Where Blake saw angels - replanting the Angel Oak on Peckham Rye

Adriana, reciting poetry on Peckham Rye (photo: (c) Scott Johnson 2011)

Thanks to Scott Johnson, for this post recounting today's Blake Society event:

In 1765 an eight-year-old William Blake saw his first vision; 'A tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars.' He saw this on Peckham Rye.

Today I went to the Rye to join the Blake Society and artist John Hartley in the planting of a young oak tree somewhere near that spot where William Blake first saw his angels.The event began at noon with a lady called Adriana who - in eighteenth century costume - recited poetry; mostly about angels; at a string of locations around Peckham Rye Park.

This was followed by a performance and video screening by Matt Sexton. We gathered round an oak tree in the park; and a video played from his laptop which lay on the floor, covered in oak leaves. At the same time, he walked through the crowd with a hand-held projector, projecting the film onto people's bodies.Matt explained afterwards that the video contained interviews of some of the 62 South African school children who in 1995 all witnessed a UFO. He said that the children's vision of the UFO was partly a product of our time as Blake's vision of angels was partly a product of his.

Planting of the Angel Oak (photo (c) Scott Johnson, 2011)

From here we moved to a space on the Rye that is believed to have been close to where William Blake had his vision.Artist John Hartley explained that, as a child, Blake lived in the West End; an area which at the time was the margins of London; and that Peckham today is in some ways an area of margins. He said that artists are attracted to margins and so was William Blake. John then explained that the new sapling had been brought to the Rye from the margins of England. He and a friend had driven to the coast, to an eroding cliff and taken a young oak that was ready to fall into the sea, and brought it there to Peckham Rye. As the tree was lowered into it's new hole, everybody was encouraged to help by chucking a handful of dirt in.

The new Angel Oak can be seen at the Dulwich end of Peckham Rye.

Audio bite of the event
John Hartley's web site http://www.ambivalency.net/angel%20oak.htm
The Blake Society