Exhibition: Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids
Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey Through the English Ritual Year
Photographs by Sara Hannant
16 January - 31 March 2013
Cecil Sharp House, London
Since encountering Deptford Jack-in-the-Green in 2006 photographer Sara Hannant began a journey to explore seasonal rituals as they occur throughout the English year. This touring exhibition, which coincides with the publication of a book of the same title, mingles folklore, myth and tradition.
The images give a real sense of what it was like to be there; jostled by crowds at the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, or listening to the clink and rustle of the milkmaids, decked out in silverware, who parade with the Deptford Jack. The photographs are compelling, at once capturing the vividness, excitement and mystery of costumed processions, fire rituals, traditional dances and mumming plays that are held in rural and urban locations throughout the country.
While some folkloric customs claim ancient origins, others are recent revivals or re-inventions. Regional traditions also vary, incorporating local and transnational influences. However, all the featured traditions mark significant times within the wheel of the year, from the spring ritual dances in Bacup to the lighting of mid winter fires in Sussex.
Photography, like ritual, charts a moment in time, yet nothing is fixed: traditional culture is shown as a continual communal process of evolution, forging a dynamic connection between past, present and future.
Janet Vitmayer, Director of the Horniman Museum and Gardens says, "We are delighted to present this fascinating exhibition, which gives a unique insight into Englishness."
Professor Ronald Hutton, University of Bristol "Sara has a rare gift for capturing peak moments in such celebrations … the human participants emerge as vivid characters in their own right, adding depth to the drama and humour of the local seasonal rites in which they are involved. She is a genuinely talented artist."
"Sara Hannant's remarkable photographs convey, with joy and compassion, the mystery, charm and exuberance of traditional English ritual." - Shirley Collins, President of the English Folk Dance and Song Society
This is a Horniman Museum touring exhibition. Promoted by the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) in association with the Horniman Museum.