As we walked up to Cecil Sharp house, we weren’t immediately sure if we had come to the right place. Our first site through the windows was to a room full of dancers doing what can only be described as an Irish jig in slow motion, but looking around we could see a steady influx of people who appeared to be there for the same reason as us. To listen to some lovely stories and music, feel revitalised through deep mediation, and be kept in hysterics by the musings of the fabulous Ruby Wax. You wouldn’t usually expect to see these three things together, but you could tell from the diversity of the crowd, men and woman of all ages and backgrounds, that there was certainly a demand for this kind of event, an evening of mindfulness and meditation mixed in with some amazing entertainment, to offer an alternative to de-stress from our hectic London lives.
The evening started off with a generous portion of a flavourful veggie dahl served fresh from the downstairs kitchen, before we were politely moved into the main room, entering a stunning open hall with two tables either side set up with a vast array of complimentary Pukka teas. The founder of The Gathering, Will Williams began with a brief introduction and explanation behind the concept, touching on a subject we are all to familiar with. He talked of the inevitable stress of living in London, and the difficulty of finding the balance between what will enrich us and what will burn us out. Having previously worked in the music industry, Will created the idea out of a longing to combine his two great loves, music and meditation. The Gathering is the product of this vision, helping people to access music, meditation, film and more, all in the same setting. Will then welcomed to the stage celebrated rock producer Ethan Johns, who lays claim to working on some of the biggest albums of our time, collaborating with the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Kings Of Leon, Ryan Adams, Ray LaMontagne and many more across a career already spanning twenty years. In a calm yet jovial way, the pair discussed Ethan’s rich musical heritage and love of instruments from a young age, and how his bold introduction into the world paved his way for a rich musical career. The room was full of fans and we were all delighted as Ethan finished his section by regaling us with some music from his upcoming album, soothing us with his contemplative folk and poetic musings.
After a well deserved round off applause for Ethan, Will once again returned to the stage to guide us in to our group meditation. It was such a special setting for it, surrounded by hundreds of people in a historical hall, and you could feel the collective energy of the room relaxing as he brought our breathing deeper before guiding us into an intense state of Vedic meditation, described by Will as one of the most ancient techniques on the planet. Once over and we were brought back to the present, it took me a good few minutes to come back to reality, struggling to pull myself out of the deep trance I had fallen into. My whole body clicked as I stretched it out, having relaxed so much that It had completely compressed into itself.
My daze was soon replaced with excitement and laugher as the fabulous Ruby Wax took to the stage, immediately launching into a string of hilarious anecdotes. Not only is this captivating woman an award winning actress, author and comedian, but she’s also a mental health campaigner, and was able to put the audience at ease by using humour to talk candidly about a very difficult subject matter. In between hilarious viniets about her dramatic journey to where she is now, Wax told us of how she left the University of Oxford in 2011 with a masters degree in cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness, published her best-selling book Frazzled before launching her ‘Frazzle Cafe’ project, creating a hub for people to come and discuss their anxiety and depression. Ruby finished up by answering questions from a captivated crowd, responding thoughtfuly and with the fire that is now resonant with her name.
An evening completely different from anything I had experienced before, I would encourage anyone who is looking for a different kind of night out to take a trip to The Gathering, and be left feeling refreshed and inspired. Being surrounded by music, filled with laughter and left a little bit dazed without even touching an alcoholic drink may seem like an alien concept, but it certainly works, and we look forward to seeing what other unusual collaboration the team come up with.
TO MARK DAVID BOWIE’S 70TH BIRTHDAY, WILL WILLIAMS INVITES YOU TO OLYMPIC STUDIOS FOR A SPECIAL GROUP MEDITATION FOLLOWED BY A FULL ALBUM PLAY BACKS OF ‘DIAMOND DOGS’ (RECORDED AT OLYMPIC STUDIOS) AND THE SEMINAL ‘THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND SPIDERS FROM MARS’
Shavasana Disco – David Bowie’s 70th Birthday Celebration
Olympic Studios, Barnes, London
Sunday 8th January
9:30am – 12:00pm
Tickets are free to be won via ballot entry:
Written by Jordan Crowley