Monday 27 April 2015

Merry May: 'Minehead Hobby Horse' Research Notes


The Minehead Hobby Horse: An Awakening - Becoming Horse/Boat/Myth - Horseplay


Warning Night, An Awakening:
The horse is awoken; the rider begins their process of becoming animal, their body assimilated into the horses.

May Day, Becoming Horse/Boat/Myth:
Beginning at 5am the awoken horse perambulates the old borders of the town, processing from the Quay to Whitecross and then to Dunster Castle. The act of boundary marking reinforces an insular space in which non-human becomings can occur and the myths shared by the community can be invoked. This is particularly evident in the strange shaping of the horse, though technically a horse it is also unmistakably boat shaped, a shape that invokes the myth of an unmanned ghostly ship entering the harbour and another myth of Viking invaders being chased back into their boats by the town’s populace dressed as this strange beast. The horse through its becoming other acts as the representative of the community and its shared history.

The Bootie, Horseplay:

The assimilation of the rider leads to “horseplay” and chaos, which is particularly evident during the Bootie at Cher. A spectator is caught by two members of the Hobby Horse team, and is booted ten times. The spectator then has to avoid the whipping of the horses tail afterwards in a dance.

“There is a becoming-animal not content to proceed by resemblance and for which resemblance, on the contrary, would represent an obstacle or stoppage”, Deleuze and Guattari (A Thousand Plateaus, 1988).

- Arianne Churchman

Sunday 19 April 2015

Folklore Tapes Calendar Customs Vol.II: Merry May

Title: Folklore Tapes Calendar Customs Vol.II: Merry May
Artists: Various
Format: Embossed cassette box including screen printed cassette sleeve, research booklet, essay, maypole ribbon, download code.
Release Date: 01/05/15
Edition: 250
Estimated shipping: 24/4/15

Side A: Carl Turney & Brian Campbell – SumerIsIcumenIn ; The Blue Funz - Beltane, Isle of Mull: Need-Fire and Milking Cows Through Cake ; Arianne Churchman - Minehead Hobby Horse ; Rob St John - Bringing in the May. Side B: Ian Humberstone - The Hunting of the Earl of Rone ; Mary & David - Wish Before Sunrise (May Dewing) ; Children of Alice - Rite of the Maypole: An Unruly Procession ; Sam McLoughlin - I Want to Sing like the Birds Sing, Not Worrying About Who Hears or What They Think ; Malcolm Benzie - Hawthorne

Unite and unite and let us all unite,
For summer is a-come unto day
And whither we are going we will all unite,
In the merry morning of May.

May Day is one of the turning points of the year, when the transformation from winter to spring is ritually observed and celebrated. The Eve of May displays an obverse face to Halloween’s soot-blackened mask, fixed on the opposite arc of the annular globe. Both have origins in the Celtic pastoral year and the solar festivals which lent it formal division. Superstitions surrounding May Eve, May Day and the ensuing days at the start of the month persisted well into the medieval period, and even into the post-Reformation era. Fairies might steal or sour milk, or witches spell maleficent harm on the herd.

May Day festivities are all about getting outdoors and inhaling the first breath of summer; throwing the windows wide and heading for the woodlands and meadows with a light skip in the step. The custom most widely associated with May Day is the bringing in of the May. Boughs of blossoming hawthorn would be cut and brought back from meadow’s edge and strewn about town or village, some woven into garlands, others left as they were found. Maypoles were erected in villages, towns and cities. These towering columns would be painted with colourful stripes and hung about with ribbons and flowers. They became the focal point for local festivities, for dancing, whether in a wheeling, handlocked circle or weaving approaches and evasions. Morris dancing featured frequently, and there might be pipers and harpers, drummers and Fools to fuel the festivities with music and general jollity. Mummers plays were sometimes staged, the performers disguised, which gave them a certain license to mock the high and mighty. Parades were peopled by stock figures of British folklore, religious devotion and popular legend: George and the Dragon, regional saints, Jack-in-the-Greens, Giants and Devils.

‘Merry May’ explores this world of Spring carousing sonically, with contemporary music and sound informed by specific age-old traditions. The artists contributing to this compilation have each researched a particular May ritual and, informed by their findings, conjured a piece in response. As such, the cassette takes its listeners on an audiological journey where, mounted upon clacking Hobby horses, they will meet with May Birchers and Dewers, reel around Maypoles and parade the streets in the company of the Earl of Rone and the Fool.

Now available to pre-order from