May Day is drawing closer and the dates for this years magical Jack-in-the-Green and Green Man events are being finalised.
Listed below are all known annual events for 2019/20 that feature The traditional Jack-in-the-Green or The Green Man throughout the UK. This list will be regularly updated on our Annual Events Page.
I would be extremely grateful if anyone who attends any of these events would send us pictures, videos or written accounts for the archive. If anyone knows of any events that are not listed here or if there are any corrections/amendments required please don’t hesitate to contact me.
If you are new to these pages and are wondering just what on earth a Jack in the Green is. Or if you have just walked out your front door early on May Morning and been confronted by what you believe to be a seven foot tall dancing bush surrounded by people dressed in green then your whistle stop tour of the history of the Traditional Jack in the Green can be found right HERE.
Deptford (Fowlers Troop) Jack-in-the-Green (1st May)
The Fowlers Troop Jack was revived in the early 1980’s by members of the Blackheath Morris Men and friends. It is a revival of a Jack in the Green from about 1900 which was paraded by the original Fowlers Troop. In 1983 Mo Johnson made a Jack-in-the-Green in the back garden of the ‘Dog and Bell’ and Blackheath Morris (a side morphed from the Blackheath Foot’n’Death Men who used to dance at events featuring bands like Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies) revived the Deptford (Fowlers Troop) Jack. Mo was inspired by one of Thankful Sturdee’s photographs c.1900 of the original troop and Jack.
Blue Bell Hill (Rochester Sweeps) Jack-in-the-Green (1st May)
The Rochester Jack was revived in 1981 by Gordon Newton and Boughton Monchelsea Morris who were inspired from accounts by Charles Dickens. Custodianship of Jack was passed to Motley Morris in 1984 who now wake Jack with various other Morris sides at dawn on May Morning (approximately 5:32am) at the Bluebell Hill picnic area, surrounded by twelve bonfires. Jack is paraded through the streets of Rochester usually on the bank holiday Monday as part of the Sweeps Festival.
Oxford Jack-in-the-Green (1st May)
The Oxford Jack is usually first seen near Magdalen Tower just before 6am and leads an informal procession up ‘The High’ to Radcliffe Square, where the first dance of the day: “Bonny Green” from Bucknell, starts at about 6.25am. OUMM (Oxford University Morris Men) introduced Jack-in-the-Green to their May Morning festivities in 1951. At that time they were unaware that a Jack-in-the-Green was a common sight in and around Oxford in the 19th century.
Hammersmith Jack-in-the-Green (1st May)
The Hammersmith Jack, is a wonderful urban Jack, largely covered with artificial foliage, although it does have a crown of fresh flowers on May 1st. The leaves are made in a variety of materials, some created by children at local schools that the Jack visits as part of its May Day perambulations. As well as leaves made of paper, fabric and plastic, the Jack has other items attached that have some significance to either Hammersmith, the team, or the person who attached it. The Hammersmith Jack is paraded through Hammersmith on May 1st, regardless of which day of the week this falls, and wherever else the Jack visits on this day. The rest of the year the Hammersmith Jack is stored at Cecil Sharp House the home of the English Folk Dance and Song Society where he sometimes takes part in events.
Winchcombe Jack-in-the-Green (1st May)
The Winchcombe (Gloucestershire) Jack was revived on August 31st 2009 as part of “Marking the Year.” A Jack was recorded as visiting a local school by Emma Dent of Sudeley Castle in the 1890’s. The Jack was then resurrected for May Day 2010 and a local May bank holiday village fete and is now awoken every year at dawn (5:20am) on May Day up on Cleeve Hill by Happenstance Border Morris. The Winchcombe Jack appears at various events over the following days.
Dead Horse Morris Jack-in-the-Green (1st May)
Dead Horse Morris have a Jack-in-the-Green clad entirely in Ivy who takes part in the Dawn Rising celebrations on Beacon Hill, Whitstable at 5am on May 1st. The Dead Horse Morris Jack-in-the-Green also usually puts in an appearance at the Whitstable May Day Parade.
Bovey Tracey Jack-in-the-Green (1st May)
The Bovey Tracey Jack-in-the-Green goes out with Grimspound Border Morris. He can be seen greeting the Mayday dawn up on Haytor and then afterwards puts in an appearance in Bovey Tracey.
Highworth Jack-in-the-Green (Saturday 4th May)
Highworth in Wiltshire celebrated it’s 800th anniversary in 2006 with a Jack-in-the-Green and the Jack is now an annual tradition as part of the May Market. The Highworth Jack-in-the-Green parades each year through the streets of Highworth with the Bang to Rites Drummers.
Guildford Jack-in-the-Green (Saturday 4th May)
Known as The Guildford Bush, this Jack was revived by the Pilgrim Morris Men in 1979 and is built from Laurel. For many years the Jack was carried by folklorist George Frampton. Last year the parade commenced at 10:30 outside The Star on the High Street. The Jack processes with the Pilgrim Morris Men to Castle Green where the Maypole is erected and the dancing involving guest Morris sides begins. 2016 marked the 40th Summerpole.
