The singular beauty of a winding path

It’s been a strange 18 months what with this pandemic thing ‘n all, which, of course, decimated my work, as it has so many other performers and creatives. Various online training and recording has kept me going thank goodness, as well as requests to create labyrinths; a fascinating side-line that seems to have crept into my creative tool kit by accident.

A labyrinth, just so we’re clear, is different to a maze. A labyrinth is a single winding path that leads to a central point. As opposed to a maze, which offers you wrong turns and dead ends.

And labyrinths are very special

With a history reaching back to the ancients and appearing around the globe, through their beautiful and captivating pathways, labyrinths extend a magical hold on our minds.

I started creating labyrinths several years ago while working with North Country Theatre (NCT). Used for site specific outdoor events, we would mow their intricate patterns into the well kempt grass of an abbey or country house garden and people them with actors for summertime attraction and entertainment. Sadly, NCT no longer exists, but the demand for labyrinths does and there seems to be a ground swell of interest to experience their charming and mystical patterns of paths.

Part of the appeal is rooted in the very qualities they offer: a moment of peace combined with purpose, reflection, mindfulness, a meditative walk, even a way to quietly consider our navigation of the turbulent times we’re all currently experiencing. The last time they seemed quite so popular was in the great churches of medieval times – possibly an equally turbulent period to be alive!

For me, not only do I enjoy the calm, satisfying journey of following a simple winding path, I also love the mathematical and physical challenge; the process of creating labyrinths, mowing or painting these ancient designs in a wide variety of locations.

I have created them for Lindisfarne Priory, York Minster, Whitby Abbey and Kipling Hall. In 2020 I created and mowed a permanent one in the turf of Rowntree Park in York (sadly now washed away by the winter floods!). In 2021 I painted one on the wooden floor of the Priestly Hall in the Unitarian Mill Hill Chapel in Leeds. Most recently I mowed one in the turf by the Red Tower for the York Wall’s Festival. If you hurry you can probably still walk it.

There are many different styles and designs to suit large and small spaces, outdoor and indoor.  Decorating wide green swards, a private garden or public space; a permanent or transient attraction, labyrinths offer immense charm and interest wherever they appear. Without requiring words or explanation, a labyrinth’s appeal is universal. I hope I’ll be working on more soon and sharing the fascination.

Creating labyrinths - Mill Hill Chapel Leeds by Thomas Frere

7 coil labyrinth in the Mill Hill Chapel, Leeds

Creating labyrinths - Lindisfarne Priory by Thomas Frere

Lindisfarne Priory labyrinth, Chartres design

To find out more about my labyrinths from around the UK, have a look at my labyrinth page.