Prometheus stole it from the gods, it is the very lynch pin of man’s technological progress, our industry tried to harness it, our anger uses it to devour cities, it is both our servant and beyond our control. It is simply fire. Last night though I saw it in a much more theatrical way as I sat sipping wine watching it being used to amaze and amuse the audience at Lower Shaw Farm.

For those who don’t know Lower Shaw Farm is a unique place, an oasis of colour and calm, creativity and gentle chaos set amongst the modern redbrick, clipped hedges and immaculately polished Ford Mondeo’s that have grown to encircle it. But entering it’s grounds is to enter a strange and wonderful world that is part Thomas Hardy’s Wessex, part Haight-Ashbury, a progressive play-school for parents who understand that development is not just about facts and exams, a place of workshops and learning, skill sharing and social interaction for all ages. It is a place that I have been hearing about for years but sadly am only just getting to explore. But with the amount of artistic endeavors that the place is the hub for, not least the recent Festival of Literature, it is a learning curve I am looking forward to embracing.

But for tonight in a newly cleared paddock bordered by trees and outlying farm buildings we were treated to the Inaugural Paddock Fire Show. And impressive as the fire skills on show where, juggling and flaming sword skills, burning structures, Catherine wheeling and clowning around, what summed up the nature of the place for me was inclusiveness of the night. All skill levels and all ages were part of the show from professional circus performers to knee-high fire swingers…imagine this playground conversation, “what did you do this weekend?”… “ I took part in a festival where I juggled batons of fire under the stars to a drum band, you?”…”I completed Halo on my X-box!!!”

That said, the show was pretty amazing and made all the more impressive by its natural arena away from the dull sodium haze and harsh shapes of the world just beyond its confines.

And it is such a feeling that is the beating heart of Lower Shaw Farm, alternative and welcoming, creative and inclusive, providing skills and learning but based around vocational skills which are more about changing your character, developing sociability, giving you other ways of looking at the world and appreciating the subtler things in life rather than the hard and fast career paths that are the norm these days.

Lower Shaw Farm – it should be a local by-law that every town should have one.


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