Merry May Day
A very merry May Day to all of our members and visitors to this site. As this post goes live at 5:32am on 1st May 2016 three and perhaps four Traditional Jacks-in-the-Green are waking and there are many more to come: The Bluebell Hill – Rochester Sweeps Jack-in-the-Green is greeting the rising sun from the top of Bluebell Hill in Kent. Not too far away in Whitstable the Dead Horse Morris Jack-in-the-Green is greeting the dawn from Beacon Hill. Far to the West in Gloucestershire The Winchcombe Jack-in-the-Green is being danced awake on Cleeve Hill by Happenstance Border Morris. It is also rumoured that Hammersmith Morris will be seeing dawn in at The Prince of Wales, Ham Hill, Somerset accompanied by their own Jack-in-the-Green who resides the rest of the year at Cecil Sharp House in London, the home of the English Folk Dance and Song Society.
The Company of the Green Man wishes all those organising and participating in this years events a very very merry May Day. May the sun shine for you all.
Below are the most up to date details of this years confirmed events. Don’t miss out on this wonderful and magical annual tradition, go out and support your nearest Jack and please send us in your pictures and experiences of the event to share with others. If you get the chance to forward me pictures of a Jack live from an event I will endeavour to post them here as quickly as possible to share with our members around the world. The e-mail address to send any pictures to can be found HERE
Please do get in touch if you would like to add or amend details to any of the events listed here or if you know of any Jacks I have missed.
Highworth Jack-in-the-Green (Saturday 30th April)
Highworth in Wiltshire celebrated it’s 800th anniversary in 2006 with a Jack-in-the-Green and the Jack is now an annual tradition as part of the May Market. The Highworth Jack-in-the-Green parades each year through the streets of Highworth with the Bang to Rites Drummers. The procession will depart from the rear of the Saracens Head pub around 10:30 going along Brewery Street, London Road, High Street & then Into the Market Square for 11:30 when the maypole dancing will take place. The procession will then leave Market Square via Vicarage lane then continue along: Lechlade Road, Turnpike Road, Cherry Orchard Lane, Cherry Orchard, High Street & Brewery Street returning to the Market Square around 13:00 to raise & release the energy from the Jack and distribution of the greenery.
Guildford Jack-in-the-Green (Saturday 30th April)
Known as The Guildford Bush, this Jack was revived by the Pilgrim Morris Men in 1979 and is built from Laurel. For many years the Jack was carried by folklorist George Frampton.
Commencing at 10am outside Holy Trinity Church on the High Street the Jack processes with the Pilgrim Morris Men to Castle Green where the Maypole is erected and the dancing involving guest Morris sides begins. 2016 marks the 40th Summerpole.
Hever Castle Jack-in-the-Green (Saturday 30th April – 2nd May)
Hever Castle will have their own Jack-in-the-Green and Green Man over the bank holiday weekend. “Join the Lord and Lady of the May on the Castle forecourt and see the crowning of the May Queen then dance around the Maypole and take part in May Day dancing accompanied by 16th century music. Meet the mythical Jack-in-the-Green and follow the Green Man from folklore in a customary May Day procession through the gardens as he wakes up the plants for summer with the help of children and their magical May bells. Children can also enjoy a Green Man Trail through the Castle to find out more about his origins”
Hammersmith Morris Jack in the Green (Saturday 30th April and Sunday 1st May)
Hammersmith Morris, Treacle Eater Clog and Wyvern Jubilee Morris can be seen dancing on Saturday, April 30 at 10.50am in South Street, Dorchester, then 11.40am at the Brewhouse and Kitchen, Brewery Square before heading to the White Hart, Yetminster at 2pm. It is rumoured that Hammersmith Morris will be accompanied by their Jack-in-the-Green, who resides the rest of the year at Cecil Sharp House in London, the home of the English Folk Dance and Song Society.
Hammersmith Morris will then be seeing dawn in at The Prince of Wales, Ham Hill, Somerset at 5.15am on Sunday, May 1st before taking their Jack back to London later in the day.
Blue Bell Hill (Rochester Sweeps) Jack-in-the-Green (Sunday 1st May)
The Rochester Jack was revived in 1981 by Gordon Newton and Boughton Monchelsea Morris who were inspired from accounts by Charles Dickens. Custodianship of Jack was passed to Motley Morris in 1984 who now wake Jack with various other Morris sides at dawn on May Morning (approximately 5:32am) at the Bluebell Hill picnic area, surrounded by twelve bonfires. Jack is paraded through the streets of Rochester usually on the bank holiday Monday as part of the Sweeps Festival.
Oxford Jack-in-the-Green (Sunday 1st May)
The Oxford Jack is usually first seen near Magdalen Tower just before 6am and leads an informal procession up ‘The High’ to Radcliffe Square, where the first dance of the day: “Bonny Green” from Bucknell, starts at about 6.25am. OUMM (Oxford University Morris Men) introduced Jack-in-the-Green to their May Morning festivities in 1951. At that time they were unaware that a Jack-in-the-Green was a common sight in and around Oxford in the 19th century.
Winchcombe Jack-in-the-Green (Sunday 1st May)
The Winchcombe (Gloucestershire) Jack was revived on August 31st 2009 as part of “Marking the Year.” A Jack was recorded as visiting a local school by Emma Dent of Sudeley Castle in the 1890’s. The Jack was then resurrected for May Day 2010 and a local May bank holiday village fete and is now awoken every year at dawn (5:20am) on May Day up on Cleeve Hill by Happenstance Border Morris. The Winchcombe Jack appears at various events over the following days.
