On Monday April 18th Morris dancers, Jacks in the Green, hobby horses, drummers and May Queens from around England will visit Parliament to persuade The Government that the May Day Bank Holiday should be not be moved to another date.
They aim to gather on the green at Old Palace Yard opposite Parliament at noon to dance and make their voice (and drums) heard. From here they will go to the Department of Culture Media and Sport in Cockspur Street to deliver a petition to the Minister for Tourism John Penrose at 1400. Chairman of the world famous Hastings Jack in the Green celebrations, Keith Leech said; ‘I have no idea why they have resurrected this old chestnut. They tried to do this before under John Major, it was shown to be a bad idea then and will I am sure will be shown to be a bad idea again.’
The campaign started in Hastings where the May Day holiday is celebrated in style. The traditional Jack in the Green is paraded around the streets with about 600 dancers, giants and other characters. The 19th century custom was revived when the Bank Holiday was introduced. Over the past thirty years it has grown to be one of the premier ‘must see’ events in England (top ten attractions in the Easyjet inflight magazine), and attracts visitors from around the world. The Bank Holiday also sees thousands of bikers descend on Hastings for the annual bikers rally. Over the weekend all hotels and restaurants in the town are full and the pubs usually run out of beer. Local businesses see it as a real boost after a long hard winter, and many say they would not survive without it. Together the two events bring about five million pounds into the local economy. Hastings is one of the most deprived towns in England; it is therefore no surprise that Hastings is fighting to keep the Bank Holiday, which for the town marks the start of the tourist season. The whole town has fallen in behind the campaign to keep the holiday and it has cross party support. The Labour Council and the Conservative MP Amber Rudd are working together to keep the holiday. Amber Rudd has hosted the petition to keep the May Day Bank holiday on her web site and will lead the petitioners when the petition is presented to The Minister.
Hastings is not the only town that will be affected by any change in the bank holiday. Many towns have used the holiday to put on similar events including Rochester, Bristol, Ilfracombe and Whitstable with Jack in the Green celebrations, each of these brings many millions into the economy of these towns. Upton upon Severn now has a folk festival, Knutsford has a weekend long May Day celebration and there are numerous other village May Queens and Maypoles across England.
Representatives from Morris dance teams, Maypole dancers, May Queens and other May Day celebrations across England will be present at the rally. The Rochester and Deptford Jacks in the Green are expected to make an appearance.
A Facebook group ‘We do not want to lose the May Day Bank holiday’ has over 15000 members.
Campaigners point out that May Day is in fact one of the oldest public holidays in England, going back to the Romans, if not before. It has attached to it many customs and traditions that are part of English intangible cultural heritage.
May Day was last abolished as a holiday by Oliver Cromwell’s Long Parliament, when he famously also abolished Christmas. It took 350 years for the holiday to be restored by Michael Foot. It is a celebration of the return of summer after the long months of winter. Workers have adopted it as a holiday because this metaphor could equally apply to the struggle of the working class through a ‘winter’ of exploitation; but the holiday is much older.
The Campaigners consider the idea that moving the holiday to either October or St Georges Day to extend the holiday season to help ailing seaside towns such as Hastings to be spurious. St Georges day is only a week earlier, this would bring the holiday closer to Easter with all the subsequent problems this will cause. In October it is usually wet and cold meaning people will simply opt to travel abroad.
The United Kingdom has the lowest number of Bank Holidays in Europe there is therefore a strong argument to have additional Bank Holidays to extend the tourist season rather than taking away a Bank Holiday that is already very successful in bringing much needed tourism to our struggling seaside towns.
There is a UNESCO Convention designed to protect World Intangible Cultural Heritage events. Most nations of Europe are signatories; therefore their traditional customs are protected. It should be noted that the UK Government has not signed this convention. The very fact that they can even consider moving a Bank Holiday when many traditional customs happen coupled with the failure to sign the UNESCO Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage shows that they have scant regard for the customs and traditions of England that deserve preservation for the future.
(Chairman Hastings Jack in the Green)
The Company of the Green Man would be extremely grateful if anyone can send us pictures or videos of any of the Jacks that attend this historical event, and if possible pictures of any of the Jacks together. A prize (chocolate or beer based!) will be offered to the best pictures or videos sent to us at email@example.com
As May draws closer a quick reminder that the list of events that feature the Jack-in-the-Green and the Green Man during May is growing every year. The list below is our current list for May but we are always extremely grateful to hear of any others that we may have missed including those outside of the UK. Details will always be as up to date as possible on the annual events pages of the website at http://www.thecompanyofthegreenman.co.uk
This blog has a worldwide readership so don’t hesitate to drop us a line. I’ve included links to as many of the below as possible as some have not fixed their dates as yet. If you would like to add details of an event here please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please go out and support your nearest Jack and join in the wonderful and magical event, then send us in your pictures and experiences of the event.
