Thursday began with the whole school Lanterns assembly, or as I call it, the world’s biggest production meeting. The Head and I carried the Star of Remembrance to the hall for all to see. Mr Repton began by talking everyone through the route and the playground plan, aided by Yr 6 pupils operating the visuals – satellite photographs from Google earth.
The Official Bearer of the Scissors was announced – a young lad whose name had been drawn from a hat the previous day. He got to practise his forthcoming role -handing over the scissors to the mayor so that the ribbon set across the gate can be cut. Then, a Yr 6 girl practised the countdown with everyone joining in. Oh, and Corrie and Zana were revealed to be this year’s Lighters of the Star of Community Lantern.
A slide show of photographs from the workshops was shown, and I was invited to say a few words. The meeting ended on a high, with the Black Eyed Peas’ song I Gotta Feeling. The group dedicated the song
“to everyone who is getting ready to go out. It’s the song to listen to when you drive to the club or party. It’s the song to listen to after a long day or week at work. It’s the song to that makes me wanna throw my stress away…”
A Yr 5 boy who loves dancing was invited up for an impromptu performance. He bounced and twirled and got the whole room clapping along. Mr R had said that we weren’t going to leave silently but singing along and chatting about the night to come – and that is what we did.
Meanwhile, back at the workshop, Gilly and the ladies were soldiering on, finishing and covering. We had a mountain of work in front of us, but everything stopped for tea and for lunch. Extra help arrived as the day went on – Sarah J, Anni Raw, three Med students and two Chickenley artists – and all were folded in to the mix. Anni commented later that the team work was spectacular.
There were tens of doors made so that lights could be lit; Sarah spent hours painstakingly covering the Parent and Child lantern whilst students and artists made the lantern sticks. There were still small lanterns being covered at 3.00 and all the while stars were being added to the Remembrance Lantern. In the midst of everything, we suddenly noticed that Corrie’s 4 year old daughter was having a great time, hands covered in glue… we all laughed.
The atmosphere was calm and purposeful and deeply enjoyable; we knew we would get there and were confident enough to leave for fish and chips in the staff room at 4.20pm. At 4.45 we returned and got everything ready – all the big lanterns sited in the playground and the small ones with sticks attached and lined up ready to be collected. Phew!!
The playground was full of folk – the big lanterns were placed in order and all the small ones fitted in around them. Musa and his family were amongst the many who came to collect their lanterns. Here is his blog post that he wrote earlier in the week; simple and to the point:
Hello. My name is Musa. I have been making lanterns for the lantern parade. It’s fantastic. This is my first time making one. My Mum and Dad are helping me with my lantern. It’s about working together. It’s really good and fun.
The Rhythm Train Samba Band arrived and all was ready. The opening ceremony went smoothly – the Bearer of the Scissors remembered the right hand to shake and the Mayor spoke of the talent of lantern makers and his delight at being part of the parade.
Corrie and Zana did a great job of lighting the Star of Community lantern, the countdown began and we were off. Gilly and I waited by the gate and saw everyone through, threading the band into the parade at what we hoped was the middle point. It was a long procession – Anni counted over a hundred lanterns and reckoned there were 400 plus people accompanying them. The night was cold, crisp and clear; no snow and no wind. The walk felt like a leisurely stroll. We noticed more teenagers in attendance – those who had made lanterns in the years before and though it cool enough to join in; they walked in the parade, not alongside it. The whole thing looked beautiful; Gilly thought it the best ever. A lot of people came to windows, doors and gates to watch it pass. One older woman was at the end of a street of bungalows and I stopped to speak to her and how we will include it on the route next year.
When we returned to school, Gilly and I laid out the lanterns whilst folk collected their hot chocolate and biscuits and then gathered around them. The crowd hushed as three cousins of the four-year-old pupil who died after being struck by a car bravely sang a song in his memory and as a comfort to his family. Then the choir sang and led us all in the usual rousing rendition of “This Little Light of Mine”. I was between two of the big lanterns with sisters Lyndsey and Courtney and we sang and swayed and clapped and drank it all in, enough to last another year.