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Ye Olde Bowen Island Green Man Festival Returns

The community event has been reimagined and relaunched by Bowen youth
Icicles and buds gathered round the Queen of May (Bev Rapley) to watch her usher in spring at Bowen Island’s first ever Green Man Festival in 2014.

Spring is a time of lingering morning frost and flower buds beginning to form; it’s known for mixed weather, rain-showers and the sun’s warmth returning. One can almost feel the sense of community optimism in-bloom as the weather improves… but how can we know that winter is truly behind us and that the winter queen will be defeated by spring green?

The Green Man festival was a uniquely Bowen-quirky, old-British-Isles-folk-inspired local tradition that was brought to this island originally by the beloved Reverend Shelagh MacKinnon and brought to life by a large crew of local volunteers. The Green Man Festival ran in various formats,  and  with a variety of elements for several years,  in various iterations throughout the Cove… but although ye olde Bowen Island Green Man Festival has not been held on Bowen Island for several years, it is still remembered fondly by many youth of Bowen Island… and now they are bringing it back in a reimagined format!

The youth are starting by reviving the key elements of the return of the festival and have given it a new name: Queen versus Green, to highlight the key feature of the interactive play: the battle between the armies of Spring green and Winter icicles.  Mark May 20, 11 am to 1 pm-ish, on your calendar to experience the reinvention of an old Bowen tradition.

The Ice Queen (Tina Nielsen) freezes her green opponents during the 2014 event. / Meribeth Deen

The return of the event was proposed by a group of local youth with Hannah F. at the lead. When Hannah and friends were discussing what their favourite pre-pandemic Bowen memories were, many of them said it was the Green Man Festival and they strongly feel that bringing back this community event is a way to bring back the sense of community spirit and to instill community involvement in the next generation.

The youth, by taking the lead role in this event, want to rebuild community connections within their generation and celebrate in a way that uniquely reflects the community they live in. Simply put they want to bring back a sense of joy for the youth and to share it with the whole community in an inclusive, accessible, no-charge, free, and fun fashion.

Held on May 20, on the Saturday of the Victoria Day long weekend, the event is an all-ages interactive theatre event with community participation and activity stations for youth. The theatre event can accommodate around 100 youth and adults to jump in and participate in the day in a play with a set cast and helpers. The core crew is approximately 12 people to provide the structure as the buds of spring battle the icicles of winter and, not to give anything away, but the buds of Spring Green win, which is followed by a traditional Maypole dance. 

Bob Doucet and James McConnan provided some festival music for the inaugural Green Man Festival. / Meribeth Deen

To bring this traditional folk tradition back, there is a need for a few more volunteer youth to help, especially with decorations, activity stations, face-painting, set-up, and for people in the community to dress up in their best medieval/folk attire, to don wreaths of ivy and flowers, and come down to the new stage beside the Hearth and Bowen Island Public Library.

Both the Bowen Island Public Library and the Hearth are supporting this event, as well as funding from the Bowen Island Community Foundation, community contributions, and a passel of supportive adults including Shirley Wrinch, Liz Nankin, Bowen Taekwondo, Youth musicians, Alison Nixon, and various former Green Man Festival organizers who are acting as support and mentors.

“The Hearth Arts on Bowen supports the return of the Green Man Festival - a wonderful community event from, and for, our local youth. This festival brings art in all its forms to our community, celebrating our cultural identity on Bowen Island. And it provides mentoring for the youth organizing this event, enabling them experience in planning a festival,” says Jami Scheffer, executive director at the Hearth.

So, Bowen Island: which team are you on? Show up in blues and whites, or greens and flowers at 11 am at the new stage in the Cove, and bring a wand-sized stick.