Oxfordshire is one of the remaining counties that still holds a traditional ‘mock election’, an old folk custom that was once popular throughout the country.
The Election of the Mayor of Ock Street is a quirky annual event, where a ‘mayor’ is elected by the residents of Ock Street in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Each year, candidates are drawn from the members of the Abingdon Morris side and a polling station opens at the local hostelry for residents to cast their vote.
The day of voting is followed by traditional Morris dancing and merriment. This includes hoisting the newly elected mayor down Ock Street, whilst carrying a wooden chalice and sword, followed by the Ock Street Horns (a carved wooden ox head).
The Ock Street election is organised by the Abingdon Traditional Morris Dancers and is used as an excuse to invite other Morris sides to Abingdon for a day-long festival of dance.
Traditionally this quirky custom coincided with the day of the annual horse fair, but these days it’s held on the nearest Saturday to June 19th.
Polling begins at 10am, accompanied by a parade of the Morris sides into the town centre. The residents and businesses of Ock Street all have the right to vote. The election count takes place, rather handily, in the Brewery Tap at 4pm. The Mayor, is then paraded along Ock Street and spends the next year as squire of the Morris side. The dancing and festivities usually continue well into the evening.
Mock mayors were once a widespread British custom but now there are only a handful of places, such as Oxfordshire and Cornwall, carrying on the tradition. The mock mayor was originally meant to be a parody of the actual civic mayor, and these events were meant to help keep the real mayor in check.
When: 15th June 2019
Where: Ock Street, Abingdon, Oxfordshire
More info: atmd.org.uk/the-mayor-of-ock-street