Friday, 8 August 2014

Summertime Special: The British Love of Pageants

the book: Village Diary by Miss Read

published 1957








[August. The Fairacre village Women’s Institute is taking part in a county-wide historical pageant]

Fairacre WI was now divided into two parties. The Ancient Britons were on one side awaiting their entry, complete with paraffin-drenched sticks for the camp-fire, a few noisome sprats, and a stuffed deer.




We Romans, huddled behind a hurdle on the other side of the lawn, watched our fellow-members at their primitive tasks. Mrs Willett, unrecognizable in a moth-eaten tiger-skin from the vicarage landing, dropped a lighted match into the paraffin-soaked twigs. A blazing yellow flame shot into the air, amidst great applause and shouts of ‘What-ho! The atom bomb!’ 

At last came the moment when tidings were brought of the Romans’ approach.

Mrs Moffat proved herself a born leader. Advancing with our wobbly eagle, she said fiercely: ‘We must go on. Come on Mrs Fowler, follow me!’ And with standard raised she marched valiantly from behind the hurdle, while, with hearts aflutter beneath our gilded cardboard armour, we stumbled in her wake.



observations: We do love a pageant, or any kind of amateur dramatics, here at Clothes in Books. (There’s a particularly good pageant in this entry, if we may say so.) They used to be such a feature of communities: they must have given people a busy life in the past. The climate in the UK would make it a most unsuitable venue for outdoors performances featuring casts and audiences of hundreds, but that plainly never stopped anyone: the chance to dress up as a Tudor lady in a gown made of old curtain material was too tempting. Here the Fairacre ladies were initially disappointed that they had been assigned to such early peoples (“Heathenish lot of nonsense! Furs and old sacks and bare feet! Why, my mother would turn in her grave to think of me tricked out so common… Our feet never so much as saw daylight except at Saturday bath-night, and getting into bed”), but they have rallied round to enjoy themselves.

This book gave us one of our Easter entries, and Miss Read’s Village School featured in this entry, explaining more about the series.

Scout takes part in a pageant in To Kill a Mockingbird – as in ‘you dress up as a ham and your Dad doesn’t turn up.’

The top picture, if you peer closely, does show the arrival of the Roman Army at such an event - it is from the Builth Wells pageant, a favoured resource here at Clothes in Books.

The ancient Britons (used before on the blog, in a joyous Ancient Briton/Midsummer/Stig of the Dump entry) are from the same pageant.

The third picture in fact shows a woman representing Liberty in a suffrage protest in 1913, but I thought her armour was just the job.



18 comments:

  1. Oh, Moira, what a great idea for a post!! And pageants like this really are a staple of small towns, and not just in the UK. Hmmmm...now you're getting me thinking about crime fiction novels where we see them...*head buzzing with ideas* Thanks for the 'food for thought.'

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    1. Thanks Margot, and I will so look forward to a post from you in this theme - you're right, it's the perfect setup for a crime story isn't it? There must be lots of them....

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  2. I'm not big on Pageants, opening ceremonies, closing ceremonies and the like. I'd prefer a village fete myself, with a second-hand book stall and a bit of home made Victoria sponge with my cup of tea.

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    1. Yeah, but if you're going to have the home-made cake, then you need the WI, and the WI surely loves to do a pageant too....

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  3. Miss Read is another author I have yet to tackle (I had no idea she only dies a couple fo years ago - I thinks he would have been 100 this year)! Thanks Moira.

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    1. Not very hard-boiled, Sergio, but I always really enjoy reading her...

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  4. Moira: I love your posts on rural British pageants. They remind me of growing up in rural Saskatchewan. If we wanted to be entertained it was up to us to provide the entertainment.

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    1. Thank you Bill: I do think there's something noble and wonderful about them. Did you ever take part in one when you were young? - soldier's drummer boy or early settler child perhaps....

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    2. Moira: In my earliest school years rural Saskatchewan was filled with one room schools with Grades 1-8 taught by a single teacher. The big event of the year was a Christmas Concert with music and skits put on in the schoolroom by the 30-35 kids. I was a part of those Concerts when I was in Grades 1 and 2 until the school closed and we went to town school.

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    3. That's a lovely bit of history Bill - it was a different world, wasn't it?

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    4. Moira: There are no more one room schoolhouses and, with decreasing population in rural Saskatchewan kids must often have long bus rides to school. I thought the one room school the best learning environment of my life.

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    5. ... and you're obviously a credit to it Bill.

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    6. Moira: Thanks for the kind words.

      In Grade 2 I was the MC for the Concert. My parents took a photo of me in a suit jacket and bow tie ready to announce the acts of the show.

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    7. You need to show us the photo on your blog Bill...

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    8. Moira; Maybe it is better that bloggers let readers imagine how we looked as children.

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  5. Can't remember anything like this in the US. Maybe small school fairs at the beginning of the year or around Halloween.

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    1. Maybe it's a British thing, along with former British colonies...

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