Calendars shouldn’t just be tools for managing our ever-busying lives. The act of making calendars, creating family, school or parish almanacs can reconnect us to the passing seasons and help us all celebrate the distinct identity of the places we live in.
After the French Revolution a new calendar, ‘Calendrier Republicain’, was designed to break with the past and celebrate the spirit of the new Republic. Out went days and months celebrating the clergy or aristocracy, in came the Almanac of Shepherds, which gave each day of the year the name of a plant, an animal, a mineral or a bird. The twelve months of the year were named from nature too: Vendémiaire (grape harvest), Brumaire (fog), Frimaire (frost), Nivôse (snowy), Pluviôse (rainy), Ventôse (windy), Germinal (germination), Floréal (flower), Prairial (pasture), Messidor (harvest), Thermidor (summer heat) and Fructido (fruit).
Weather prediction is no longer the specialty of us all. Computer modelling and specialised forecasters might be more accurate weather-guides than W.H. Hudson’s shepherd, Caleb Bawcombe, with the downland at his back, or John Clare’s almanac masterpiece The Shepherd’s Calendar. But with ever increasing reliance on technology, we are becoming distanced from the practice of predictions: the local noticings and observations that bring us closer to places we live in and carry the richness, the poetry, the festivals and the associations that connect us with our local environment and the passing of seasonal time.
Like the Almanac of shepherds, why not celebrate a different plant, animal, mineral, building or person throughout the year? Why not publicly cheer, like we do privately, the arrival of swallows or swifts? Why not mark local produce or celebrate a particular building, landmark or a local, unvenerated saint? We could all host bluebell picnics and autumn kite festivals and snowdrop walks. These quiet, informal moments and habits can become celebrations fixed in a calendar, deepening our links with the passing of the seasons and the places we live in.
How many desk calendars celebrate these locally distinct moments? Where are the digital reminders that foretell the first snowdrop or chart the movement of migratory birds? A calendar or an almanac should express our connections and emotions to places, creating an expression of how a school or community is connected to their environment, marking fixed moments that celebrate the food, metaphors, the joy, stories, encounters, noticings and enchantments that seasonality brings.
Common Ground would like to revive the art of calendar- and almanac-making. To help demonstrate how calendars and almanacs can become an expression of our identity and the affection we have from the places we live in, Common Ground are commissioning a variety of artists to create their very own calendar that celebrates the distinctiveness of where they live and work. The work they produce will be gathered into a touring exhibition and used to explain how the process of making calendars can connect people with the distinctiveness of their area, and how a completed calendar can uniquely express the identity of a place.
A new feature film
Learning through the seasons
A new exhibition of calendars & almanacs