Normally this would be the time of the year when I start getting excited and would begin the task of updating the list of annual events for 2021 that feature The Traditional Jack-in-the-Green or The Green Man throughout the UK. Well the list is still HERE and I will be updating it regularly, but I think that it’s going to be another complicated year. Because planning is nigh on impossible for the big events I suspect that Virtual events are likely to be the way forward again this year for them. But there is still a chance that some of the Jacks will still be able to go out even if on their own or with very small groups (depending on restrictions in place in May.) Watch these pages for news and hopefully some pictures of the 2021 Jacks.
Many of last years events were moved online or took place in a much smaller capacity and a quick browse down this blog will give you links and pictures to those.
Please do get in touch if you are an organiser or follower of a particular event and I will ensure that I promote your event within these pages.
If you are new to these pages and are wondering just what on earth a Jack in the Green is then your whistle stop tour of the history of the Traditional Jack in the Green can be found right HERE.
Many of our members will know Ruth Wylie as the extremely talented photographer behind the wonderful images in Mercia MacDermott’s book “Explore Green Men” Others may know that Ruth has built an incredible gazetteer of green men over more than thirty years and that much of it was published in “The Green Man, a Field Guide”, by Clive Hicks.
After much planning, on a slightly soggy day back in October I had the absolute pleasure of meeting with Ruth Wylie and her husband Jim to talk green men and to collect Ruth’s incredible collection of green man photographs, documents and correspondence. Ruth has been building the collection since the 1980’s when she stumbled across Kathleen Basford’s book “The Green Man” In Ruth’s own words:
“On cycling tours, it was fun to visit churches, photograph carving, whatever caught the eye! Then, during the 1980s, alerted to Kathleen Basford’s book The Green Man, I became aware of his commanding presence. Henceforward, my attention was concentrated!
Five large, fat albums later, the hunt continues! Home processing of b&w photographs allowed for greater control, but was too time-consuming, so was reluctantly abandoned for colour. Thanks to personal exploration and generous contributions from friends and numerous publications, I have compiled a register of sightings worldwide, regularly updated.”
Ruth contacted me back in June 2020 to ask if I would be willing to provide a safe home for her wonderful collection for the foreseeable future. I was of course honoured and am now custodian of the incredible archive that you can see pictured at the top of this post.
Redundancy after over thirty years in the same industry sees me starting my own business at the moment and so unfortunately I cannot yet spend the time that I would like to digitise and catalogue Ruth’s collection. But when time and finances allow I will do so and will ensure that it is made accessible to all.
I could not of course resist delving into Ruth’s wonderful archive and was delighted at the wonders I have spotted so far, including some fascinating correspondence between Ruth and her friend the late Kathleen Basford.
If there is anyone out there who knows of any funding currently available or would be willing to contribute financially themselves to allow me to tackle this wonderful project on a part time or full time basis please do get in touch.
I have created a section on this website for Ruth’s collection and will do my best to begin sharing it with our followers soon.
And I would like to express my thanks to Ruth for entrusting me with her collection. Please rest assured that it is in very safe hands.
The October Plenty happened! It took place online on Sunday October 25th 2020. It was proceeded by a week of wonderful events.
Videos of The Green Man in his Autumn guise and friends are available on The Lions Parts YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaOeeeEsDcPrKo2i_0Nvipw
And you can find more about October Plenty here:
Hopefully The Lions Part Twelfth Night Celebrations will still go ahead in some form in January 2021 (They have a cunning plan) I will keep you posted here on this blog.
It has of course been a very unusual year for The Traditional Jacks in the Green. It’s been sad that many of the Jacks could not go out but due to the wonders of technology some fantastic events have taken place online. So far this year at least four Jacks were sighted in the leaf:
- The Hammersmith Jack in the Green
- The Winchcome Jack in the Green
- The Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green
- The Deptford (Fowler’s Troop) Jack on the Green
Many new mini Jacks in the Green also appeared around Hastings and all over the country.
And the Cheltenham Jack in the Green sent his best wishes to everyone from isolation in the Hedgerow.
The Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green organisers presented a brilliant weekend of entertainment bringing all of the usual events online including the waking and slaying of the 2020 Jack in the Green. The main procession can still be viewed by searching for it on Facebook (unfortunately Facebook won’t allow it to be embedded here).
The Evercreech Jack of Jack’s original beast head with a smaller body decorated in flowers and foliage went on display in the Old Stores Studio in Evercreech as part of a fantastic window display that you can see in the video below.
The Bradford on Avon Jack in the Green didn’t appear but the organisers created a wonderful online festival instead showcasing nearly all their planned dancers, musicians and venues. They used existing videos previously recorded by their performers as well as several specially made lockdown clips and many photos from The Company of the Green Man. There are over 90 separate clips and, as it lasts for over three hours. You can view the online festival below.
The Hammersmith Jack in the Green supported by The World Famous Hammersmith Morris Men brought tears to the eye with their beautiful video of the 2020 Jack that went live at dawn on 1st May.
The organisers of The Whitstable Jack in the Green put on a great show presented by the always wonderful Dixie Lee. As well as lots of dancing and music Jack’s route was still processed in isolation.
The slightly trimmer than usual Deptford Jack in the Green put in a great lock down appearance on May 1st as can be seen in the video below.
The Oxford Jack in the Green also appeared virtually from photos of Spring foliage sent in by members of Oxford University Morris Men from around the UK, and even from as far afield as Toronto and Pnom Penh.
I would also like to once again thank all those involved with Jack in the Green and Green Man events around the country and abroad this and every year. The organisers and participants put blood sweat and tears into keeping these wonderful traditions alive and The Company of the Green Man will always be here to support them. I will raise a pint of ale to you all and look forward to meeting up with you all again over the coming years. #jackwillbeback
And fingers crossed that the Carshalton Straw Jack might still parade in September.
