Sorry everyone but if you care about our futures then you need to stop what you’re doing, read on and focus on something really important right now. There’s a big decision to make today which could affect us for the rest of our lives and indeed our children and their children and so on down the ages. You’ve heard the politicians, you’ve tuned into the commentators, you’ve listened to the experts (well, unless you’re Michael Gove) but the time has now come to stand up and be counted. The big question is … when exactly is Midsummer?
The amateur casts for A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play For The Nation were announced at Midsummer last year and so we’re now a whole year on. In that time the play has travelled the country and the term Midsummer has been bandied about in 12 cities across the UK but the vexed question of when it happens remains unresolved. I mean, it’s not like Christmas is it? Midsummer tends to move around a lot.
Is it the same as the summer solstice (i.e. this year June 20th )? Certainly much of the media seemed to think so reporting on a Midsummer deluge on Monday morning and the appearance of the very rare “Midsummer strawberry moon”. But surely that day is officially the start of summer. If that is the case then that would make the autumn equinox the end (this year that’s September 22nd). The mid point between those two is (hang on while I work it out….) August 7th but that seems far too late. As we all know in the UK, summer’s pretty much over by then ….not that this year it’s ever got started. Even as I write the rain is thundering down again. Maybe Titania’s speech about the confused seasons is actually coming true:
the spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which.
OK, time out!…Now let’s get back to the point. One of the paper calendars in the house shows Midsummer Day as 23rd June and another 24th so that’s not much help. Wikipedia (which is, as we all know, totally accurate all of the time) has this to say:
Midsummer, also known as St John’s Day, takes place on a day between June 19 and June 25 and the preceding evening. The exact dates vary between different cultures. The Christian Church designated June 24 as the feast day of the early Christian martyr St John the Baptist, and the observance of St John’s Day begins the evening before, known as St John’s Eve.
Confused? You will be. The country that pays the most attention to Midsummer as a festival is Sweden and with their usual sense of orderliness and the fact they always want it to be at a weekend they designate a Friday as Midsummer Eve and a Saturday as Midsummer Day – this year June 24th/25th respectively. (Not sure if I can use Sweden as an example as they are in the EU and I don’t want to exert undue political pressure on the other key question of the day. Mind you, they don’t use the Euro so that’s all right then…isn’t it?)
By the way, in case you’re by now wondering why I’m bothering my brain about this, it was because I was trying to work out which of the amateur groups has or will be performing on the big day at Stratford. Turns out it could have been either of the Newcastle teams or will be our Glasgow brethren. Anyway Shakespeare’s title is ambiguous, isn’t it? Does he mean Midsummer Eve – the day before Midsummer – or the night of Midsummer Day or just some random night at some point in summer?….Tell you what, let’s just move on shall we before someone loses the will to live?
So to sum up; it’s June 20th or 23rd or 24th or 25th or some unspecified date between 19th and 25th or will be August 7th – you decide. Now there’s a thought. Perhaps the only way to solve this is to put it to the people in a Midsummer referendum. I know there’s another (obviously less significant) vote taking place today but if you could bend your collective brains to this tricky proposition that would really ensure the future of this vital question once and for all. Come on people; let’s get together and take back control! (No bias intended either way)
Thanks for voting. Results will be declared in due course by the returning officer, Monsieur Mustardseed.
I could teach you
How to choose right, but I am then forsworn;
So will I never be (Merchant of Venice)
The production is now back in Stratford upon Avon. Click on the image below for details