Glastonbury legend tells that Joseph of Arimathea, on arriving here at Wearyall Hill in 63AD, planted his staff in the ground and it promptly took root and flowered. Just how far back that story really goes is difficult to establish but we certainly know that after the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the tragic end of Glastonbury Abbey, a thorn was revered on the hill that was cut down by Puritans. A descendant was planted in 1951 and became part of the visual fabric of the town and a place of pilgrimage until it was attacked at night in December 2010 and its crown removed. It never really recovered.
The drama coincided with the fall from grace of former mayor Edward James, the man who owned the land on which the thorn was located. A finance company he had been a senior figure in had defrauded investors of sums totaling in the millions. James was imprisoned, his business partner committed suicide, and many felt that this was somehow linked to the attack on the tree.
Time passed. James was freed and in early 2019 sought planning permission for the building of some modern style homes that would significantly impact on the area of the hill around where the damaged remnant of the thorn still grew. Strong local opposition led to rejection of his scheme. A matter of days later, the tree was cut down at the base and rolled down the side of the hill into brambles and left there.
This occurred in daylight and was witnessed with James being present. A far-fetched excuse that the tree was somehow dangerous was met with ridicule. James went on to claim that he had a new sapling ready to replace it.
The whole crazy episode felt like something from John Cowper Powys great novel A Glastonbury Romance. The weird twisted psychology of the perpetrator was something that I felt Powys had a unique talent for expressing.
I already had extensive experience of the psychoactive qualities of the work and felt inspired to read it again in search of a powerful section concerning the local people who are hostile to the mythos and seek to destroy it. Within just a few days I discovered that a chance had arisen to give a public presentation on the subject the very next week so I did and this video is the result.
The day of the presentation was one of the oddest I have ever had in Glastonbury but that is another story. As for the night itself, it confirmed for me that Glastonbury Romance 2019 was fully switched on.