December 43 Newsletter

Felt Connections between Quaker and Butoh Practice

As the novelist E.M. Forster once wrote, ‘Only connect’. This inspiring injunction has meant a lot to me throughout my life, and even become something of a habit. Today I would like to share with you some of the connections I see between my practice as a Quaker and as a Butoh dancer.

Butoh dance emerged in American-occupied post-war Japan and is still little known in Europe. It is not easy to define, mainly because of its commitment to resisting standard definition and easy categorization. Today though, many of us will be aware of it through the Red Rebels branch of Extinction Rebellion, whose movements and guerrilla approaches are quintessentially Butoh.

To evoke what Butoh seeks to articulate, its two founding fathers, Kazuo Ohno and Hijikata Tatsumi, called it a dance of both darkness and light; one concerned with preserving community in all its diversity, respecting messiness and shadows as well as the light within, and inspiring personal transformation.

Two key elements of its language, silence and a combination of charged stillness and movement, are used to connect with our humanness, move us away from seeing the mind as distinct from the body, and instead see the body as the home of thought and feeling. It is in such ways of seeking for a naked enlivening encounter with the source of our being I find first parallels between Quaker and Butoh practice.

It is also very much understood as a spiritual practice that can serve as a channel for grace: one in which re ec on and experimentation lead to change and fresh perspectives. As Kazuo Ohno put it, ‘and the spirit and the form will take care of itself’. This resonates for me with my understanding of ministry, and the belief each of us has something new and of value to other others.

Finally, I see another connection in Butoh’s expression of deeply engrained, personal, and collective politics. Butoh was from the outset conceptualised as an activist dance form that rejects the ‘bad check called democracy’ (Hijikata Tatsumi). Hence it is often used to call attention to environmental and social issues.

Rather than my explaining more, why not come to watch a performance in Oxford? The group I practice with, Café Reason Butoh Dance Theatre, are performing at Corpus Chris College on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 January 2020. The show is called ‘Tipping Point’ and is a creative response to the threat of climate change. For more details, and to book, please see here, or go the Café Reason website at http://www.cafereason.com/

Juliet Henderson

Top Flat!

In view of the upcoming Garden Room & Quaker Centre rennovations (learn more about the project here!) and any associated disruptions to the first floor spaces for hire in 43, we are renting out the rooms of our top flat!

For more information, please consult the Room Hire pages of this website or contact us at office@oxfordquakers.org and ask about the top flat.

A Poem I Like & Why I Like It

Saturday, December 14th

6:30-8:30pm

Oxford Quaker Meeting House

Our own Poems in the Library Group invite you to an open-mike and mince pies festive celebration in the Meeting House from 6.30pm-8.30pm on Saturday December 14th. Bring a poem (preferably not by yourself!) and read it aloud to the rest of us. All welcome! This is a free event with a collection for the Building Fund plus a donation to OxFAP. 

January 10: Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Friday, January 10th, 2020

19:00 – 21:00

Oxford Quaker Meeting House

Political scientist and historian Iain McLean talks to astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell about life, the universe, and some other things in this Quaker conversation. Open to the public, all are welcome. Refreshments will be on sale. This is a fundraising event for the Oxford Quaker Meeting garden room project. Cost: £10 from the Quaker Meeting House office or £11.37 via Eventbrite using the following link:


READ MORE:


Jocelyn Bell Burnell is best known as the astrophysicist who discovered pulsars (rotating neutron stars) but did not share in the resulting Nobel Prize. She has always been remarkably un-bitter about that. Her generosity is further shown by her donation of a recent £2.3 million physics prize to the Institute of Physics to form a fund to assist female, minority, and refugee physics students. She has often spoken of her feelings of ‘outsider’ status as an Ulster Quaker doctoral student in Cambridge.

I know Jocelyn as a fellow Quaker and from her time as President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), of which I am a fellow. We worked together on projects run by the RSE and the other UK national academies to explain the issues on devolution in the nations and territories of the UK.

In our talk, I hope we will open by reflecting on ‘outsider’ status at places like Oxford and Cambridge, because that is how I felt, too, when I first arrived from Scotland. I hope we will go on, as the advert for our talk says, to discuss life, the universe, and some other things

Iain McLean

One Week till “Sea Changes”

One week until Marina Jenkyns Productions will be bringing their show “Sea Changes” to the Oxford Friends Meeting House. Join us for a play which explores the seaside and living with loss. Performances are at 4pm & 7pm on the 22nd of November. Tickets are £10, £8 conc. Please also join us for a free Q&A at 5pm. Tickets may be bought on the door or online: 

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/marina-jenkyns-productions-27725792427

Poetry Reading: Lucy Newlyn, 23rd November

Saturday 23rd November, 2019

6.30 for 7pm till 9pm at the Meeting House, 43 St Giles

Free admission + fundraising collection for the Garden Room & Quaker Centre + refreshments

NEW COLLECTION! OXFORD LAUNCH! Lucy Newlyn will talk about creativity & read from her new collection, out this very November: VITAL STREAM  (Carcanet, 2019).

Most recently, Lucy Newlyn published an extra-ordinary book of autobiography plus poetry called Diary of a Bipolar Explorer  (Signal, 2018). She now lives in Cornwall, and is a fellow Emeritus of St Edmund Hall in Oxford. Her forthcoming  The Craft of Poetry, will be published by Yale University Press. Her William and Dorothy  Wordsworth, ‘All in Each Other’ ( OUP, 2013) and Branch-Lines: Edward Thomas and Contemporary Poetry, An anthology of contemporary poems and critical reflections on Edward Thomas (Enitharmon, 2014) are riveting reads. Now we look forward to this year’s book of      poems,  Vital Stream.