The website of the Traditional Drama Research Group


Traditional Drama Forum - No.6

Article type: 

Compiled by Eddie Cass

Our Webmaster

It may not be common knowledge but Peter Millington was awarded a Doctorate from Sheffield University in July 2002 for his work on folk drama. The title of his thesis is ‘The Origins and Development of English Folk Plays’. A copy of his thesis has been deposited in the library of NATCECT at the University of Sheffield. Peter has also updated his personal website. Apart from expanding his list of publications, he has put the abstract of his thesis online.

Conferences 2003

‘Guising. The historical uses of masks and disguises’ is a conference which will be hosted by the Warburg Institute and The Folklore Society. It will be held at the Warburg Institute, London, on Friday and Saturday 16 – 17 May 2003. Information on the conference is available from David Hopkin, University of Glasgaow, 4 University Gardens, Glasgow G12 8QQ.

‘Mumming Traditions in Cross-Border and Cross-Community Contexts’ is an international conference being planned by the Academy of Irish Cultural Heritages, University of Ulster; Department of Irish Folklore, University College Dublin and the University of Turku. It will be held at the University of Ulster, Londonderry, from 9 – 13 June 2003. [please note that this is a change of date from previous announcements.] 

"Roomer" Index

Roomer was an ‘early technology version’ of Traditional Drama Forum and was very influential in its day. One thing it lacked was an index. Herbert Halpert of the Department of Folklore at the Memorial University of Newfoundland drew attention to this lack and in the last few months of his life drew up what may have been the start of such a document. Christopher Cawte who is among other things an indexer extraordinaire has started this task from scratch. I have seen some of this work and look forward to seeing it completed. The Index will make Roomer much more accessible. When completed, it is planned that the Index will be mounted on this website.


Christine Bloxham "May Day to Mummers. Folklore and traditional customs in Oxfordshire"

Charlbury; Wychwood Press, 2002. ISBN 1-902279-11-5. Ł12.99

The book is a year-round survey of folk custom and performance in Oxfordshire. There is a chapter on the mumming play which includes a list of geographical occurrences in the county. The texts of the Islip and Westcott Barton plays are also printed.

Alan J. Fletcher "Drama, Performance and Polity in Pre-Cromwellian Ireland"

Cork University Press, 2000. ISBN 1 85918 245 3. Ł75

Alan J. Fletcher "Drama and the Performing Arts in Pre-Cromwellian Ireland. A repertory of sources and documents from the earliest times until c.1642"

Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2001. ISBN 0 85991 573 5. Ł90.

Fletcher is a lecturer in English at University College Dublin and has a special interest in the history of drama in Ireland. Drama and the Performing Arts in Pre-Cromwellian Ireland is, in effect, the REED volume for Ireland whilst Drama, Performance and Polity in Pre-Cromwellian Ireland is an analytical history. There are some references to folk plays.

Kathleen Harryman "‘By my travels’: the Doctor’s Speeches in Some North-Western Pace-Egging Plays"

Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, Vol.81, No.1, Spring 1999, pp 113-125

Jane Langton "The Shortest Day, murder at the revels"

Viking Press, 1995

This is a murder mystery set around Harvard University. It tells how a number of folks associated with the ‘Christmas Revels’ get bumped off. It’s got carols, morris dancing and a mumming play – based on John Langstaff’s Saint George and the Dragon. Lots of lovely little black and white vignette illustrations; the jacket has a colour pic of a fight between the Turkish Knight and Saint George. The book is not available in England as far as I know, but plenty of copies on www.abebooks.comwhen I last looked.

Kevin Lodge & Leila Leeson "Strange Meeting. Or how Eydon’s Mummers Play was preserved"

"Landscapes and Laundry and other tales of old Eydon", Reports from the Eydon Historical Research Group, Vol.3, June 2002

Kevin Lodge "‘In comes I … (Some notes towards understanding Eydon’s Mummers Play)"

"Landscapes and Laundry and other tales of old Eydon", Reports from the Eydon Historical Research Group, Vol.3, June 2002

References to the meeting of James Madison Carpenter and Billy Brum of Eydon. Has a text of the Eydon mummers’ play.

[Copies available from Mrs L. Leeson, 12 Moreton Road, Eydon, Northants, NN11 3PA cost Ł4 - UK postage 50p. Cheques should be made payable to EHRG]

Peter Millington "The Origins and Development of English Folk Plays"

PhD Thesis, University of Sheffield, May 2002

An extended abstract available online at:, along with a new play classification, a genealogical diagram and a reconstructed proto-text. These pages are well worth a visit. Millington, using a database of some 181 early play texts and fragments has carried out an extensive analysis using tools and programs which he created. Whilst some of his revised terminology is the subject of debate, there is no doubt that his computer-based analysis can and will add much to our understanding of the origin and spread of play texts.

Brian Pearce "‘We are six dancers bold …’ A History of the Greatham Sword Dance"

Redcar Sword Dancers, 2001

Copies of this twenty page booklet are available at a cost of Ł2 per copy plus postage from Brian Pearce, 4 Normanby Road, Ormesby, Middlesborough, TS7 9NS. From the same source, there is also a professionally produced video of a performance of the dance and play at a cost of Ł6 per copy plus postage.

Nigel Pennick "Crossing the Borderlines. Guising, Masking and Ritual Animal Disguise in the European Tradition"

Cheiveley, Berks. Capall Bann, 1998. ISBN 186163 0352. Ł11.95

References to Old Tup and Old Horse performances; the Dorset Ooser and some folk plays.

Lois Potter (ed.) "Playing Robin Hood. The Legend as Performance in Five Centuries"

Newark, University of Delaware Press; London: Associated University Presses, 1998. ISBN 0-87413-663-6

Whilst there is no one chapter in this book concentrating on folk drama, there are brief mentions of folk plays throughout.

Ian Robinson and John Harrold "The Daily Express Rupert Annual"

Exeter, Pedigree Books, 2002. Ł6.99

For those of us able to take our folk plays lightly, this year’s Rupert Annual provided some welcome reading over Christmas. One of the stories, ‘Rupert and the Christmas Play’ is based on the St George play we know and love.

Meg Twycross and Sarah Carpenter "Masks and Masking in Medieval and Early Tudor England"

Aldershot, Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2002. ISBN ) 7546 0230 3 Ł47.50

This is another book which does not have any main section on the folk play. It has a chapter ‘Mumming’ but this deals with the non-play version. Whilst the book will appeal mainly to students of medieval theatre, it does, have many references to folk performances of various kinds. It is a book which will be read keenly by anyone with a wide interest in folk drama and traditional performance.

William Tydeman, ed. "The Medieval European Stage 500 – 1550"

Cambridge University Press, 2001. ISBN 0 521 24609 1. Ł90

The bulk of the book is a bringing together of a wide ranging selection of source material to cover exactly what the title suggests. Section J, pp. 615 – 665, however, edited by Tom Pettitt and Leif Sondergaard, is an excellent survey entitled ‘Traditions of the people: customs and folk drama’.