Inspiration from the Spire | Marmite sandwiches, pig bladders and Jane Austen dancers
I love this time of year. Not just the sunshine, but also the festivals. Not just Roskilde and Glastonbury. But St Alban and the Morris dancers!
Last weekend we celebrated St Alban’s Day. Alban was a soldier in the Roman city of Verulamium (now St Alban’s in Hertfordshire, England) who gave shelter to a Christian priest fleeing from persecution. He hid him in his house for several days, and Alban was so influenced by the priest that he converted to the Christian faith. When the priest’s hiding-place was discovered, Alban dressed himself in the priest’s cloak and was arrested in his place. Tortured by the Roman authorities, Alban refused to renounce his faith and was beheaded on June 22 in around the year 250. He became the first British Christian martyr, and his shrine today stands as a place of pilgrimage in the Abbey Church of St Alban.
And also here at St Alban’s in Copenhagen, thousands of visitors come to see the church every summer from every corner of the world. There is a Danish connection too, several in fact: King Cnut, for some reason, brought Alban’s arm over to Odense; there is still an excellent beer made in Odense in Alban’s name: Albani; and the cities of St Alban’s in UK and Odense in Denmark have a civic twinning to this day because of the Alban connection.
On August 24, there will be an unusual sight at Churchillparken, next to the Gefion Fountain and St Alban’s Church, when the St Alban’s Summer Fete takes place, as this year we will have about 60 Morris men in full swing. If you have never experienced Morris men, then this is your opportunity to watch grown men waving pigs bladders, white hankerchiefs and big sticks, hopping around on the grass in unison. Copenhagen will have never seen anything like it!
And there will also be all the usual elements of ‘British village life’ with cakes and sandwiches, home-made marmalades and jams, lots of English books, beer and burgers, and the Jane Austen dancers. Last year when a group of 50 Japanese tourists alighted from their bus at the Gefion Fountain and started taking pictures of the Summer Fete, they must have thought they had arrived in rural East Anglia. The only things missing was a village cricket match and some Marmite sandwiches!
So if you are in town on August 24, do come down to Churchillparken for a truly British day (10am-5pm) and meet a lot of men in beards hopping around on the grass, and a vicar in his panama hat.