May 7th – The Festival of the Secret Garden

Near the centre of the City there is a patch of dead ground that has been empty for a great many years, despite the fact that it could be potentially very useful land, given its location. According to official records there once stood a milliner’s shop in the now derelict space: a largish court surrounded by a number of other shops all facing outwards in a triangular shape to three hectic, busy roadways. Generations of Children have played there, having found ways to circumvent the unnoticed, locked door that blocks off the end of the alley connecting the courtyard to the outside world, but few others have set foot in that cloistered zone.

It is the kind of space you might see on a map and realise that you had never been to, even though it was just around from your house that you’d lived in all your life. It made sense, in retrospect, that there would be something there, but streets have a strange way of reshaping landscapes and deleting sections of them from public memory in the process. The door that leads to the courtyard is covered in many years of street grime, and there are often leaves and other detritus piled up at its foot; it’s the kind of door that may as well be a wall, and is therefore all the more interesting when you finally notice it.

In 1978 the door turned bright red. Behind it the passage was lit with florescent lamps, and ended in another red door. Behind that door was another world; for one day only the space was filled with luscious potted plants, exotic birds (kept from flying away with a net stretched between the surrounding roofs), and the sound of soft piano music played by Kittering Blanewold, artist and academic, author of the seminal The Importance of Liminality in the Transformation of Marginal Space in Post-Revolution Buentoille. Mood lighting was placed all around, and a small pond had somehow been added to the space.

The door was only red for three days, but a surprising number of people ventured, unbidden, through those two red doors. Many of the visitors would stop when they reached the other side, and turn back, thinking that they had stumbled into someone’s garden. Some would sit on the benches provided and listen to the music. Occasionally Blanewold would stop playing and a tranquility would descend on the courtyard, the bustling noise of the City held back, replaced by birdsong and the occasional ribbit of a frog, as the pond reflected shimmering ripples onto the surrounding foliage.

Since that first year, the red door has appeared only five times, the courtyard once again becoming dead after the third day each time. Last night someone switched the door once again. It will, in most likelihood, unlock at 6am this morning, opening this little incongruously peaceful oasis to the nosier members of the public once more.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Cow and the Bean
  • Yaddoslat’s Day of Gherkin Swallowing
  • The Festival of Dampening the Pyre