Bristol Jack in the Green Saturday 7th May
The Bristol Jack in the Green appears on the first Saturday in May starting from the historic Harbourside (outside the Arnolfini) and leads a magical procession through the streets of Bristol eventually ending the day on Horfield Common where he dies to release the spirit of summer.
Bristol Jack in the Green
Rochester Sweeps Festival and Jack-in-the-Green 30th April – 2nd May
The Rochester Sweeps festival still has a Jack in the Green Ceremony where the Jack is awoken on Blue Bell Hill on May Morning and is paraded through the streets during the three day festival attended by hundreds of Morris Teams
Rochester Sweeps Festival
Hasting Jack-in-the-Green Festival Monday 29th April – 2nd May
The Hastings Jack-in-the-Green festival was revived by Keith Leech in 1983 and is now one of the biggest annual gatherings of Morris Dancers in the country. The Jack is “released” every year and is central to the festival.
Hastings Jack-in-the-Green Festival
Deptford Jack-in-the-Green Sunday 1st May
The Fowlers Troop Jack in the Green goes out on the streets of South East London or the City of London every May Day
Deptford Jack in the Green
Brentham May Day and Jack-in-the-Green Saturday 14th 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 Jack in the Green
Knutsford May Day and Jack-in-the-Green
The Knutsford Jack in the Green is probably the oldest continual annual Jack in the Green. Apart from the war years it has paraded every year since 1890. May Day in Knutsford is celebrated over the May Bank holiday weekend..
Knutsford Jack in the Green
City of London Jack-in-the-Green
The City of London Jack-in-the-Green appears in the City on May Day (but only when May Day falls on a City working day, when it falls on a weekend he may sometimes be spotted elsewhere)
City of London Jack in the Green
Oxford Jack-in-the-Green Sunday 1st May
The Oxford Jack-in-the-Green appears in Oxford on May Morning. 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. 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.
Oxford Jack in the Green
Whitstable Jack-in-the-Green Monday 2nd May
Jack-in-the-Green was revived for the Whitstable Folk Festival in 1976 and 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.
Whitstable Jack in the Green
Ilfracombe Jack-in-the-Green 2nd – 3rd May 2011
Ilfracombes Jack-in-the-Green Parades on the first May bank holiday. A procession starts at approximately 11am winds its way through the High Street, along the sea front towards the harbour area. The Ilfracombe Jack finishes with the release of the spirit of summer and the distribution of leaves on Ilfracombe Pier.
Ilfracombe Jack in the Green
Highworth (Wiltshire) has a Jack in the Green that parades through the town in early May each year as part of their Medieval Market.
Beltane Bash Monday
Originally scheduled for Monday 30th May, but sadly due to the passing of one of the organisers it may not go ahead this year. Please check the website for the latest information.
The parade normally starts from the Conway Hall Red Lion Square London WC1 at 10:30 Led by traditional giants, the Jack-in-the-Green, Thor & Holda, Herne and Andred, Naughty Fairies and The Bogies.
Edinburgh Beltane Fire Festival
Edinburgh’s Beltane festival traditionally takes place on the 30th of April every year on Calton Hill. The Green Man begins in a dormant and inactive state in the form of the old Horned God, until he ‘dies’ when he touches the May Queen. Her Handmaidens tear his garments from him and he is ‘reborn’ as the young Green Man with a wild exhilarating dance that celebrates his youth and the new summer.
Edinburgh Beltane Fire Festival
Clun Green Man Festival
The Clun Green Man Festival is a springtime festival, held over three days usually on the first May Bank Holiday of the year. The Festival takes place in the picturesque town of Clun in South Shropshire and features a modern interpretation of the Green Man
Clun Green Man Festival
At the time this post appears, as the sun rises just after 5:30 on May 1st 2010 a number of Jack-in -the-Greens will be awoken across the UK. They will parade around towns, villages and cities bringing the summer and “Jacks Magic” with them.
A Merry May Day and a Happy Beltaine to one and all!
I am born on May Morning by sticks, bells, and ribbons
I am the sap in the dark root
I am the dancer with his six fools
I am the tump behind the old church
I am the lost soul under the misericord
I am the oak against the stars
I am the face that peers through the leaves
I am the fear in a childs mind
I am the demon on the roof-boss
I am killed in October and laid on church altars
I am the guiser on the bright bonfire
I am the old grain sown with the seed
I am the flame in the pumpkins grin
I am the spirit in the kern-baby’s bosom