rt3 – a medieval audio drama about the idea of conservation – 33 minutes
Written and directed by James Picardo
Sound design by Tim Bamber
Edited by Tim Bamber
Finally, many thanks to Jenny Davies for the fiddle parts and Bristol Occasional Seasonal Orchestral Music for digging up the tune.
Recorded by Pete Rowley at Attic Attack, Bristol
Copyright red thread January 2016
What do we mean when we talk about conservation? Do we mean something is running out – perhaps something that we have in scarce supply. Like sand running out of an hourglass. But is this anything to do with nature itself? In English, the word used to refer mainly to people. What else could be worth conserving other than our souls? Perhaps our bodies that housed them. But not much more. And the seasons took care of nature.
Then, in the early 14th Century, there was an industrial boom. An order of monks called the Cistercians made great strides in metallurgy and engineering. Many fortunes were made. Wood was chopped down, wastelands were created, and the seasons could do nothing to replenish them.
How did people understand this? Accountants knew about income and outgoings, while religion offered biblical and saintly narratives. Folk legends included that of the green man, a powerful woodland spirit. Or the wild man, an altogether more pitiable creature. Someone who had lost his wits and found himself in the wasteland.
To explore the idea of Conservation, this medieval audio drama delves into this period. It takes as its starting point a tense balance of power. On the one hand we have a reeve, the powerful lord’s accountant. On the other we have an alderman, a town magnate on the make. The story begins when a community of Cistercians come to the area seeking water to power their mill.
– If you liked this and want to try something a bit different please check out dark audio drama Forty.
– If you would like to find out more about the topic you may want to read An Environmental History of Medieval Europe by Richard Hoffmann reviewed in The Goose here.