Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
In Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire, a man covered from head to toe in straw – the ‘straw bear’ – is paraded through the streets, accompanied by 250 dancers, musicians and performers, while in Ottery St Mary, Devon, a crowd gathers as townspeople hoist barrels of flaming tar on to their shoulders and carry them until they are too hot to handle. Photographer Sara Hannant has travelled the length and breadth of the country, capturing the seemingly bizarre regional rituals – costumed processions, symbolic dramatizations, traditional dances and fire ceremonies – that mark the changing seasons and celebrate nature’s bounty. Many of these customs claim an ancient origin, and are kept alive today by local communities. Hannant’s vibrant images reflect her keen eye for the unexpected, offering a captivating and surprising glimpse of contemporary ‘Merrie England’.
Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey through the English Ritual Year will be showing at the Horniman Museum,100 London Road, Forest Hill, London, SE23 3PQ from 22 October 2011 – 5 September 2012. An accompanying book published by Merrell is available at £19.95.
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