Deptford (Fowlers Troop) Jack-in-the-Green (Sunday 1st May)
The Fowlers Troop and the Deptford Jack in the Green go out on the streets of South East London or the City of London every May Day. Jack will probably be dressed at the Dog and Bell on Saturday 30th April and will process from there around Deptford and Greenwich on Sunday May 1st.
The Fowlers Troop Jack was revived in the early 1980’s by members of the Blackheath Morris Men and friends. It is a revival of a Jack in the Green from about 1900 which was paraded by the original Fowlers Troop. In 1983 Mo Johnson made a Jack-in-the-Green in the back garden of the ‘Dog and Bell’ and Blackheath Morris (a side morphed from the Blackheath Foot’n’Death Men who used to dance at events featuring bands like Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies) revived the Deptford (Fowlers Troop) Jack. Mo was inspired by one of Thankful Sturdee’s photographs c.1900 of the original troop and Jack.
Dead Horse Morris Jack-in-the-Green (Sunday 1st May)
Dead Horse Morris have a Jack-in-the-Green clad entirely in Ivy who will take part in the Dawn Rising celebrations on Beacon Hill, Whitstable at 5am on Sunday May 1st this year. The Dead Horse Morris Jack-in-the-Green also usually puts in an appearance at the Whitstable May Day Parade (Monday 2nd May this year)
Cheltenham Sweeps Jack-in-the-Green (Sunday 1st May)
The Cheltenham Sweep’s Jack was revived in 2014 and will be in Cheltenham on Sunday 1st May starting on The Promenade in Cheltenham at 11.30 a.m. outside Waterstones bookshop or under the awning of Cavendish House Store if wet.
This will be the first time the sweeps have been out in Cheltenham with their Jack for over 100 years and they are hoping to recreate the original photograph that inspired them to do this. To that end they would be very glad for any fellow enthusiasts to come along and join in to recreate the scene. On May 2nd the Cheltenham Jack will be at Sudeley Castle’s Victorian May Day.
The Cheltenham Sweeps Jack appears in a photograph taken of May Day in Cheltenham in 1892. A Jack was first recorded in Cheltenham in 1830 and intermittently up until 1912.
Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green Festival (Monday 2nd May)
The Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green was revived by Keith Leech in 1983 and is now one of the biggest annual gatherings of Morris Dancers in the country. The Gathering will begin at 9:45am this year and Jack will be “released” from the Fisherman’s Museum on Rock-a-Nore Road at approximately 10:15am . Jack is released in a wonderful, magical ceremony and is central to the festival and the parade. At the end of the day (3:30pm) Jack is slain to release the spirit of summer. The festival takes place over the whole bank holiday weekend.
Whitstable Jack-in-the-Green (Monday 2nd May)
Jack-in-the-Green is now central to the Whitstable May Day celebrations. The Jack is supported by Oyster Morris who also have their own Green Man who combines the roles of Jester and announcer dressed in white and green. Jack is also accompanied by two attendants dressed as Robin Hood and Maid Marian. The Jack-in-the-Green was revived for the Whitstable Folk Festival in 1976. Dixie Lee, one of the original organisers said in 1992 “ At the time it just seemed like the Jack was looking for a reason to come out again, and I must say that every year when Jack makes his appearance on the street I get such a feeling of power from him that I know it was the right thing to do”
Ilfracombe Jack-in-the-Green (Monday 2nd May )
Ilfracombe’s Jack-in-the-Green Parades on the first May bank holiday weekend. A procession starts at approximately 11am and winds its way through the High Street, along the sea front towards the harbour area. The Ilfracombe Jack finishes with the release of the spirit of summer and the distribution of leaves on Ilfracombe Pier. The Ilfracombe Jack-in-the-Green was cancelled for 2015 but it has been confirmed that Jack will be back in 2016. Ilfracombe’s Jack-in-the-Green was started in 2000 by Lisa Sture.
Bristol Jack in the Green (Saturday 7th May)
The Bristol Jack in the Green appears on the first Saturday in May starting from the historic Harbourside (outside the M Shed) at 10:30am and leads a magical procession through the streets of Bristol eventually ending the day on Horfield Common at approximately 4pm where he dies to release the spirit of summer. A Jack-in-the-Green was recorded in Bristol around 1865 by a lady who remembered seeing him with a sweep and a queen on the outskirts. The revived Bristol Jack in the Green is a descendant of the Hastings Jack.
Knutsford May Day and Jack-in-the-Green (Saturday 7th May)
The Knutsford Jack in the Green is probably the oldest continual annual Jack in the Green. Apart from the war years it has paraded almost every year since 1889. May Day in Knutsford is celebrated over the May Bank holiday weekend. The person who plays Jack is chosen each year and is now played by a youngster rather than an adult as it used to be.
Yaxley (Cambridgeshire) Jack-in-the-Green (Saturday May 14th)
The Yaxley Jack-in-the-Green started in 2013 and lead the Yaxley May parade. He was accompanied by Sap-Engro and Copperface as well as an attendant wearing the original Ancient Order of the Foresters sash, worn in the village’s parades in the nineteenth and early twentieth century and a host of boggarts – the mischievous imps of Fenland lore. This is now a bi-annual event. Jack will walk on May 14th this year.
Brentham May Day and Jack-in-the-Green (Saturday 14th May)
Brentham has a big celebration every May which includes a Jack in the Green described as a walking talking bush who sometimes parades barefoot. Brentham’s May Day tradition became established in 1919 after the end of the First World War and expanded considerably for 1921 when the first Jack-in-the-Green appeared.