Councillor Jon Cousins, Green Mayor of Glastonbury, pays tribute to Denise Michell, Archdruidess, Elder Ovate and Bard, ‘Fairy Queen’, and twice Green Mayor of Glastonbury.
First published in ‘Green World’ magazine – Wednesday, 24th June 2020.
Denise Michell 11th August 1952 – 22nd June 2020
Denise Michell (née Price) was born on 11th August 1952, and spent her early years in Barkingside, Redbridge.
She came to live in Glastonbury in 1997 and was an Archdruidess of the Glastonbury Order of Druids from 1998 to 2007 – subsequently becoming a founding member, Elder Ovate and Bard of the Gorsedh Ynys Witrin, Glastonbury’s Bardic College.
In April 2007, Denise married the celebrated author John Michell (1933–2009) at a ceremony held in Glastonbury’s St Benedict’s Church. It was a long courtship – they had first met 34 years earlier, when she was 21 and he was 40.
Partly in response to the government’s proposal that Hinkley Point C in Somerset would be one of the eight newly commissioned Nuclear Power Stations, Denise joined Glastonbury’s Green Party branch in 2010, and became an active campaigner encouraging local people to register to vote.
As Archdruidess, her profile helped to build support, and the local branch experienced a ‘Green Surge’ in 2010/11, which resulted in four Greens being elected to Glastonbury Town Council in May 2011 – Denise being one of the ‘Green Four’.
During their first term, Glastonbury’s Green Councillors implemented a Glastonbury ‘Green’ Charter for the Environment, installed solar panels onto the roof of the Town Hall, declared Glastonbury a Frack Free Council, and resolved to oppose the building of Hinkley C Nuclear Power Station.
As Glastonbury’s Green surge continued, reflected by the national surge in membership from late 2014 onwards (turning Greens into the third largest party in England and Wales), Denise was re-elected in 2015 to become the 316th (and first ‘Green’) Worshipful Mayor of Glastonbury. Her first Mayoral resolution was to join the international anti-nuclear movement ‘Mayors For Peace’, a membership that all succeeding Mayors of Glastonbury have maintained.
As a councillor, Denise was a champion of Glastonbury’s ‘Beltane’ May Day festivities and the town’s annual Frost Fayre. Indeed, when she was first elected, she discovered that the 2011 Frost Fayre was in danger of being cancelled – and decided to take on the coordination of the event, helping to turn the Frost Fayre into a huge success, which has gone from strength to strength – so well attended and popular in 2019 that hundreds of would-be visitors were not even able to enter the town.
In their second term, Glastonbury Greens expanded to seven elected councillors, and took minority control of the town council. During this time, they banned the use of glyphosate on all public land – moving to a non-toxic weed control system, became the first council in Somerset to be ‘single-use plastic free’, and the first to declare a Climate Emergency – pledging to make council operations carbon-neutral by 2030.
In 2019, being returned as a town councillor for a third term (as part of nine Green town councillors – a majority!), Denise joined the small company of people who have been twice elected Mayor of Glastonbury.
During her second Mayoralty, she oversaw Glastonbury becoming the second ‘Earth Protector Town’ in the World – calling for an Amendment to The Rome Statute to include a Law against Ecocide.
When asked recently what it was like to be a councillor, Denise replied: “Working within the community I listen closely to what people would like to see happen in our town now and in the future, and – as a councillor – I can help bring change for the benefit of everyone in our community.”
Denise passed away in the early hours of Monday 22nd June 2020. News of her death was announced by her children Zig, Zoe, Rowan and Leah on social media: “It is with broken hearts that we must share with you that our mum has completed her journey here on Earth and is now on her way to join the ancestors in the stars. Thank you to each and every one of you who has been a part of our mum’s life adventures. We ask that you light a candle, say a prayer and send her on her way with love. Love and light. May there be peace in the sacred grove.”
Personally, I am devastated by the passing of my dear friend. Denny was an incredible person, who loved Glastonbury to the core of her being and did so much for our community. She will be greatly missed. On behalf of Glastonbury Council and the local Green Party, I send my deepest condolences to her family.