Folk Plays: Christmas, New Year & Plough Monday, 2008/2009

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Master Home >> Articles >> Winter Performances 2008/2009

Winter 2008/2009 seems to have been a good performance season, judging by the event details submitted to the Master Mummers Directory of Folk Play Groups. Thank you everyone who submitted their schedules.

Four photos of folk plays performed during Christmas, New Year, and Plough Monday 2008/2009 - Tollerton Ploughboys, Muskham Pinkies, Belvoir Mummers, and Calverton Real Ale & Plough Play Preservation Society
Folk play groups from Tollerton, North Muskham, the Vale of Belvoir, and Calverton. - More >>

Approaches and 'Productivity'

As usual, approaches varied. At one end of the continuum there were groups who were content to perform just once in one location, although in these cases the performance may have been lengthened by interpolating extra songs or dances. At the other extreme there were groups who travelled some distance to perform in several towns and villages over a number of days, putting in multiple performances each night. Such groups commonly collect for charity, so more performances yield more money.

Map of British and Irish distribution folk plays performed during Christmas, New Year, and Plough Monday 2008/2009

Performance during Dec.2008 & Jan.2009
Click on the map to enlarge, or see
Google Map to explore the detail.

Most notable in this respect this year were the Shakespeare Mummers of Stratford upon Avon (where else?) who notched up 26 venues during 11 tours. Possibly busier still were the Hammingden Tipteerers in West Sussex. Although they only went out on one evening, they performed at ten venues spread over a distance of over twenty miles. That was quite an organisational feat. They were not alone though. Honourable mention should also go to the Coventry Mummers, Prize Old Mummers of Portsmouth, Knaresborough Mummers, Coleby Plough Jag (Lincs.), the World Famous Ashdown Mummers of Guildford, and the Calverton Real Ale and Plough Play Preservation Society (Notts.) for the sheer number of performances they managed to fit in.

Some Statistics

During the season, 87 groups performed at more than 445 venues during 184 tours. In the equivalent period in 2005/2006, which is the last year that the TDRG collected comprehensive performance information, 123 groups performed at more than 521 venues during 276 tours.

The lower figures for winter 2008-2009 should not necessarily be viewed with alarm. Having only just restarted gathering details of folk play events, it is inevitable that some groups will have been missed. If you know of performance schedules that were missed out, they can be added retrospectively using the Events Notification Form, and you are encouraged to do so in the interests of completeness.

Who performed where

The Master Mummers website made a special effort this year to record the geographical coordinates of the venues (or rather their post codes) for all the performances it listed in the Directory. This has made it possible to plot a distribution map of who performed where (see above). The pattern is roughly similar to distribution of the original tradition, but with the absence of performances in Scotland and Ireland (compare the map in Electronic ERD). Finding out why this should be could make a nice research project for someone.

Recording coordinates also meant that is was possible to generate maps for individual tours, such as the one on the right, using Google Maps. These maps not only helped audience members get to venues, but also the performers themselves. I printed out the map shown here to follow the Calverton ploughboys, who are pretty nippy at moving between venues. All went well until I heard their minibus driver say he was having trouble keeping track of their itinerary. In a moment of unthinking altruism, I gave him my map, and immediately got lost myself on the way to the next venue.

Peter Millington

Sample Master Mummers Tour Map
A sample tour map
Click on the map to enlarge
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© 2009, Peter Millington ( Last updated: 05-Feb-2009