Crossbones Vigil – Spring Equinox

Thanks to all who came to light the open pathways at yet another moving, magical Vigil for the Outcas. To Mark who stepped up to elucidate how we embody the spiritual light – and performed Larkin’s beautiful Spring poem. To Jennifer who showed us the lotus she had cut from a precious Australian stone – given to her by Rob, who last October had us all in tears when he read aloud his sister’s suicide note – and helped muster the magnificent Goose Samurai to close Redcross Way from traffic during the Vigil. To Jules who once more set a shining example to all Goose Samurai – and read poems sent by John Cooper Clarke, Leo Marks, Jo Brand and Jane Hirshfield for Katy and John’s wedding, whose forthcoming anniversary we also celebrated. To Sarah Jayne who read her friend’s poem about how we remember our dead with the dates of their birth “dash” death, and how our lives are fully lived “in the dash”. To Ian who sang a plaintiff ballad for a sex worker, Irene who sang the ‘Crossbones’ anthem, Richie who whistled and sang his healing song for Albion, Raga who shared juicy fruit to mark the Spring Equinox, and Ross who told how his Goddess In London tours all lead to our Crossbones Shrine – then recited ‘A Song of Innocence’ from ‘The Southwark Mysteries’, and we all honoured “the part whereof each one of us is torn.” To Julia who raised the sap with her powerful Desire poem, and Danny who responded with his own vision of a beast “caged” but not broken.

John Crow, 23rd March 2019. Photo by Jörg

John Crow opened and closed the sharing of offerings with poems from The Southwark Mysteries – ‘Son of Man In The Street’, in which Jesus identifies with the outcast and the outsider, and ‘I Am The Wind’:

I’ll be your icon, your Muse, your conceit.
I’ll be whatever you would have me be.
I’ll be Mary Magdalene washing your feet
If it helps you see through
What divides “you” from “me”.

The gates with Our Lady banner by Jennifer, 23rd March 2019. Photo by Jörg

It being the evening after the big march, we celebrated both our British and European identities, affirming our resistance to fascism without demonising anyone who still believes in the B-word. Thanks to Laure (L’or ?) a French comrade who held the light for the open pathways blessing, to Emma, Rma, Mervyn, Matthew, Marco, Paul, James, Lana, Michaela, Pete, Marina, Jörg and Xandi. To Dolly and Myra who revealed their plan to create a telepathic link from Cern (site of the Large Hadron Collider, where a Discordian crew will attempt to Immanentize the Eschaton) to Crossbones at our next Vigil on 23rd April. To Joanna who will likewise be tuning in from Findhorn (let’s light up the world!) To Katy, and to everyone else who was there to witness or helped make it all happen in ways that easily go unnoticed.

Testimony, Crossbones Vigil, 23rd March 2019. Photo by Jörg

Through the gates we glimpsed The Shard with two red eyes blinking – yet with no power to hold us. There were many small moments of magic for which – well, you had to be there! Love beams out to all of you who were with us in thought.

All this and, as ever, our performance of the rituals that have held us here at Crossbones Shrine on the 23rd night of every month since June 2004: lighting the open pathways, tying the ribbons to ‘Hear lay your hearts, your flowers, your Book of Hours…’ through to the final rousing Unconditional Blessing: ‘Goose may your Spirit fly free!’ (And so she does!)

Planning Application for land adjoining Crossbones Graveyard

Joint Venture, a partnership between Transport for London (TfL) and the developer U+I, have submitted an application for a development at Landmark Court, the land adjoining Crossbones Graveyard. The application is available to view on the Southwark Planning Register (Ref: 19/AP/0830) – on that page, you can click on the ‘comments’ button to comment on the proposal.

Comments can be submitted to Southwark Council until Friday 19 April. (The Council may accept comments after that, but best to have them in by then.) You can access all the documents on the Planning Register. U+I have included a link and key documents on their own website https://www.landmarkcourtsouthwark.co.uk/

The developers, Joint Venture, have consulted with Friends of Crossbones and other local people. The planning application makes clear that Crossbones Graveyard will be protected and enhanced as a Garden of Remembrance. The shrine in Redcross Way will also be protected. Friends of Crossbones have made the case that Crossbones must not be treated simply as a generic Open Space, but as a special case, entitled to specific protection as:

  • a protected graveyard and memorial garden
  • an historical, cultural, environmental and community asset
  • a sacred space of spiritual significance to many people

In your own comments, you may like to mention your connection with Crossbones, why the shrine and the garden of remembrance are important to you and the wider community.  You might mention how Crossbones has evolved as:

  • a DIY, wild garden of remembrance for ‘the outcast dead’ who’re buried in the Crossbones Graveyard, and is especially dedicated to sex workers and other outsiders
  • a sanctuary in the heart of the city, a place for people to remember those buried there and their own lost loved ones, and to reconnect with the past
  • it’s NOT a blank canvas – any proposed improvements should be judged on whether they really enhance what is already here, rather than imposing a ‘top down’ vision. Such innovations should respect the history of the graveyard AND the more recent works to reclaim it as sacred ground.

