The Mummers’ Symposium

An exploration of mumming, traditional folk drama and related customs, held on Monday 4th January. The presentations will be available in due course.

Download detailed programme CLICK HERE or scroll down

Videos of some of the traditions listed are featured in on our Feast of Mumming page

10am Panel 1

12 noon Panel 2

1.40pm Lunch Break

2pm Keynote
Chaired by Stephen Rowley

3.20 Panel 3

5pm Panel 4
Chair Stephen Rowley

Opening Remarks

Frome Valley Morris Mummers
David Milner

Hollington Tipteers
Keith Leech

Brummagen Mummers
Ann Simpson

Bosojaras Carnival – Hungary
Dr Ildi Solti

Merry Mourning: The Festival of the Burial of the Sardine in Madrid
Leticia Cortina Aracil

Was Pulcinella a Pastafarian? — Folk plays, folk religions and the evolution of Carnival.
Bill Tuck

Mummerandada – Mumming meets Dada
Bim Mason

Mummers’ Plays Revisited
Prof Peter Harrop

Pagan Rave. Ireland
Dr Billy Mac Fhoine,

The Long Company
Peter Coe

The Armagh Rhymers
Dara Vallely

New England Traditions
Claudia Chapman

Newfoundland Mumming
Lynn Lunde

Nefoundland Mummers Parade
Lyn McShane

Mummers Symposium 2021
Zoom Webinar


TimeEventSubject / medium/ abstractShort bio
10.00 a.mopenerWelcome and thematic introduction   
10.20 a.mPanel 1 Mumming in the UKFrome Valley Morris Mummers The presentation covers an outline of how a play is delivered and what its importance might be. The focus is on the play I have been associated with for forty years – the text is deposited in the Dorset History Centre. This fairly typical hero Combat/Quack Doctor play was performed in Broadwey, Dorset before WWI. The reasons for the changing nature of costume and presentation since 1980 are briefly considered and illustrated with photographs.  The context of the play is explored. Anecdotes are chosen to reveal the attraction of the play for those who take part and for those who watch. Two pieces of creative writing describe experiences of mumming and relate them to society and the individual.Working life: in education as a teacher, advisor, consultant and writer Mumming life: Since discovering mumming plays in the Vaughan Williams Library in 1980 I have been an active performer. First by reviving a play in Hawick, then with Frome Valley Morris Mummers (1981-), as well as assisting with three self-written plays, including a Hoodening play, and occasionally appearing in the Wessex Morris Men play.
10.40 Hollington Tipteers  The Hollington tipteers believe they are the last mummers in the country to arrive at performance spaces unannounced and who unashamedly collect for beer money. This they believe is the ‘traditional’ way to do things.  Many of the performers have had the same part for many years. Parts are for life or retirement from the group. They pride themselves on never needing a rehearsal. There is a queue of people wishing to join. The revival and evolution of the group is discussed.Keith revived the Hastings Jack in the Green and Hastings Bonfire. He has published both books and papers on his research into customs and traditions; although once researched he usually then goes on to revive them. He is a morris dancer and well known ceilidh caller. He researched and revived the Hollington Tipteering play in East Sussex and has performed the part of the doctor since the revival for the past 36 years. He was awarded an MBE for his services to heritage in East Sussex.
11.00 Brummagen Mummers  A talk on the current performance by Brummagen Mummers: How we started 19 years ago – one of the first female groups. Some issues are different for women, e.g. men dressing as women funnier than women dressing as men! Initially the play was for our own entertainment – my priority was to involve all members, so I added random characters where necessary. Some members requested non-speaking parts. Some traditionally male parts were played as female (e.g. the devil) and some were kept as male. Wrote parts for members with particular skills –  e.g. A Mysterious Warrior for a martial arts expert. A suitable villain – gave a great deal of thought to this! Many traditional villains were inappropriate and we were anxious not to offend. Eventually I invented Lord Litter – a grimy knight who lurks in the gutter and ends up in the bin! (Assumed everyone dislikes litter!) We currently perform a version of the Robin Hood playI grew up in Lancashire, but moved to the midlands in the 1970s and then spent my working life in Local Government and the NHS. Member of Glorishears of Brummagem Women’s Cotswold Morris for 30 years, and started Brummagem Mummers 19 years ago. Involved in amateur theatre for many years – played many roles, but now happy to be in the chorus!   In the past I have produced Music Hall evenings which included  a wide range of acts (some better forgotten!) History graduate, with a special interest in social history and traditional entertainments
11.20-11.40Panel 1 Q&A led by panel 1 chair; Olly Crick  
 Short Coffee Break  
12 amPanel 2 European masks and MummingChair David Petts 