Ilfracombe Jack-in-the-Green (Sunday 5th May)
Ilfracombe’s Jack-in-the-Green will parade on Sunday 5th May. The Muster will begin from 10:45 in Wilder Road Car Park they parade through the High Street, Fore Street & St James Place ending at the Clapping Circle above Wildersmouth Beach.
At the Clapping Circle there will be dancing around the May Pole. Children from the audience are invited to join in the dancing, then ‘Jack’ will be stripped of his leafy coverings to welcome the Spirit of Summer.
Everyone is welcome to join or watch the May Day parade – just turn up and if possible wear something green.
The Ilfracombe Jack did not appear in 2015 after the previous committee were unable to continue. Kelly Raveney stepped in to help and Ilfracombe’s May Day Celebrations returned in 2016 and have continued since then.
Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green (Monday 6th May)
The Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green was revived by Keith Leech in 1983 and is now one of the biggest annual gatherings of Morris Dancers in the country.
“The Jack in the Green Festival is an annual event that takes place in various parts of the gorgeous seaside resort that is Hastings. It’s a four day event and attracts thousands every year. This is a true British May Day celebration not to be missed. The four day event has been described as ‘thee celebration of Morris dancing and traditional merriment, centering on the symbolic figure of Jack in the Green and culminating in a wild costumed parade – one of the most bizarre in Britain.’ The long weekend event includes music of all genres from some of the best local and surrounding areas bands, sun, historic and social events, and is filled with family fun. The weekend is topped off by the main event on the May Bank Holiday Monday, with the Jack in the Green parade itself. The parade begins at 9.45am on the Bank holiday Monday setting off from the Fisherman’s Huts in Rock-a-Nore Road in the Old Town, and finishes on the West Hill, where you will have an opportunity to see traditional folk dancers and music throughout the afternoon. The festival culminates with the slaying of Jack, to release the spirit of summer for this year. So come down, be merry and enjoy the true British festivities!”
The Gathering usually begins at 9:30-9:45am and Jack is “released” from the Fisherman’s Museum in a wonderful, magical ceremony and is central to the festival and the parade. At the end of the day Jack is slain to release the spirit of summer. The festival takes place over the whole bank holiday weekend from Friday 3rd – Monday 6th May.
Bristol Jack in the Green (Saturday 4th May)
The Bristol Jack in the Green appears on the first Saturday in May starting from the historic Harbourside (outside the M Shed) at 10:30am and leads a magical procession through the streets of Bristol eventually ending the day on Horfield Common at approximately 4pm where he dies to release the spirit of summer. A Jack-in-the-Green was recorded in Bristol around 1865 by a lady who remembered seeing him with a sweep and a queen on the outskirts. The revived Bristol Jack in the Green is a descendant of the Hastings Jack.
Knutsford May Day and Jack-in-the-Green (Saturday 4th May)
The Knutsford Jack in the Green is probably the oldest continual annual Jack in the Green. Apart from the war years it has paraded almost every year since 1889. May Day in Knutsford is celebrated over the May Bank holiday weekend. The person who plays Jack is chosen each year and is now played by a youngster rather than an adult as it used to be.
Hever Castle Jack-in-the-Green (4th – 6th May)
Hever Castle in Kent have their own Jack-in-the-Green and Green Man over the early May Bank Holiday weekend. Joined by the Lord and Lady of the May on the Castle forecourt. The Green Man leads a procession through the gardens waking up the plants for summer.
Clun Green Man Festival (Sunday 5th & Monday 6th May)
The Clun Green Man Festival is a traditional springtime festival, held on the first May bank holiday weekend of the year. The Festival takes place in the picturesque town of Clun in South Shropshire. The programme is full of live music, drama, colour and medieval malarkey and is fun for all the family. On Monday the Green Man will meet the Ice Queen at the battle of the bridge – If the Green Man loses there will be no summer!
Brentham May Day and Jack-in-the-Green (Saturday 11th May)
Brentham has a big celebration every May which includes a Jack in the Green described as a walking talking bush who sometimes parades barefoot. Brentham’s May Day tradition became established in 1919 after the end of the First World War and expanded considerably for 1921 when the first Jack-in-the-Green appeared.
Whitstable Jack-in-the-Green (Monday May 6th)
Jack-in-the-Green is now central to the Whitstable May Day celebrations. The Jack is supported by Oyster Morris who also have their own Green Man who combines the roles of Jester and announcer dressed in white and green. Jack is also accompanied by two attendants dressed as Robin Hood and Maid Marian. The Jack-in-the-Green was revived for the Whitstable Folk Festival in 1976. Dixie Lee, one of the original organisers said in 1992 “ At the time it just seemed like the Jack was looking for a reason to come out again, and I must say that every year when Jack makes his appearance on the street I get such a feeling of power from him that I know it was the right thing to do”
Oak House Green Man – West Bromwich (Sunday 12th May)
Oak House in West Bromwich have their own Green Man as part of an annual spring event where they banish the winter and welcome spring.
