May Day is nearly here and across the world the Traditional Jack in the Green is beginning to wake!
Listed below are all known annual events for May 2019 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. You can send them directly using our contact tab above, through our Facebook Page or via our Twitter Pages. If you add them to Twitter please mention @companygreenman or #jackinthegreen in your tweet and I’ll find it.
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.
The picture above is of the 2017 Hammersmith Jack-in-the-Green
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.
Evercreech (Somerset) Jack-in-the-Green (Saturday 4th May)
Evercreech Jack in the Green is a community, folk revival, celebration taking place at The Old Stores Studio in Evercreech, Somerset.
This is the events first year and is a contemporary art event that has its roots firmly based in ancient, folk custom. May Day has been a long held tradition in English folklore and is celebrated in various forms at the start of summer by many European cultures. This non profit, community event, led by local people in Evercreech, transcends time to celebrate the annual arrival of summer.
From 10am -12pm on Saturday 04 May, there will be free art workshops for all ages at the studio; including dressing the Jack, Garden Day Flower Crowns, instrument making and face painting. The local community are invited bring along home grown flowers and foliage to add to the Jack too. During the morning, Jacks horned beast head will be decorated in flowers and his cloak constructed, with artist Fiona Campbell at Evercreech Village Hall, whilst the Show Society Plant Sale
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.
Bradford on Avon Green Man Festival – (Saturday 18th May)
This year the Bradford on Avon day of dance is being re-branded as a Green Man Festival and will introduce a 9′ tall giant Green Man accompanied by his Herald, a Bogie and two Squires – Winter and Spring along with one or more drummers. They will start the day at The Castle pub and then wander the town “greening” people. As the highlight of the closing activities they will perform Bradford on Avon’s Jack In The Green mummers’ play to herald in the summer. Morris sides with Hobby Horses will be invited to join in. With that done there will be a massed dance and the day will end with Holt Morris celebrating their 30th anniversary performing their haunting “Signposts” dance around Jack and his entourage.
“Our first event was very popular so please join us for a friendly, local family day of dancing and music, and support our pubs, restaurants, cafes and shops. Wear something green!”
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.
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.
If any of our members or blog follows are heading off to Whittlesea next weekend to see the wonderful Straw Bear Festival please do send us some photos of the event for the blog and archives. More information about the event and timings can be found at www.strawbear.org.uk
The history of the revival of the Jack in the Green in the 20th Century is extremely complicated as anyone who has read my article The Traditional Jack in the Green will know. Some revivals were linked directly with or inspired by others whilst many popped up completely unconnected. Every now and then I discover another little piece of the jigsaw puzzle. I was really surprised and delighted when Paul Woloschuk contacted me to let me know about the Green Man that his old Morris side used to have and to send me the wonderful pictures on this post.
Paul wrote “Rumford Morris Men from Essex used to have a Green Man (which we called Jack in the Green) back in the mid-1970s. Our Jack in the Green wore a boiler suit (dyed green) upon which were sewn dozens of cotton strips of differing shades of green cut into the shape of Oak leaves. The leaves were cut from sample material cadged from a Laura Ashley shop. So, the material was not only different shades, but was of various pattern (striped, paisley etc.) Jack also wore a pith helmet adorned with long strips of the same material hanging down and covering his face and extending down to his chest. Apparently, it was extremely warm to wear, and Jack often had to be refreshed with lots of ale to prevent wilting! Jack was the idea of one of our members. The bloke who appeared as Jack left the side after four or five years, and nobody carried on with the character.”
Trying to work out where this Jack fitted I asked Paul if they had any connections with Greenwood Morris or the Earls of Essex both of whom started Jacks in the 1970’s? Paul confirmed that “We had no historic connections with any local traditions or other sides. Jack was out with us from May Day throughout the summer. We didn’t know Greenwood Morris, but we often danced with the Earls of Essex (and I used to play regularly with the wonderful late Dave Roberts from the Earls both in ceilidh bands and at Folk Camps).
So it would seem that this is another example of those wonderful Jacks that sprang out of nowhere in the 1970s. I would love to hear from anyone who can fill in more detail on any of the Jacks or indeed make any corrections to my article.