In our discussions with Bankside Open Spaces Trust (BOST), the charity that currently manages the Crossbones Garden, it was agreed that we’re all free to comment in our own words on anything we support or object to – AND that it’s helpful if our key messages are broadly the same:

1. Crossbones Graveyard is a destination and a sanctuary not a thoroughfare. We strongly oppose the proposal to install a new entrance gate in the middle of the north side railing, which would seriously impact on the character of the Garden of Remembrance. The garden is designed as a walled space, a sanctuary in the heart of the City, to be entered via the beautiful ‘Goose Wing’ entrance on Union Street where visitors are welcomed by wardens. People taking short-cuts through the garden, via a new gate in the  north, would disturb its peace and tranquillity.

2. Crossbones is deserving of proper stewardship. TFL/U+I/Joint Venture are responsible for maintaining this important cultural, community and spiritual heritage site. TfL as freeholder is responsible for the long-term stewardship of the site as a protected graveyard and memorial garden of historic and cultural importance. The planning application should make clear that Crossbones Graveyard is an exceptional case – NOT simply ‘other open space’ – and is NOT to be used as an amenity for the adjoining development.

3. Joint Venture should issue a long term lease for Crossbones Garden of Remembrance to match the lease for the adjoining development (299 years / in perpetuity) and agree an associated management agreement with BOST which reflects Crossbones importance as a heritage site.
The lease for the adjoining Landmark Court development will be 299 years. There is concern that BOST has so far been offered only a 25 year lease to manage the Crossbones Garden. This gives no guarantee for the longer term future of the garden, and makes it difficult for BOST to raise additional funds.

4. Funding should be assured throughout the life of the lease for site supervision (wardens) and maintenance. If any of the above comments, suggestions or demands resonate with you, please include them in your comments (in your own words). Please do what you can to help ensure that Crossbones will continue as a garden of remembrance and shrine to the outcast, dead and alive.

Crossbones Vigil

Saturday 23rd March 2019

At 6.45pm we gather at Crossbones Graveyard – in the street at the shrine in Redcross Way SE1. The Vigil begins on the stroke of 7pm.

Crossbones Shrine, 23rd March 2012. Photo by Katy Nicholls

This will be the 178th successive Vigil, held at this time, on this day, every month since June 2004! We perform our time-honoured rituals to renew the shrine, to remember the outcast, dead and alive, and to relive the secret history as revealed by The Goose to John Crow. We light the open pathways, hang our hopes and dreams in ribbons tied to the gate, and close with our unconditional blessings. At the heart of the Vigil, there’s space for those who wish to share a poem, song or brief personal testimony connected with Crossbones and “outsiders” of all kinds.

This month marks the Spring Equinox when we balance the darkness of the Crossbones story with the new light rising there. It’s also the portal to the first anniversary of Katy and John’s wedding and celebration of friendship, which was attended by many Friends of Crossbones. For this months “Jules’ spot”, our resident speaker Jules will read out poems and well-wishings by John Cooper Clarke and Jo Brand, which Jules had solicited but which, in the happy chaos of the day, remained unread.

You are invited to bring your own memento, totemic object or ribbon to tie to the gate. For those who forget, ribbons may be provided – though creating your own offering deepens your experience of The Goose and her grace. Please also be ready to serve a few minutes as a Goose Samurai, helping close the road to keep us all alive. This is the highest honour that any participant can receive, and enables us all to experience the many facets of the Crossbones Vigil.   

23rd February 2019

Thank you the fifty odd incarnate spirits who co-created magic at the Crossbones Vigil. The Goose reminded us that the garden and the shrine are the physical manifestations of the deeper work of transformation that happens when we get out of the way and let her do her dance.

