by Faye McNulty, Curator
Since we started working together in January 2014, right up to putting the finished artwork up, Flo’s singular vision for the exhibition was impressive. Over that time his glee at delving into the VWML archives was infectious and also showed great sensitivity – evidently due to his time volunteering on the pilot archive digitisation project Take 6 with then Library Director Malcolm Taylor.
As the historical traditions imbued in Rapper and Longsword dance evolved, new teams, or ‘sides’- through their participation- innovated and enhanced the traditional dances, diversifying and broadening their larger historic narrative.
Pace-egging, a folk drama practiced at Easter time, is supposed to go back as far as The Crusades, and has long evolved to accommodate different cultural, political, religious, secular beliefs. It is a begging custom, in the past a legitimized way of asking for money, which otherwise was illegal.
‘Pit Brow lass’ was the local nickname in Lancashire for women who worked in the mines. From ‘riddling’ to ‘thrutching’ coal tubs, these women in the late 19th and early 20th century became reputable subversives through their radical conduct and dress. They would’ve been family members, friends and lovers of rapper team members, and most likely created and mended their costumes.
Through lack of information the model maker's identity can’t be substantiated, Margaret Lester-Garland (1893-1976), an artist and teacher at Bath Art Academy in the forties, may have been the one cited in the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) records. Similar models depicting the Bampton Morris side, a donation to EFDSS were ‘[…] dressed by Miss Margaret-Lester Garland in 1937.’ (1956 vol 8 No 1 EFDSS journal).