Cross Bones vigil

London, UK

Cross Bones gate

Ribbons and dolls hang on the gate of the Cross Bones Graveyard

London, UK

Today I paid my second visit to the Cross Bones Graveyard, the last resting place of some of London's 'outcast dead' – most notably, the "Bishop of Winchester's Geese", the prostitutes who worked in the 12th-century Manor of Southwark (later known as the Liberty of the Clink). On the 23rd of each month, friends of the Graveyard hold a vigil to remember those buried there, celebrating and commemorating them in poetry, performance and prayers.

The gathering was an eclectic mix of people – historians, artists, Southwark locals, and sex workers and others who feel some affinity with the nameless 'geese' of the Bishop's Liberty. The event itself is a blend of performance, history and neo-paganism, with the local historian, playwright and performer John Constable (in his persona of John Crow) acting as a kind of master of ceremonies, guiding rather than controlling the evening's events. Crow recited parts of his "Southwark Mysteries", then yielded the spotlight to others who wanted to pray or speak or read poetry. The Graveyard acts as a kind of focus for many people's interests, and the accounts that they offer of the place and those buried there sometimes seem more like projections of their own needs and wishes than strictly historical interpretations of the few known facts about it. Still, there was a nicely ecumenical flavor to the evening, an acknowledgement that the vigil could mean many things to many people, and that everyone's perspective was equally valid and welcome.

At the end of the evening, John Crow's Muse, the Goose, had gifts for everyone: mine was a small printed card with, on one side, a photograph taken by my friend Max Reeves and, on the other, the word 'Adventure'. There was no indication whether the word was to be read as a simple noun or as an imperative, but I liked it anyway.