Primary Image

Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow (BFI) in July

From the press release...

For the first time ever on DVD, the BFI has compiled an idiosyncratic and highly entertaining collection of startling short films, poetic documentaries, long-unseen TV reports and rare silent film footage all celebrating the traditional folk customs, songs, dances and games of Great Britain. Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games is released on 18 July 2011.

This 6-hour double-disc set of 44 newly remastered films, accompanied by a 58-page booklet of essays and notes by leading folk authorities, reveals just how powerful and enduring our folk traditions have always been, and celebrates the enjoyment that these customs continue to bring to communities nationwide.

These eye-opening films, with subjects ranging from pagan customs to traditional dances and extreme sports, come from all over the country. There’s Cornwall’s 'sexy, savage Spring-time rite' performed on May Day; the highly anarchic ball games played in Leicester and Orkney; the Mummers' plays of Derbyshire, Dorset and Dartmoor; mischievous 'dwile flonking' in Suffolk; the extraordinary Burry Man of West Lothian; sword and step dancing in Yorkshire and Norfolk; and the carrying of barrels of burning tar in Ottery St Mary, Devon.

This ambitious 6 hour collection includes Alan Lomax’s glorious Padstow May Day film Oss Oss Wee Oss (1953); a series of 1912 Kinora Spools featuring traditional dances by pioneering folklorists Cecil Sharp and George Butterworth; Richard Philpott’s celebration of ancient pre-Christian spring rituals in The Flora Faddy Furry Dance Day (1989); 1920s newsreels charting Shrove Tuesday football contests; and recent footage shot by filmmakers Doc Rowe and the Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller with Alan Kane, showing the exhilarating contemporary performance of folk customs and rituals. The silent films feature innovative fiddle and melodeon accompaniments by contemporary folk musicians.

The films are divided into thematic sections titled Dance and Song, Extreme Sports, Mummers and Hobbyhorses and All Manner of Customs. The full listing can be found below. Drawing on films collected over many years by the Britain's national and regional film archives, as well as the BFI National Archive, Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow is presented in collaboration with the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS).

DVD launch event at the English Folk Dance and Song Society, Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regent’s Park Road, London NW1, Thursday 14 July, 7.30pm

This public launch event screening will include rare silent films with live musical accompaniment and special focus on the uniquely poetic 1950s documentaries of Peter Kennedy. Tickets £6, from the EFDSS, Cecil Sharp House Tel: 020 7485 2206

Film listing:

Disc One:

Dance and Song
Films Taken from Kinora Spools Made in 1912 (1912/1982)
Bampton Broom and Morris Dances (1928)
Sword Dances in North Skelton, Handsworth, Sleights, Westerhope and Grenoside (c. 1927)
Dances by Ilmington Teams in the Grounds of Peter De Montfort's House 1220 AD. Fiddler
Sam Bennett (1926)
Abbots Bromley, Painswick and Bampton (c. 1928–36)
High Spen Sword Dancers (c. 1928)
Bacup Coconut Dancers (1930)
Grenoside Long Sword Dancers (1938)
Wake Up and Dance (1950)
Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow (1952)
‘Winlaton Sword Dance’ from Mining Review 8th Year No 5 (1955)
Dick Hewitt 'The Norfolk Step Dancer' with Percy Brown – melodeon (1979)
The Flora Faddy Furry Dance Day (1989)
Rapper Dancers at ‘The National’ (2003)

Extreme Sports
NEWSREELS: Shrove Tuesday Football Games (1921-29): Ye Olde Game of Football (1921);
Shrove Tuesday Football (1924); Uppies and Downies (1926); Not For ‘The Cup’ (1929)
600-Year-Old Custom! (1927)
The Game of Haxey Hood (1929)
Handba’ at Kirkwall, Orkney (1939)
New Year Fireball Festival, Stonehaven (1965)
NEWS STORIES: Shrove Tuesday in the 1960s (1965-66); Shrove Tuesday Football at
Sedgefield and Alnwick (1965); Sedgefield Shrove Tuesday Football Match Plans (1966)
Ancient and Traditional Sport of Dwile Flonking (1966)
Dwile Flonking from Harleston (1967)
Tar Barrel Rolling, Ottery St Mary (2000)
Shrovetide Football, Ashbourne (2000)
Hare Pie and Bottle Kicking, Hallatan (2005)

Disc Two:

Mummers and Hobbyhorses
The Tichbourne Mummers’ Play (1919)
Walk in St George (1952)
Oss Oss Wee Oss (1953)
Derby Tup (1974)

All Manner of Customs
NEWSREELS Greater London May Queens (1922-30); For I’m to be Queen of the May, Mother
(1927); Prettiest May Queen (1926); London’s May Queen (1927); Call Me Early, Mother Dear
NEWSREELS Llandudno May Queens (1927-29); Llandudno – May Day Festival (1927);
Llandudno’s Chosen (1929)
Boy Bishop of Berden (1927)
Merrie England (1928)
One Potato, Two Potato (1957)
Castleton Garland Day (1957)
Election of New Mayor of Harwich and the Traditional Ceremony of Throwing Kitchels
All Manner of Customs (1965)
Informal Gurning Contest at Whitley Bay (1963)
Girl Wearing Earring at School Dispute (1966)
Children of the Moor (1975)
The Face of a County (1976)
Castleton’s Traditional Garland Day (2000)
The Burry Man of South Queensferry (2000-02)


We need your help

Running a website like The Digital Fix - especially one with over 20 years of content and an active community - costs lots of money and we need your help. As advertising income for independent sites continues to contract we are looking at other ways of supporting the site hosting and paying for content.

You can help us by using the links on The Digital Fix to buy your films, games and music and we ask that you try to avoid blocking our ads if you can. You can also help directly for just a few pennies per day via our Patreon - and you can even pay to have ads removed from the site entirely.

Click here to find out more about our Patreon and how you can help us.

Did you enjoy the article above? If so please help us by sharing it to your social networks with the buttons below...

Latest Articles