Monday 6 May 2024

Getting up to mischief

Isn't it a tad frustrating when you see something you think you'd really enjoy and you can't manage it for a multitude of reasons. That was me last year when the Museum of British Folklore put on an exhibition in Compton Verney called 'Making Mischief'. I had to content myself with other people's photos. Things change though and this year they're back with 'Making More Mischief' in Stratford [London]. Joined by my dancing friend Rachel we managed to swing a visit. Realising that it may be of interest to others who won't be able to get there here's a small overview. It's small, but well curated and free of charge.

Boss Morris. An all female Morris side who were set up in 2015 by Alex Merry. They draw on lots of different folk cultures from around the world to inspire their kit and you'll frequently see them wearing something different. This one has the wheat headdress which was woven by a Ukranian and is one of their staple crops. They've based their Morris doll [the museum carried out a project some years ago where we were all invited to make a doll] on the same outfit. You may have caught a glimpse of these ladies dancing on the Brits last year. It's been interesting to learn this week that there are now more women dancers then men. 

This magnificent beast belongs to Blackthorn Ritualistic Dance side and it often features in their events at certain times of the year. It's called the Darkest Ooser and is based upon the Dorset Ooser. Nobody seems entirely sure what its original role was, but some called it the 'Christmas Bull' and it featured in the local mumming tradition. It would seem that others thought of it as a devil who was used as part of the rough music to punish people who had behaved in such a manner that was not in keeping with the moral code of the area. The last known one was from Melbury Osmond and hasn't been seen since 1897 [a photo of it exists]. Some say it was taken to America. A replica of it is held in Dorchester Museum.

One of the strengths of this display I found was that its choice of folk costumes reflect how multi cultural our society has become. I love learning about other countries. This fellow is called King Momo and he is the King of Misrule in Rio. He was made by the Hackney Paracarnival.

It may never happen, but I would love to undertake a tour of the country and experience our many and varied folkloric celebrations for myself. This Sailor Horse from Minehead is boat shaped to echo the town's history of seafaring folk. There is no apparent record of why or who started it, but it will have been out entertaining the crowds over the May day shenanigans. Speaking of which yours truly has been back to the Rochester Sweeps Festival. Absolute blast as ever catching up with old friends and making new ones. It gives me the perfect excuse to show not only the Mythago doll below, but also the one from Loose Women [rainbow hues with one one of dancers having fabulous rainbow hair to match] and Wolfshead and Vixens who were also there. The Gothic ladies in their black corsets are always a big hit with the audience and are very talented dancers too.🖤 It's always a pleasure to be a part of an event where there is such a breadth of dancing styles on show. 

Speak soon.

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