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Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games DVD

Various (Compilation), 1912-2011

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Film Details

Directed by Various (Compilation)

Produced in 1912-2011

Main Language - English

Countries & Regions - British Film

MovieMail's Review

Taking in May queens and mummers, morris and maypole dancers, broom, step, sword, rapper and horn dancers, flowery men, bards and burry men, Here's a Health to the Barley Mow is a delightfully diverse and appropriately unruly collection that includes all manner of British customs, from the quaint and curious to the crude and boisterous.

Its earliest films, 1912 'Kinora Spools' of morris dancing transferred from wheel-mounted photographs on card, are mesmerising; its most recent, from 90 years later, of a scratch team of impromptu rapper dancers in a bar at The National Folk Music Festival, is exuberant and exciting. Along the way, one of the volume's certain highlights is Alan Lomax's vibrant Oss Oss Wee Oss (1953), about the Padstow May Day revels, a film set to a drumbeat's invigorating thump, while films of the step dancers, sword dancers and rapper dancers reveal an amazing intricacy of movement. And the existence of a series pre-Jazz Singer English sound films from 1926 of Morris Dancing and fiddle-playing (the comprehensively titled Dances by Ilmington Teams in the Grounds of Peter De Montfort's House 1220 A.D. Fiddler Sam Bennett) brings an obscure sense of satisfaction. It's not all dancing though, as the 'extreme sports' - from burning tar barrel rolling in Ottery St. Mary to Handba' in Orkney - show. There's football here too, but not as you might know it, the Shrove Tuesday rough and tumble free-for-all involving entire villages, no rules, goals three miles apart and plenty of dunking in the river.

There are plenty of images and scenes that remain with you after viewing this collection: English Folk Dance Society founder Cecil Sharp himself bumping into a fellow dancer during a routine in a Kinora spool, a sweetly smiling May Queen on Hayes Common in 1927 (Miss Nora Rowland, 13 of Acton), a dandyish Tommy holding his rapper like a cane (High Spen Sword Dancers, c. 1928), brylcreemed boys practising their 'oss dancing in the Golden Lion Inn in Padstow (Oss Oss Wee Oss).

Threats to traditional revels down the years have come from town councillors, church officials, the internal combustion engine (All Manner of Customs), dictates from the Health and Safety Executive and the juke box (Dick Hewitt 'The Norfolk Step Dancer') among others, but as this collection shows, traditions remain and are continually rebirthed. That a number of the featured traditions - mumming for one - are of a more recent vintage than is generally imagined is irrelevant, it is the marking of ancient seasonal urges and the affirmation of a communal spirit that is important.

Graeme Hobbs on 12th July 2011
Author of 300 reviews

Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games

Film Description

From Cornwall’s 'sexy, savage’ Spring-time Mayday rites to the dangerous rolling of burning barrels of tar in Ottery St Mary, Here's a Health to the Barley Mow contains a rich and wide-ranging collection of 44 films that celebrate the folk customs, songs and dances of Great Britain.

Amongst the highlights included here are Alan Lomax’s glorious Padstow May Day film Oss Oss Wee Oss (1954); a series of 1912 Kinora spools featuring traditional dances by pioneering folklorists Cecil Sharp and George Butterworth; 1920s newsreels charting Shrove Tuesday football contests; and recent footage shot by filmmakers Doc Rowe and Jeremy Deller showing the exhilarating contemporary performance of folk customs and rituals.

This sumptuous package draws on films collected over many years by the Britain's national and regional film archives and is presented by the BFI in collaboration with the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

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).

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 (1930); 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 (1962); 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).

DVD Details

Certificate: E

Publisher: BFI

Length: 360 mins

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Format: DVD Colour

Region: 0

Released: 18th July 2011

Cat No: BFIVD920

DVD Extras

  • 2 discs
  • Films remastered from best available material
  • New semi-improvised musical accompaniment for the silent films
  • 50-page illustrated booklet featuring contributions by Will Fowler, Vic Pratt, Rob Young, with photographs from the English Folk Dance and Song Society collection

Film Stills

Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games Here's a Health to the Barley Mow: A Century of Folk Customs and Ancient Rural Games

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