The spectacular Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green awoke this morning and paraded through the streets of Hastings.
My thanks to The Crown in Hastings for allowing me to reproduce their pictures here.
The Hastings Jack-in-the-Green festival was revived by Keith Leech MBE (formally of GOG and the Earls of Essex) and Mad Jack’s Morris in 1983 after he moved from London to Hastings. Working with Folklorist Roy Judge, Keith pieced together late 19th century references to the Hastings (or as Roy would correct him) The St Leonards on Sea Jack in the Green. There were at least two groups who paraded a Jack in the Green until about 1889, though the earliest mention of an already established Jack in the area dates back to 1848 “Clowns, shovels, dust and noise, Jack in the Green, a sooty queen, And half-a-dozen boys.”.
The revived Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green event now spans four days and is one of the biggest annual gatherings of Morris Dancers in the country. It is a spectacular and magical event. The Jack is “released” from the Fisherman’s Museum every year in a wonderful ceremony and is central to the festival. The main procession or parade of the Jack takes place on the bank holiday Monday through the streets of Hastings Old Town starting from the Fisherman’s Museum. The Jack is accompanied by Mad Jacks Morris, Hannah’s Cat Morris, the Bogies, the Gay Bogies, sweeps, Black Sal, a milkmaid, the Fat Man with a Drum, dancers, giants, musicians and an incredible array of green participants who create elaborate costumes for the event. It has been described as one of the most bizarre parades in Britain and really has to be seen to be believed. At the end of the day Jack is slain and his foliage distributed to the crowds to release the spirit of summer. On some years other Jacks have been known to travel to Hastings to join in the festivities including The Fowlers Troop Jack and The City of London Jack. The Hastings Bogies have become a folkloric legend in their own lifetime.
The Bogies were originally thought up by Dave Lobb as an escort for the Jack to see him safely through the increasingly crowded streets and were camouflaged in green leaf suits to allow those carrying the Jack to swap places more discreetly. When not carrying or protecting Jack the Hastings Bogies paint the faces (and occasionally other parts of the body) of as many people as possible with green face paint. It is considered bad practice to try to take pieces of the Jack while it is processing and if caught the wrath of the Bogies is swift and may involve debagging and painting the back side of the offender. To be caught in the steely gaze of a Bogie is a fearful thing and to be avoided at all costs. There are always only twelve official Bogies and they can always be found near the Jack-in-the-Green protecting and guiding him. The Hastings Jack is formed from Rhododendron which keeps green for longer than many other leaves. The crown of flowers worn by the Jack is often formed of red blue and gold flowers to represent the Cinque Ports of which Hastings is the first.
Rather than an open hole for the carrier to see out of the Hastings Jack’s “portal” is covered with an ornate mask. The original mask was made by Dave Lobb and since then other masks made by varying artists have been used. Between in 1993 and 1994 the mask used was created by artist Clive Hicks Jenkins and was based on the face of his late Father Trevor. Clive explained “After his death I was asked to provide a mask for the ‘Jack’ to wear at the Hastings Green Man Festival, and thereafter for a couple of years Trevor’s likeness was at the centre of that magnificent spectacle, an honour he would have delighted in.” The mask disappeared during Jacks demise one year and Clive would love to hear from anyone who knows where it might have ended up. A new mask was made by Marti Dean for the twenty fifth year of the Hastings Jack in 2008. The use of a mask has since been taken up by some other revived Jacks. Many of the “traditions” surrounding the Jacks in the Green that parade throughout the UK originated with the Hastings Jack including the waking of the Jack in the morning and slaying of the Jack at the end of the day, the distributing of Jacks leaves to the crowd for “good luck” and the burning of distributed leaves on a bonfire in the autumn.
For anybody interested in more information about The Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green and indeed the history of the Jack in general I would highly recommend Keith Leech’s excellent book, The Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green.
At the time this post appears, as the sun rises just after 5:30 on May 1st 2010 a number of Jack-in -the-Greens will be awoken across the UK. They will parade around towns, villages and cities bringing the summer and “Jacks Magic” with them.
A Merry May Day and a Happy Beltaine to one and all!
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
Less than a week to go before Jack-in-the-Green awakens across Britain. Don’t miss out on this wonderful and magical annual tradition, go out and support your nearest Jack and then send us in your pictures and experiences of the event to share with others. I’m going to see the Hastings Jack on Monday this year, so if you spot a tall bloke with a green man T-shirt and a camera ask him if he’s me. If he is he might just buy you a drink! Details and links to the websites of each Jack (if available) are detailed below:
Bristol Jack in the Green Saturday 1st May 2010
The Bristol Jack in the Green appears on the first Saturday in May starting from the historic Harbourside (outside the Arnolfini) and leads a magical procession through the streets of Bristol eventually ending the day on Horfield Common where he dies to release the spirit of summer. For pictures of the 2009 Bristol Jack in the Green visit our flickr site
Bristol Jack in the Green
Rochester Sweeps Festival and Jack-in-the-Green
The Rochester Sweeps festival still has a Jack in the Green Ceremony where the Jack is awoken on Blue Bell Hill on May Morning and is paraded through the streets during the three day festival attended by hundreds of Morris Teams
Rochester Sweeps Festival
Hasting Jack-in-the-Green Festival April 30th – 3rd May 2010
The Hastings Jack-in-the-Green festival was revived by Keith Leech in 1983 and is now one of the biggest annual gatherings of Morris Dancers in the country. The Jack is “released” every year and is central to the festival.
Hastings Jack-in-the-Green Festival
Deptford Jack-in-the-Green May 1st 2010
The Fowlers Troop Jack in the Green goes out on the streets of South East London or the City of London every May Day
Deptford Jack in the Green
Brentham May Day and Jack-in-the-Green
Brentham has a big celebration every May which includes a Jack in the Green
Brentham Jack in the Green
Knutsford May Day and Jack-in-the-Green
May Day in Knutsford is celebrated over the May Bank holiday weekend. The main focus is the May Queen but there is a Jack in the Green
Knutsford Jack in the Green
City of London Jack-in-the-Green
The City of London Jack-in-the-Green appears in the City on May Day
City of London Jack in the Green
A Jack in the Green who appears in Oxford on May Day
Oxford Jack in the Green
Oyster Morris organise the Whitstable Jack
Whitstable Jack in the Green
For more details and links to the web sites for each of these and other upcoming green man related events go to www.thecompanyofthegreenman.co.uk and look at the annual events page.
If you would like to add details of a Jack-in-the-Green here please e-mail us firstname.lastname@example.org