Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey Through the English Ritual Year
by Sara Hannant
In Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire, a man covered from head to toe in straw – the ‘straw bear’ – is paraded through the streets, accompanied by 250 dancers, musicians and performers, while in Ottery St Mary, Devon, a crowd gathers as townspeople hoist barrels of flaming tar on to their shoulders and carry them until they are too hot to handle. Sara Hannant has travelled throughout the country, capturing the seemingly bizarre regional rituals – costumed processions, symbolic dramatizations, traditional dances and fire ceremonies – that mark the changing seasons. Many of these customs claim an ancient origin, and are kept alive today by local communities. Hannant’s vibrant images reflect her keen eye for the unexpected, offering a captivating and surprising portrayal of English identity.
“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
“Hannant’s eye-catching, reportage-style photographs capture the mystery and eccentricity of customs which for her ‘play such an integral role in the cultural identity of present day England’…” The Countryman
“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, and a great boon to a scholar.” Professor Ronald Hutton, University of Bristol
“…Hannant’s charming and informative photo essay brings to life this quintessentially English obsession…and she captures the warmth, drama, humour and emotion of these quaint events with an artist’s eye. An oddly moving book. F22 (Eyes Wide Open)
Published by Merrell Publishers 2011