As ever, we were held by the ritual forms – lighting the open pathways, tying the ribbons to ‘Here lay your hearts…’ (only tonight Crow forgot to bring the ribbons!  – but as ever at Crossbones, happy accident – so we all envisioned ourselves as ribbons on the gate gently fluttering in the balmy breeze – ah! – before tying our psychic ribbons)

Crossbones Girl image by Rob Barber
words by John Constable from ‘The Southwark Mysteries’

For the offerings, Dave 500 spoke movingly of what Crossbones means to him, especially after he lost his son Jason aka Angryness Brimstone… Hannah spoke of the wonder of being a Crossbones warden and read a visionary poem by Octavio Paz… John Crow performed John Crow Trickster (“May the Spirit be with Crow and all them who walk beside him / when he walk about The Liberty with but his Goose to guide him.”)… Rainbow Lizzie reiterated that we’re not fighting any and all development – just soul-less development… Then Jules spoke of February, and Haywards the Ironmongers who used to be at Number 23 (of course!) Union Street, and a poem by Hildegard of Bingen. And then ‘as if by magic’, a living Hildegard stepped forth to sing a song by Hildegard of Bingen – in Latin! And Heathen Geoff shared the poem he’d written for Crossbones.

Thanks also to those who didn’t speak but were strongly present in silent concentration, Seani and Grace, Nev, Ross, Pete and Irene , Arthur and Joel, Ruth and Ruby, Mervyn – with Katy Kaos holding it together behind the scenes (and doing the gin in Jennifer’s absence. Special honour to all who did their stint as Goose Samurai closing the road to keep us all safe.

At the end we all said “Here where the bones be crossed…” before sharing in the unconditional blessings of “Open Pathways” and “Goose may your Spirit fly free…”

And so She does! 

Crossbones Vigil for the Outcast

Saturday 23rd February – gather 6.45 for 7pm Vigil
at the shrine by the gates in Redcross Way, London SE1

The 177th consecutive Vigil held at 7pm on the 23rd of every month since June 2004. To honour the Outcast, dead and alive. To renew the shrine at the gates. And to reclaim the secret history of Crossbones as revealed by The Goose to John Crow.

Web of light – artifact and photo by Katy Kaos

For this Vigil, on 23rd February, we’ll be celebrating the extraordinary transformations that have taken places at Crossbones over the past decade, reclaiming the old burial ground from a desolate post-industrial wasteland into a beautiful, quirky Garden of Remembrance.

Towards the end of March, u+i, the development partners of TfL who own the site, will submit a planning application for a development on the land adjoining Crossbones Graveyard. Please note that there are no plans to develop the burial ground itself, though it’s still unclear exactly how it will be protected and maintained as a garden of remembrance.

Friends of Crossbones want to make sure that Crossbones is not treated simply as a generic Open Space, but as a special case, entitled to specific protection as:

* a protected graveyard and memorial garden on a larger piece of private land scheduled for development
* an historical, cultural, environmental and community asset
* a sacred space of spiritual significance to many people

We’ll be sharing news and ideas about how to ensure the long term funding, management and maintenance of Crossbones as a graveyard and public garden of remembrance for the length of the developer’s lease.

For this month’s Vigil, John Crow will be back doing the honours. Regulars who know the form are encouraged to step forward to help conduct parts of the ritual.

At the heart of the Vigil, those who wish are invited to offer a short poem, song or personal testimony dedicated to The Goose and her Outcast Dead. We especially encourage Goose Rhapsodes to learn and perform a poem from ‘The Southwark Mysteries’. And please bring a small magical totem or memento to help renew the shrine.

Gather at the gates in Redcross Way at 6.45 to prepare. And be prepared to take on the highest honour by doing a short shift as a Goose Samurai, guarding the road to protect the other participants.

Talking Crossbones with Robert Elms

BBC Radio London 22nd January 2018

John Constable in conversation with Robert Elms on the history Crossbones Graveyard, activism and urban magic in the work of Friends of Crossbones, and what visitors to the Garden of Remembrance can expect to see.

You can listen to the show by clicking on this link. The Crossbones piece begins at 2.08.31 and runs to approximately 2.15.

John Constable aka John Crow on Crossbones Graveyard
at the climax of The Halloween of Crossbones, 31st October 2016
Photo by Max Crow Reeves

The whole show is worth a listen – the Crossbones feature is preceded by Robert playing ‘All The Young Dudes’ and there are many more quirky facts about The Borough, including an email near the end from John about why they stuck so many prisons in his south London neighbourhood. 

The Sunday Tribune – The Outcast of Crossbones

3 January 2019

Debbie Elliot interviews John Constable aka John Crow on the history of Crossbones Graveyard.

As so often with press stories, there are a few anomalies: we can date the burial ground with certainly only back to the 17th century, although local tradition links it with the ‘Single Women’s churchyard’ mentioned by John Stow in 1598. John Constable, the living poet, wrote ‘The Southwark Mysteries’. (The other John Constable, the dead painter, is the one with a ‘Suffolk’ connection. The ‘John West’ credited in the video is a purveyor of tinned fish who somehow scrambled his way in there!)

