In The Air’, people singing along and joining hands with the people next to them. There was an incredibly euphoric atmosphere as around 2500 people came together to sing, dance and enjoy the work of the Fire-Smiths.
The party carried on as the bonfire slowly burned itself out, with more celebrations as the band carried on playing.
But what next?
After the burning of the crate, the Fire-Smiths and The Green Ginger Fellowship found something quite unusual in the embers of the bonfire – a perfect, unscathed miniature crate. As you can see from the video, Tally got quite a shock when she opened it…
What does it mean? We don’t quite know. Could it be something to do with the voice collecting by Re-Rediffusion? Could one of the collected voices have got stuck in the crate? But why is it so small?
More questions to find answers to…