  “Take a walk on the wild side” – The Buso of Hungary and danger in performance   Hungarian Buso (pronounced “Busho”), like other members of the worldwide mummers’ family, roam the villages of the southern region of the country every February, celebrating the end of winter and the return of new life in the spring. It is a lucrative tourist attraction, having recently extended from the traditional weekend to an event  of several days. There is an increased interest in joining the groups of masked performers. Music, dance, full scale masks and the array of food and drink make for an atmosphere of family festival. Yet there is an edge to proceedings, something that seems to attract the 21st century agnostic as it did their forebears hundreds, perhaps thousands of years ago. What is it?   Using observations from Marvin Carson, Richard Schechner, Eugenio Barba and Richard Southern, I’ll try to place the Buso as a masked performer on the continuum between cultural and theatrical practice, trying to identify the means by which the paradoxical, intoxicating quality of Otherness is created in this case through disrupting the conventional norms of space and movement. In particular, I will look at the way in which child performers, traditionally part of the event, contribute to this effect. The indescribable yet palpable sense of danger created by the Buso’s “little helpers” might provide a physical clue to understanding the relationship of visible audience and masked performer, a key aspect for example of such current debates as playing the yard in Globe-type theatres.  Ildiko Solti is an actor-director, researcher and lecturer. She trained in Dramatic Arts at Macalester College, St Paul, MN, USA. Having returned to Hungary, she obtained her MA at Eotvos Lorand University, and was Artistic Director of an English language theatre company, The Phoenix, in Budapest. In 1999 she moved to London where she has been teaching and conducting research and experiment in performance, focusing on Elizabethan/Jacobean working theatre reconstructions through the method of research through practice in performance (PaR). She holds a PhD from Middlesex University. Ildiko leads the Martext workshops on space and performance at the Rose Playhouse, Bankside (currently online). She also publishes and advises on issues relating to the  catalytic role of the Globe type theatres in performance theory, acting and Shakespeare Studies.  
12.20 The Merry Mourning: The festival of the Burial of the Sardine in Madrid: The “Entierro de la Sardina” (Burial of the Sardine) is a tradition of Spanish origin, born in Madrid, which marks the end of the Carnival period. It consists in a parade that mocks a funeral procession and that culminates with the burning of the effigy of a sardine that is claimed to have died. Contrary to other similar rites, this one takes place already on Ash Wednesday, an invasion of the Lenten period for which the festival has been criticised. In this contribution, I will present and analyse this celebration in contemporary Madrid, its near disappearance after de Civil War, its rebirth in 1950, and the modifications that the progressive urbanization of the city has entailed for the rite.Dr. Leticia Cortina Aracil is an independent researcher and cultural guide in Madrid (Spain). Her research is oriented towards the existential interpretation of material culture. She has been a lecturer at the Universidad Francisco de Vitoria and in independent seminars, with publications on anthropology, mythology and folklore.
12.40 Was Pulcinella a Pastafarian? — Folk plays, folk religions and the evolution of Carnival.   My talk will draw parallels between the anarchic character of Pulcinella and certain features of the universal Folk Play. In particular, there is The Hero’s opposition to authority and invulnerability to any form of attack — The Doctor will always revive him since he, like Pulcinella, is an everyman. There are also parallels in the plausible origin of the folk play as a replacement — or revival — of the practice of Carnival,  in which the natural order of society is subverted for a short period; or the Feast of Fools, during which the principal tenets of religion may be mocked with impunity. Our own hero, Pulcinella, would most likely have adopted, as parody religion, a firm belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster — not least because of his inordinate fondness for pasta!Bill Tuck has been fascinated for many years with the relationship between commedia dell’arte and the Folk Play and has performed his own re-creation, The Death and Resurrection of Pulcinella, in one form or another, annually since 2000. For the last few years he has organised with Barry Grantham an annual Commedia Festival in Rotherhithe, London. He holds a long-forgotten PhD in mathematics, and an Open University diploma in music.
1.00 Mummerandada; Mumming meets Dada  For six years in the1980s Bim Mason led the Mummer&Dada company, performing at street-theatre festivals across Europe. He will outline the key features of the Mummers play that inspired the work – direct address, stylistic collage, juxtaposition of characters and the ‘sympathetic magic’ inherent in the death and resurrection scenario. He will offer video examples of how circus skills, martial arts and illusion magic were introduced to enhance the dramaturgy and explain how Dada was a valuable counterpoint.    Dr Bim Mason co-founded Circomedia, the renowned circus-theatre school in Bristol in 1994. He has directed several award-winning physical theatre and contemporary circus shows and has authored two books (Street Theatre 1992 and Provocation in Popular Culture 2015) as well as contributing chapters and articles on popular theatre, the pedagogy of Jacques Lecoq, circus and physical theatre.