Even so, this provides a useful short introduction to the Crossbones story. To dig deeper into the history, legends and contemporary work at Crossbones, please visit the History page or the other Videos on this website.

https://www.thesundaytribune.com/2019/01/03/the-outcast-of-cross-bones/

https://www.oberonbooks.com/southwark-mysteries.html

My London

8 December 2018

Local press article and interview with Jennifer Cooper on the history and living culture of Crossbones Graveyard. The journalist, Frederica Miller, gets a few details wrong – the Museum of London estimated there are 15,000 burials at Crossbones – but she tells the story in a way that will hopefully make it more accessible to all.

https://www.mylondon.news/news/south-london-news/hidden-london-graveyard-1000-prostitutes-15522189?fbclid=IwAR17fxfdoKclGGhyilus_LtVg7k6k5ThFmAIz4kP1IOH25273P6LLhVJCuQ

Crossbones Christmas Vigil for the Outcast

Sunday 23rd December, gather 6.45 for 7pm vigil in the street by the shrine at the gates in Redcross Way

The 175th Vigil, held on the 23rd of every single month since 23rd June 2004 – to remember the outcast, dead and alive, to renew the shrine at the gates and to reclaim the secret history of Crossbones as revealed by The Goose to John Crow on 23rd November 1996.

We each bring our own piece of the puzzle, and together we perform acts of remembrance and imagination, secular Human Rites, open to ‘all faiths and none’. Specific vigils are aligned with seasonal festivals – e.g. January 23rd is Imbolc, April 23rd is St George, June 23rd is St John’s Eve / midsummer, October 23rd is Halloween Portal, November 23rd is ‘Goose Night’.

At the 23rd December Vigil we mark the winter solstice and the coming of the light, Yule – and Christmas, with  lusty singing of traditional carols and sharing of tasty treats. Come prepared to join in with such classics as ‘Deck The Halls’, ‘I Saw Three Ships’, ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ and ‘We Wish You A Happy Christmas’. Yuletide and other seasonal songs are also welcome, especially if they’re easy for everyone to join in.

Please bring your own mementos or ribbons with the names of your lost loved ones to tie to the gates. You might also like to offer a short poem, song or personal testimony to the spirits of Crossbones Graveyard. Or be a ‘Goose Rhapsode’, learning part of ‘The Book of the Goose’ or another short poem from The Southwark Mysteries to recite on the night.

FREE. Donations welcome

Into our 23rd year…

23rd November 2018 marked the 22nd anniversary of the night The Goose walked John Crow about The Liberty of The Clink, to reveal her Secret History at Crossbones Graveyard.

It was also the 174th Vigil for the Outcast – so, once again, I came to remember, to renew and to offer my gratitude for these works that changed my life, as I enter the 23rd year of service to The Goose and The Crow. Conducting the Vigil, I was a bit scatty, drifting off a couple of times – and Priestess Jacqui had to step in at the end to remind me to complete the ‘Goose may your Spirit fly free!’ blessing amid much hilarity!

As ever on Goose Night, John Crow performed The Book of The Goose – with Jennifer Cooper stepping up to deliver ‘By The Grace of Our Lady Mary Overie’, thereby showing the way for all who’d like to become a Goose Rhapsode, learning some verses of The Southwark Mysteries and so enabling Her spirit songs to be sung long after this John is done and dusted.

Jacqueline Durban delivered a fierce moving poem on Remembrance, Drew Galdron sang his song of ‘The Coldest Kiss’, Nicholas Greaves gave powerful testimony from the Trans community, remembering those whose lives were cut short because of the way they were pushed to the edge, the outsiders of the outsiders.

And then together we celebrated the edge, and the people who live there, who are not simply to be pitied, though compassion for their suffering, but to be valued – because, it is on this creative edge where new life, new ideas, new ways of living are born. Then Geoff Miles and Hildegarde conducted their ritual within a ritual, in Frith, and, as one we connected to his magic copper ring, chanting over and over ‘Heal these bones and heal these souls…’

Maximum respect to our Goose Samurai crew, master and mistressfully co-ordinated by Jules and Jenn, and as ever to Katy Kaos for her many workings behind the scenes. In the photo you can see Jenn’s magnificent Santa Muerte hanging over Crow’s right shoulder. (Offscreen, Our Lady of Crossbones watches his left.) All this, and much more, with seven candles for Red Cross Mary and the full moon rising over Crossbones as we entered the portal.

Open pathways! >><< Photo: full moon over Crossbones, Goose Night, 23rd November 2018. Photo: Joseph Bonner

1 2 3 4 5