“I said: Wouldn’t it be a good idea to get people from all over the world to crochet or knit Roman-style bunting,” recalls Lynne Barber of her pitch in front of the organizers of a year-long festival to celebrate Hadrian’s Wall. âThey said, ‘This is fantastic! Are you going to organize it? ‘”
Barber, an undertaker, smiles as she speaks of the rather daunting challenge that lies ahead. The bunting may not stretch every 118 km of the wall, but it hopes it will manage to get a flag for each year it exists.
Your project is one of many newly announced projects planned for Feast of Hadrian’s Wall 1900, an annual jamboree to mark the anniversary of the north-western frontier of the Roman Empire, built from what is now Wallsend on the Tyne to Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria.
Because the wall has so many facets – history, archeology, nature, hiking – the planned exhibitions, art events, concerts and more are strikingly diverse.
Bill Griffiths, chairman of the 1900 Festival, says an early decision was made: âLet’s not do what we did before. Let’s not do it with museums. Let’s come to the people and the communities on Hadrian’s Wall. It’s your wall, it’s not reserved for the curators. “
Griffiths says the wall has a romance and magic to it, and even though it’s 1,900 years old, there’s still a lot to learn. âThere are always new discoveries. Every time you think it’s fixed, something shifts. We only realized almost 200 years ago that it was Hadrian’s Wall. “
Before, says Griffiths, it was thought that Severus, the African Emperor of Rome, built the wall.
Another debate that has not yet been resolved is whether the wall had a catwalk over it. “There’s no evidence,” says Griffiths. “I believe in having a wall walk, but I have to say ‘believers’ … there is no hard evidence.”
If the wall isn’t interesting enough, you have Hadrian himself. He is tactically considered the consolidating emperor who is pulling troops out of Iraq as one of his first acts.
He is also widely recognized as the gay emperor; a man devastated by the death of a beautiful Greek boy named Antinous.
Griffiths, who fell in love with Roman history thanks to the Asterix comics, says his passion is learning how the Roman army worked, how they had garrison units on the wall, their soldiers from Africa, Syria, Romania and Belgium came.
âThe wall is infinitely fascinating; The trick is to make it attractive to the public, âhe says. âI find it fascinating, I can’t imagine that others don’t, but some don’t. It’s not because it’s boring, but because we haven’t found the right stories to captivate people. “
The festival team openly called on people and organizations to submit ideas and has received 170 suggestions so far. The idea is that the festival can help with fundraising, marketing and sustainability, “but you are responsible for your events,” says Griffiths.
It has to be like that, because the festival core team is small, everyone with part-time jobs. In the case of Griffiths, he remains the director of programs and collections at the Tyne and Wear museums.
Announced events include a manga novel about Hadrian’s Wall, an exhibition at Roman fort and museum Segedunum Explore who built the wall and how, and a new play in village halls of On the Move Theater, set in 121 AD.
And then there’s the bunting challenge from Barber, who lives in South Shields, home of the Roman fort of Arbeia, which guarded the entrance to the Tyne and served as a supply center for the thousands of soldiers stationed on the wall.
Barber started crocheting 18 years ago after quitting smoking and has never looked back. “Hadrian’s Wall is famous all over the world, so I hope people from many countries will send in flags,” she says. âI think people get inspiration from the wall. It will be nice to see where they all come from. “
Barber has created simple, free Roman numerals and Roman shield patterns that people can download and is being used on the project by the. supports Vindolanda Charity Foundation. It’s just getting started, but die-hard crochet fan Tom Daley is on the dream contributor list.
The festival begins on Hadrian’s birthday, January 24th, and lasts until the end of the Roman festival of Saturnalia on December 23rd.