When: Until 9th September 2012
Where: Horniman Museum and Gardens, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ
What is it?
Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids is an exhibition by photographer Sara Hannant which goes through a year of rituals, customs and other festivities that are carried out in England. The exhibition covers everything from wassailing and Jack-in-the-Greens to Druid Orders, Apple Days and the burning of effigies. It’s an interesting journey through the year but also through time, as many of the traditions date back centuries and so the exhibition provides an insight into English culture over the years.
Some of the more bizarre of the customs have interesting histories attached such as the Lancashire-based Britannia Coconut Dancers whose strange costumes are said to originate from moorish pirates. Then there are the Antrobus Soul Cakers, a traditional group of mummers (folk actors), who perform around All Soul’s Day/Hallowe’en each year. This troop of crazy characters which includes Beelzebub and Dick the wild horse (made from a real horse’s skull, painted black) perform in pubs around Cheshire.
Other colourful and unusual festivities include the Rochester Sweeps Festival in Kent, the Pagan Pride Parade in Bloomsbury and the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance in Staffordshire. It’s quite amazing to see the photographs of all these strange customs, which most people are unaware of, being performed right on our doorstep.
Though the exhibition isn’t huge every photograph reveals something new and quirky so is well worth a look. It may also make you realise how little you know about the country and the strange and enthusiastic people who live in it. If you have yet to visit the Horniman Museum then there is plenty more to look at while you are there, including another exhibition called the Body Adorned: Dressing London, a natural history gallery, a music gallery, the African Worlds permanent exhibition, an aquarium as well as gardens to explore.
More info: www.horniman.ac.uk