21st Century Folk Culture

A great new online initiative by the Museum of British Folklore.

There first entry looks at the Saddleworth Rushcart festival:

Saddleworth Morris Men are a group of traditional folk dancers from the north of England. Saddleworth is a valley in the Pennine hills between Manchester and Leeds, and each of the six villages in the valley has its own unique dance. Like other Morris dances from the north-west of England, they are performed in Lancashire clogs, shoes with leather uppers, wooden soles and shod with iron. The Saddleworth dances are noisy, complex and not done by any other dance groups anywhere. The team, or 'side' as it is known, are also famous for their spectacular hats, stacked high with fresh flowers.

Rushcarts are an old tradition in the region, but died out in the early 20th Century. In 1975, the Saddleworth men again built a cart, and one has been built each August since. The wooden cart, ladened with 3 tonnes of carefully cut fresh rushes stacked 5 metres high, decorated with banners and with one lucky dancer sitting on the top, is pulled around the villages by over a hundred dancers from all over England, preceded by a large band. The rushes are taken to the church and afterwards there is wrestling, gurning (face pulling), song and dance.

Photo by Bob France

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