1.20-1.40Panel 2 Q&A led by panel 2 chair Dr D A PettsDavid Petts 
2.00- 2.45KeynoteChair Stephen Rowley 
 Keynote  Mummers’ Plays Revisited’ Mummers’ plays – and much folk performance – has too often been approached as though it were entirely separate from a wider performance culture.   Today’s talk and discussion will therefore focus on those 18th century theatre and performance trends that shaped the early years of the mummers’ play.  These include the attachment of pantomime to the Christmas season, the fashion for private theatricals, the ‘spouting’ craze, the availability of chapbook texts, and the example of strolling players.Peter Harrop is Professor Emeritus at the University of Chester, formerly Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor. His 2020 monograph Mummers’ Plays Revisited is published by Routledge as part of their series Advances in Theatre and Performance.  The Routledge Companion to English Folk Performance which he has co-edited with Steve Roud is at press and expected in early summer 2021.  His interest was sparked when he  joined the Monkseaton Morris Men and Folk Dance Club as a teenager in the North East of England.
2.45-3.00Keynote Q&A led by keynote chair   
Short coffee break    
3.20Panel 3 Contemporary Reinventions and imaginingsChair  Olly Crick  
  Pagan Rave, Ireland Pagan Rave is an ongoing, performance-based project which aims to reimagine folk traditions and calendar customs of Ireland. Using as a starting point the costumed figures of Irish and European folk theatre and seasonal festivals, it seeks to operate at the margins of place and mind, and embody the transformative and liberating aspects of masks and music in a ceremonial context. Traditional mumming practices from Ireland, Britain, and South East Europe form important tropes and points of inspiration in the development of Pagan Rave, and the nature of their influence and interplay will be discussed.Billy Mag Fhloinn is a native of Limerick, Ireland. He holds a PhD in Irish Folklore, and a B.A. in archaeology, from University College Dublin. As well as lecturing and tutoring at university level, he also works in television and media, is a musician and occasionally works as a tour guide in the Dingle Peninsula. 
3.40 The Long Company My presentation will be about how The Long Company was formed by members of Ryburn 3 Step in the early nineties as an addition to existing song, dance and music events and activities. I will include details of how we adapted an existing chapbook text, costume design, timing, location and style of performance. As part of a community folk organisation we also created roles for our singers and musicians to increase involvement and enhance the overall performance as a bigger event.    Pete Coe has been a professional folk musician for fifty years, touring home & abroad, equally at home on the concert stage or in the dance hall. He’s a multi-instrumentalist, collector & singer of traditional songs, songwriter, dance band musician & dance caller.   In 2016 he was awarded a Gold Badge by the English Folk Dance & Song Society for his outstanding contribution to folk music over years of performing, recording, researching, teaching & organising. 
4.00 The Armagh Rhymers Founder members Dara and Anne will talk about the relationship between their theatre company and the performance traditions, embedded in the Armagh countryside. Since we were founded in 1970’s, we have delighted audiences in schools, festivals throughout Ireland and around the world.  Through music, storytelling and drama, we provide an experience that is both entertaining and educational.  Our colourful costumes evoke a sense of tradition and history and encapsulate the spirit of the Wren boys and the ancient house visiting traditions of Ireland, where the kitchen floor became the stage.  The Rhyming tradition is a celebration of the ‘theatre of the people’ and has inspired many poets such as Seamus Heaney, Brendan Kennelly, John Montague and John Hewitt The Armagh Rhymers have been committed to promoting peace, tolerance and reconciliation for over 40 years.   One of the main concepts underpinning all of our work is the importance of understanding and acceptance of different cultures, ideas and languages.  We see this as key to maintaining a peaceful and prosperous society.   We continue to work with people of all backgrounds, cultures and nationalities to promote this ideal.  
4.20-4.40Panel 3 Q&A led by panel 3 chair  Olly CrickOlly Crick has been a juggler, a circus teacher, a street performer and has a doctorate in contemporary Commedia dell’Arte, and has published and written articles on the same subject. 
Short coffee break    
5.00Panel 4 Mumming in the New worldChair: David Petts  