Castleton Garland Day (May 29th)
Castleton Garland Day or Garland King Day is held annually on 29 May (unless that date falls on a Sunday, when the custom is transferred to the Saturday) in the town of Castleton in the Derbyshire Peak District. The Garland King, on horseback, and covered to the waist in a heavy, bell-shaped floral garland, leads a procession through the town.
The date of the custom coincides with Oak Apple Day and it is said to commemorate the restoration of King Charles II in 1660. Presumably the Garland is meant to represent the oak tree in which he hid after the Battle of Worcester. Some folklorists suspect that it is actually a much older custom that transferred from May Day as many May celebrations did after having been banned by the Puritans. The Garland King certainly resembles a kind of Jack in the Green.
Yaxley (Cambridgeshire) Jack-in-the-Green (?)
The Yaxley Jack-in-the-Green started in 2013 and lead the Yaxley May parade. He was accompanied by Sap-Engro and Copperface as well as an attendant wearing the original Ancient Order of the Foresters sash, worn in the village’s parades in the nineteenth and early twentieth century and a host of boggarts – the mischievous imps of Fenland lore. It became a bi-annual event as part of the Yaxley Festival but sadly no sightings were reported in 2018. If anyone knows if the Jack will be part of this years Yaxley Festival or indeed if he was spotted last year please do let us know.
Green Man Day—Pilton Festival (Barnstaple) (Saturday 20th July)
The ritual enacted at the festival is believed to represent the initial antagonism of the Prior of Pilton and the Green Man and his subsequent inclusion within the church (The church of St Mary has it’s own Green Man) The festival is usually held on the third weekend in July
Pagan Pride Parade (TBC)
The Beltane Bash / Pagan Pride Parade Jack-in-the-Green has not paraded since the 2011 London Pagan Pride Parade. The London parade was usually led by traditional giants, the Jack-in-the-Green and Bogies. The Nottingham Pagan Pride Parade will be taking place in August again this year and I would love to hear from any participants or organisers who might know if a Jack-in-the-Green will be participating.
The Burryman South Queensferry Scotland (August 9th)
The Burryman is the central figure in an annual ceremony or ritual, the Burryman’s Parade, that takes place on the second Friday of August. It is sometimes said that the custom was first recorded in 1687 but it is widely believed to be much older. A local man is covered from head to ankles in burrs of two species of burdock that grow locally. The stickiness of his burry covering means that he has to walk awkwardly, with legs apart and arms held out sideways, but he is nevertheless paraded around a seven-mile route through South Queensferry for nine hours or more. Only men born in the village can take on the role of the Burryman. Although local residents must apply annually to the local council for the honour. He supports his aching arms on waist-high poles decorated with flowers. Two attendants (dressed in normal clothing guide him through the town and help him through his ordeal. They visit the town’s pubs, some factories, and the provost’s house, at each of which the Burryman is given a drink of whisky, but because of his sticky facial covering he can only drink through a straw. He is not allowed to speak. By the end of the day he is exhausted.
Carshalton Straw Jack (TBC)
A Celebration of Harvest this wonderful event takes place in September each year. The straw Jack is ritually stripped in the evening so that all present can take a keepsake and then he is burnt in a brazier. It is hoped that he will be burnt as a complete figure one year. (if you are an organiser or participant at this event please do get in touch with me)
Twelfth Night Celebrations (TBC)
Twelfth Night is an annual seasonal celebration held in the Bankside area of London. It is a celebration of the New Year, mixing ancient seasonal customs with contemporary festivity. It is free, accessible to all and happens whatever the weather. The extraordinary Holly Man, the Winter guise of the Green Man appears from the River Thames brought by a Thames Cutter, Followed by wassailing a mummers play and other festivities.
Whittlesea Straw Bear (TBC)
The festival of the Straw Bear or “Strawbower” is an old custom known only from a small area of Fenland on the borders of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire. On Plough Tuesday, the day after the first Monday after Twelfth Night, a man or a boy would be covered from head to foot in straw and led from house to house where he would dance in exchange for gifts of money, food or beer. The festival was of a stature that farmers would often reserve their best straw for the making of the bear. The custom died out in about 1909, probably because the local police regarded it as begging, but it was resurrected by the Whittlesea Society in 1980.
The festival has now expanded to cover the whole weekend when the Bear appears (not Plough Tuesday nowadays, but the second weekend in January instead). On the Saturday of the festival, the Bear processes around the streets with its attendant “keeper” and musicians, followed by numerous traditional dance sides (mostly visitors), including morris men and women, molly dancers, rapper and longsword dancers, clog dancers and others, who perform at various points along the route. The Bear is usually accompanied by a regular Morris Green Man. The bear “costume” is burned at a ceremony on Sunday lunchtime.
The Company of the Green Man cannot be held responsible for any mistakes regarding the dates, times, locations or any cancellations of any of the above events. Please note that The Company of the Green man does not organise any of the above events. If you have any queries please contact the event organisers or go to their own websites.