It is as always with a mixture of joy and sadness that I announce the slaying of The Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green at approximately 15:45 today. The Jack was ritually killed in a secret location somewhere in Hastings and by magical means his leaves were distributed virtually by his Bogie attendants. Jack gave up his life to release the spirit of summer as he does selflessly every year. Congratulations to Heather, Keith and everyone involved with the first Virtual Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green which despite the occasional technological wobble was a resounding success. I was lucky to get connected via Zoom this morning and took great pleasure in watching the whole event.
It has of course been a very unusual year so far for The Traditional Jacks in the Green. But due to the wonders of technology some fantastic events have taken place online. So far this year at least four Jacks have been sighted in the leaf:
The Hammersmith Jack in the Green
The Winchcome Jack in the Green
The Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green
The Deptford (Fowler’s Troop) Jack on the Green
The Cheltenham Jack in the Green sent his best wishes to everyone from isolation in the Hedgerow.
Many new mini Jacks in the Green also appeared around Hastings and all over the country.
And to remind us what it’s going to be like again next year when May 1st falls on a Saturday here’s Justin Lycett’s wonderful Hastings 2018 video again.
I would also like to take the opportunity to thank all those involved with Jack in the Green and Green Man events around the country and abroad this and every year. The organisers and participants put blood sweat and tears into keeping these wonderful traditions alive and The Company of the Green Man will always be here to support them. I will raise a pint of ale to you all and look forward to meeting up with you all again over the coming years. #jackwillbeback
The Hastings 2020 Traditional Jack in the Green is alive! This grainy picture taken via the wonders of technology shows Jack waking up in a secret location somewhere in the Hastings area mere minutes ago. He appeared out of a mysterious green fog to virtual cries of joy from his Bogies.
May morning can always bring surprises but this year despite what’s going on around us May Day is already putting a big smile on my face.
If you had told my last year that I would not only finally get back to Hastings for May Dawn but would be experiencing it from Keith Leech’s front room I would have assumed that you had imbibed too much Walpurgis Night mead. But there I was along with all the other early risers watching the sun rise over the rooftops of Hastings via Facebook along with Keith and Heather, some wonderful Morris Dancers a drummer and viewers from around the world. Jacks are springing up all over Hastings and further afield and I shall post pictures of as many as I can on our blog.
Then just after 6am The Smiffs, The World Famous Hammersmith Morris Men posted this brilliant video on YouTube of them all separately dancing Bampton Sidestep along with The Hammersmith Jack in the Green
Then a text message came through with the wonderful photograph below of The Winchcombe Jack in the Green seeing in dawn on his own this morning.
This brilliant Jack saw dawn in from Usk in Wales and was brought to life by Marie Carter.
It’s a great start and I’ll post more pictures of any other Jacks as soon as I can.
It is 05:32 and the sun has just risen.
A Merry May Day to you all from The Company of the Green Man.
A Riddle – Phil Lister
I am born on May Morning by sticks, bells, and ribbons
I am the sap in the dark root
I am the dancer with his six fools
I am the tump behind the old church
I am the lost soul under the misericord
I am the oak against the stars
I am the face that peers through the leaves
I am the fear in a childs mind
I am the demon on the roof-boss
I am killed in October and laid on church altars
I am the guiser on the bright bonfire
I am the old grain sown with the seed
I am the flame in the pumpkins grin
I am the spirit in the kern-baby’s bosom
Green Man – William Anderson
Like antlers, like veins of the brain, the birches
Mark patterns of mind on the red winter sky;
‘I am thought of all plants’, says the Green Man,
‘I am thought of all plants’, says he.
The hungry birds harry the last berries of rowan
But white is her bark in the darkness of rain;
‘I rise with the sap’, says the Green Man,
‘I rise with the sap’, says he.
The ashes are clashing their bows like sword-dancers
Their black buds are tracing wild faces in the clouds;
‘I come with the wind’, says the Green Man.
‘I come with the wind’, says he.
The alders are rattling as though ready for battle
Guarding the grove where she waits for her lover;
‘I burn with desire’, says the Green Man,
‘I burn with desire’, says he.
In and out of the yellowing wands of the willow
The pollen-bright bees are plundering the catkins;
‘I am honey of love’, says the Green Man,
‘I am honey of love’, says he.
The hedges of quick are thick with May blossom
As the dancers advance on the leaf-covered King;
‘It’s off with my head’, says the Green Man,
‘It’s off with my head’, says he.
Green Man becomes grown man in flames of the oak
As its crown forms its mask and its leafage his features;
‘I speak through the oak’, says the Green Man,
‘I speak through the oak’, says he.
The holly is flowering as hay fields are rolling
Their gleaming long grasses like waves of the sea;
‘I shine with the sun’, says the Green Man,
‘I shine with the sun’, says he.
The hazels are rocking the cups of their nuts
As the harvesters shout when the last sheaf is cut;
‘I swim with the salmon’, says the Green Man,
‘I swim with the salmon’, says he.
The globes of the grapes are robing with bloom
Like the hazes of autumn, like the Milky Way’s stardust;
‘I am crushed for your drink’, says the Green Man,
‘I am crushed for your drink’, says he.
The aspen drops silver of leaves on earth’s salver
And the poplars shed gold on the young ivy flower heads;
‘I have paid for your pleasure’, says the Green Man,
‘I have paid for your pleasure’, says he.
The reedbeds are flanking in silence the islands
Where meditates Wisdom as she waits and waits;
‘I have kept her secret’, says the Green Man,
‘I have kept her secret’, says he.
The bark of the elder makes whistles for children
To call to the deer as they rove over the snow;
‘I am born in the dark’, says the Green Man,
‘I am born in the dark’, says he.