  Claudia Chapman, Connecticut Off The Streets And On To The Stage And Back Again — Mumming In The United States The curious evolution of mumming in the United States — from the street to the stage and back to the street again. Many Americans have their first glimpse of a mummer’s play as part of a community Revel — a well rehearsed stage performance of traditional customs. Although the performance is staged, the cast always includes local Morris teams and musicians, and the link to that community is very strong. Originally conceived as a celebration of European customs and folklore, these revels have evolved to include customs from around the world. Inspired by the Revels and stories told by a grandmother born in England, my own group started out performing from house-to-house, and in railroad stations and coffee houses.Claudia Chapman is an artist and writer. More or less retired now, she was the art director for World Music Press. Still very active in the creative arts she was selected to be an artist-in-residence at a National Park in New Mexico where she lived for two months in a little stone cabin at the base of the cliff dwellings. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in a neighbourhood where everybody’s grandparents were immigrants. Her grandparents cherished the customs they brought with them from the old country and always told her that she was English and Scottish. She never quite understood just how American she really is until she visited England for the first time in 2011. 
5.20 50 years of disguising: Newfoundland mumming, 1970-2020 Mumming in Newfoundland has a several centuries long history.  The mumming component of the province’s culture was revitalized in the 1970s, and the renewed interest was accelerated by the 1968 publication of Halpert and Story’s book, Christmas Mumming in Newfoundland.  Although many academic papers on mumming appeared, it was the Arts community that made mumming truly accessible to the general public.  More specifically it was the performing arts which breathed life into mumming by producing an animated physical presence in the lives and homes of Newfoundlanders.  Mumming in Newfoundland is expressed in three forms, the Mummers Play, janneying, and the processional.  This paper will address the re-emergence of mumming through the lens of three developments: the Mummers Theatre Troupe researched and re-created the Mummers Play in 1972; Simani, a musical duo, wrote and performed ‘Any Mummers Allowed In?’ (also known as The Mummers Song) in1983, which gave new life to janneying; and the Mummers Festival in 2009 reconceptualized the older practice of the processional with the Mummers Parade.Lynn Lunde BA MEd PhD(abd) was co-founder, manager and performer of The Mummmers Theatre Troupe of Newfoundland, a collective creation theatre company based in the Newfoundland culture.  The first production, and the production which gave the company its name, was a re-creation of the Newfoundland Mummers Play.   A combination of library and field research, and the improvisational skills of a troupe of actors resulted in the creation of an event which has been performed in St. John’s and environs since 1972 by both professional performers and community groups. This theatre company and the re-creation of the Mummers Play were key elements in the invigoration of the Newfoundland culture.  Her interest in mumming continues with independent research and presentation of papers. 
5.40 Newfoundland Mummers parade Since 2009, the Mummers Festival of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada has hosted a series of events, workshops and educational forums all leading up to our signature Mummers Parade. They have welcomed thousands to come make a hobby horse or ugly stick at one of our workshops, to get entertained or learn something new at one of our events or talks, and come to the wildly popular Rig Up, the Province’s largest dress-up party, prior to the Mummers Parade. While participation is the key to enjoying this Festival, in 2020, the team had to do things a little differently given all the Covid-19 restrictions. They were determined, however, to hold a 12th Annual Mummers Festival nonetheless. So, from November 28 to December 19, a series of panel discussions, presentations, workshops and concerts were delivered virtually…all capped off with a Virtual Mummers Parade that incorporated submissions from across Canada and beyond. Join Lynn McShane, Executive Director of the Mummers Festival, as she gives a presentation on the many challenges and the many joys that resulted in the first ever Virtual Edition of the Mummers Festival!Lynn has volunteered as Mummers Festival Vice-Chair since 2014, and was honoured to  take on the Executive Director role for the 2020 Mummers Festival. Lynn has a background in English and Business Administration from Memorial University of Newfoundland, as well as a Non-Profit Management Post-Graduate Diploma from Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton. A non-profit professional with over 20 years’ experience in the arts and culture, health care and education sectors, Lynn’s past roles include Manager of Grants & Scholarships with Education Matters (Calgary, AB);  Manager of Volunteer Resources at the Glenbow Museum (Calgary, AB); and Development Associate with the Calgary Health Trust. Back home in her beloved Newfoundland since 2013, she enjoys being involved in the local historical and cultural sector, including providing exhibit and performance content for the Admiralty House Communication Museum’s exhibit Faces of the Florizel, as well as performing at the St. John’s Storytelling Festival. Lynn thrives on engaging people and communities and grew up mummering with her huge family in Renews on the Southern Shore. 
6-6.20Panel 4 Q&A led by panel 3 chair Steve RowleyDavid Petts  
6.20ConclusionOlly Crick/David Petts/Stephen Rowley