Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow


Don’t be bamboozled by modern popular culture’s disdain for folk tradition – don’t dismiss the Morris as the only tradition we have, and the one universally and unjustly mocked. Only the English could piss on their own past to this extent in favour of more “exotic” cultures. Just look on Youtube to see Susana Seivane playing her bagpipes (another mocked instrument) to an audience of shedloads of fired-up Spaniards to see what we could have.
Or watch this DVD collection put out by the BFI, carefully collected, collated and curated and presented beautifully as a two disc set, with footage stretching back to the early days of silent film reaching forward to the digital now. See early footage of dance traditions still alive and well, if you know where to look, Sheffield for sword, Bampton for morris, Bacup for the bizarre coco”nutters”. Be amazed at the “extreme sports we pursued in the days before health and safety nightmares, Tar Barrel rolling, the Stonehaven Fireball, Kirkwall Handba’, Ashbourne Shrovetide football, the Haxey Hood. Gawp incredulously at the weird and wonderful, the Castleton Garland day, the Derby Tup and perhaps the strandgest and most mysterious of all, The Burry Man of South Queensferry. Where the hell did these things originate? No matter, for their real function is/was to bring communities together in a shared experience where everyone can play a part, where roles can be passed on through families, where people aren’t just spectators, but willing and joyous participants, where people take a pride in their own lives and not some impossible fantasy sold them by some cynical third-party. Good to see that some of this still lives on, and perhaps through this collection, if it ever does die out, it could, one brighter day, be revived.
Well done the BFI -a national treasure!

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