Essentials of Hastings' Jack in the Green Festival:
- What:A 4-day celebration of Morris dancing and traditional merriment, centering on the symbolic figure of Jack in the Green and culminating in a wild costumed parade - one of the most bizarre in Britain.
- When: May Bank Holiday weekend
- Where:Various locations around the seaside town of Hastings.
- Visit the website
Who is Jack in the Green?:
May Day has been celebrated as the start of summer in England since ancient times. In the 16th and 17th centuries, people made elaborate garlands, competiting with each other for the biggest and best. The chimney sweeps garlands were so big, they covered a man. This costume became known as Jack in the Green, a May Day character in his own right.
In Hastings, a Jack in the Green was paraded through the town until 1889. The banning of boys working as chimney sweeps and the Victorians disapproval of wild drunken festivities brought it to an end.
A 20th Century Revival:
In the mid 1980s, A Hastings Morris Dancing troup, Mad Jack's Morris revived the tradition, inviting other Morris Dancing groups to join them. Today, Hastings' two troups, Mad Jack's and Hannah's Cat, host a huge four day festival with Morris Dance groups joining in from all over the UK and Europe.
There are ceilidhs, church services, the crowning of Queen of the May, all kinds of music - traditional and contemporary. The culmination, on Bank Holiday Monday, is the Procession, with at least 1,000 costumed participants (most of them in green make-up and leafy costumes) accompanying the "Jack" and his attendants, "Green Bogies", to the sound of drumming, raucous chanting, jingling bells, clapping sticks and lots of lots of Morris dancing. At the culmination of the procession, the Jack is symbolically slain to free the summer so that it can return and warm the land.
How to Join In:
Visit the organizer's website for a schedule of events.
Watch a YouTube video of the procession and the slaying of the Jack.