Marvellous! I went to see the exhibition and bought the book. It's a wonderful observation of English seasonal rites and rituals. The photography is stunning and captures beautifully contemporary folkloric practice. A rich and often surprising heritage is revealed in these images. I particularly like the juxtaposition of tradition and modern life. A unique insight into Englishness.
I've just been given a copy of 'Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids' by a friend, who knew I like history, English culture and documentary photography.
While the documentary tradition is a natural genre for Merrie England, photographers have often approached the landscapes of the traditional event as over-romanticised, minus the incongruous incidentals cropped out to sell us a product of tourist-led Morris Men - all that a modern Britain has shunned. The ignorant auslander perceiving them nowadays as bearded fruitcakes.
I've seen various other books and articles on this subject, the most obvious is the photography that Tony Ray-Jones undertook in the 70s as part of his English series. Although structurally brilliant, his pictures often treated his subjects as part of a laughable circus, rather than an important record of our heritage.
But here in 'Mummers .. ' we see a photographer in tune with a nation desperately hanging on to its ancient roots through a healthy revivalist calendar. Before industrialised agriculture, we were connected to the land for survival in ways we can barely nowadays comprehend and Sara Hannant shows us how the locals of England's rural backwaters, the lovers of nostalgia, still indulge their sense of our precious pagan past.
A lorry laden with local straw charges through Sowerby Bridge where by chance, the Rush-bearing festival is in full flow. On the days of yore, these people would have brought in their own harvest and then found time for their community carnival until the advent of stone instead of the rush mat floor. How many other such practices are now lost forever?
I love the Mayor of Ock Street as he passes the local chippy in Abingdon, its fish avatar perfectly spaced between the dignitaries; or the druid-like cult of the digital camera, seemingly proffered to an unknown sky deity amid the sarcens at Stonehenge.
My favourites however are the Hunting of the Earl of Rone where the community of Combe Martin turns out to forget its economic woes: ".. the evolution of a pre-Christian scapegoat ritual," followed by the fantastic burning of the David Cameron effigy, the blaming and subsequent exorcising of a latter-day bogyman.
Thankfully there is someone dedicated and undeterred like Hannant who can take herself across our counties to find and record these lores and communal customs. As an outside, she is nonetheless among kindred spirits.
This book of reportage is important and well worth the price. But one word of complaint: I do wish publishers wouldn't wrap books about the 'countryside' in green gloss.
I very much enjoyed the book. The photographs give an inspirng account of the resilience and longevity of traditional rites, re-interpreted for today's realities. Unselfconscious ritual behaviour meets flamboyant acting out, rural customs rub against suburban realities - all meet in this marvellous collection of photographs, shot with real sympathy to the emotional richness that participation in these celebratory acts gives to each and everyone depicted in the photographs. England seems different and richer in its cultural rituals after reading and looking at this book.
What a great book that so many people would enjoy were they to see it. Who couldn't be interested in our very own English folk traditions that embellish our local and national culture and history. This book has got everything you would want from a book on our national and local traditional folk festivals, events and happenings beautiful captivating photography of the events with the right amount of written explanation - makes you want to go to them all! A book that so so many people would enjoy having on the coffee table or in on there book shelf. A great present for anyone !
This is a beautiful,atmospheric and informative book,and just what I have been waiting for. Beginning in January and working its way through to december, we are taken on a journey of joy, colour and humour that celebrates our connection to the seasons and nature. The photographs are stunning, and each one is vibrant and alive in content and character.It is so encouraging to see so many people of all ages and backgrounds, coming together to observe and honour the bounty of mother nature,and having a real laugh while they do it. And this is what this book did for me, it made me laugh and smile and feel part of a growing community that remembers to give thanks for the gifts we are given when we work in harmony with nature. And thank you Sarah for making this book so everyone can share the joy too.
All over the world humans have been dancing for a very long time and no land has a richer, more varied dance tradition than England, a fact delightfully depicted in inspiring fashion by this gem of a superbly illustrated book. The English love to skip, jump and caper around which is why they adapt so readily to all kinds of dancing from all over the world even when they have a wealth of dancing and ritual traditions of their own, all of which are intertwined with their love of dressing up and rhythmic play acting.
Whereas in Ireland and Scotland they seem to say: 'Dancing is done this way,' in England they say: 'Dancing is done all ways and any way.' Even better, this book shows how ritual and dancing intertwine with each other to form a coherent whole. In olden times dancing used to be very much part of religious practice. Maybe there would be less religious disagreement and strife if it still was and was given precedence over dogma. This is why this book is so helpful to have. It shows how people bring out their true selves through dressing up, ritual and dancing and even those who just watch are inspired and therapeuticised by what is going on.
People from all over the world come and watch all this English stuff and soon want to join in with it themselves and people begin to exchange information about their own particular dancing traditions. This brings people together in harmony and understanding and this is just what Sara Hannant's happy book achieves in scintillating fashion and why so many people like it so much.
Sara Hannant brings English Rituals to life through her unique photographer's eye in this informative, surprising book. Every photo is a celebration which manages to capture the sheer enjoyment of the participants in a wide range of rituals from around the country. As a Londoner, I was especially pleased to see how many ceremonies also take place or have been revived in recent years in large cities, such as Jack-in-the-Green in Deptford and Beating the Bounds in Hackney.
Each set of photos is accompanied by a well researched and easy to read potted history of the ritual including details of what takes place, where and why. Each outfit worn, item carried, cast, or kept is explained and photographed in context. Sara shares her lifelong interest of the Sussex Lewes Bonfire Societies with us while including events in Lancashire, Cornwall and Yorkshire, amongst others. Whether photographing fire festivals at night to sunny daytime dances or processions she gets close to the action every time, engaging with the participants and taking us along for the ride.
After reading this book and losing myself in the photographs I felt something of the empowerment that comes from such group gatherings which connect so strongly with England's past, alive in the present.
This is magnificent contemporary photo book with informative text. The fascinating images include a range of communal rites and rituals that mark the turning year, from fire ceremonies in the dark winter nights to spring ritual dances and street processions to welcome summer. The photographs reveal the central role played by traditional arts and culture in celebrating local history and national heritage. Hannant has documented ancient traditions, NeoPagan ceremonies, folk revivals and recently invented calendar customs, in this way she has charted a new ritual year. Highly recommended.