Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Beautifully bizarre

Yes, this is a Two Post Day! As well as stating my intentions for being a little more environmentally responsible this coming week I also wanted to share two of our favourite events of the Calderdale calendar that happened this past weeken - the Norland Scarecrow festival and the Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing. We've attended both of these quirky local practices over the last three years and I'm hooked on the sense of place and community I get when in the midst of them.

The Norland Scarecrow festival has been running every year for 13 years and the people of the village are showing no signs of letting their scarecrow standards drop. This year's theme was celebrations and people's interpretations of this ranged from the Olympics to the anniversary of the Beatles first single. We really needed the whole day to walk the full route and discover all the scarecrows but in our few hours there the boys managed to still spot plenty of curious creations in fields, on driveways or cunningly attached to houses.

We managed to squeeze in a couple of rides...

...before driving down one hill and up another to catch up with the Rushbearing procession. The boys and I jumped out of the car to run behind the procession, getting giddy with drumming and morris people. We managed to pass the procession as it stopped at St Mary's church in Cottonstones and hurried on to wait for the cart at the next stop, the Alma Inn.

From the Alma Inn we witnessed the stirring sight of the rushbearers pulling the rush-cart over the bridge and up the hill - the sound of 120 clogs striking the ground in time making my pulse quicken.

I so enjoy the atmosphere of this day - it's a little off-beat but feels so solidly English with its associated mummers, morris dancers and beer. This version of the rushbearing was revived in 1977 but its roots go back much further to 1685 or perhaps even earlier. It's believed that when the rushes on the floor of the area's churches were changed at the end of the summer a local tradition grew up around the practice. A fair maiden now bravely sits atop the rush-cart and all the bearers are kept well topped up at each stop with sustaining tankards of ale.

Whilst the cart is stopped the crowd is entertained by an assortment of folk dancers, musicians and a few crazy blokes with blacked up faces who perform an entertaining if somewhat baffling piece of historic pantomine.

Finishing off the Alma Inn leg of the journey were the splendid 400 Roses - they belly dance to morris music! These wonderfully decorative women do for folk dancing what Hasselhoff did for lifeguards... Their dress is ornate and unapologetic; age nor shape seem to be any impediment to moving their hips in a most marvellous manner. The amount of effort that had gone into those costumes and carefully choreographed dance was quite lovely to see.

Yorkshire. In't it grand?

1 comment:

Jill M Hodgson said...

There's nowhere like it! What a wonderful mix of traditional and alternative. Wish I'd been there!