Review of the online talk and songs given by Gill and Barry Goodman on 11th April 2021. Gill has been a volunteer at the British Schools Museum in Hitchin since 2007 and was founder member of Bedfordshire Lace Morris. Barry is a folk singer, songwriter and musician, ex-member of Redbornstoke Morris and The Outside Capering Crew, as well as an ex-President of the Morris Federation! Find out more at Gill & Barry’s web site: www.barrygoodmanfolk.co.uk
Review by Beth Neill
“This talk was well attended by over 120 people – and it was very enjoyable. Gill and Barry explained that this is a talk they usually present to WI or U3A audiences who will be less familiar with the world of folk traditions and customs, but there were probably elements that were new to several people, depending on which part of the country we live in.
“Their introduction to how they got involved in the folk world was worth it for some of the early ‘70s pictures of them. Barry is well known to many of us as a dancer, singer, caller and musician – but the joint stage act of Gill and Barry was new to me and they make a great presenting team. We were treated to a very clear script with musical interludes. As Barry said, if there wasn’t a song about the tradition – he wrote one!
“This talk was a chronological trip through English customs – they do another one which is instead a geographic tour (hint – maybe they could do that one in the autumn if we aren’t back to normal life yet …). They covered Maypole dancing, Sweeps Processions and Jack in the Green festivities, Well Dressings, Rushbearing, Tar Barrels, Mumming plays, Whittlesey Straw Bear, Jack Valentine and their very own Ampthill Sunrise on May Day.
“Each custom was put into some historical context: when it was first recorded, if it disappeared [often because the arm of the law intruded to limit celebrations] and when & how it was revived. There were some excellent images from 19th and early 20th century events and it does seem that the Victorians had a lot to do with many of our ‘ancient’ traditions, such as Ruskin bringing in the idea of the ribboned maypole.
“As I grew up in Derbyshire I appreciated the Well Dressing presentation: it brought back fond memories of raiding gardens for hydrangeas and borrowing tweezers. The one tradition that was unknown to me was Jack Valentine – who is apparently well known to some of those who grow up in Norfolk and is a slightly skewed Victorian version of Father Christmas whereby children receive presents in February (as well as December).
“A very pleasant way to spend Sunday afternoon (with it snowing outside!).
Review by Beth Neill of Windsor Morris
Donations from the participants raised money for the British Schools Museum in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.