Traditional Drama Research Group
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International Mummers Symposium

International Mummers Symposium 4th January 2021

Virtual Event: below are youtube links to the talks and demonstrations presented during the Symposium on the 4th of January, together with the timing of each speaker. Below these links are included the abstracts of each paper. Panel chairpersons are Olly Crick, David Petts and Stephen Rowley, and each panel is followed by a brief discussion.


Panel 1: Mumming in the UK


Frome Valley Morris Mummers

David Milner (00.00)


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 Broadway, 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.


The Hollington Tipteers

Keith Leech (21.25) 


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.


The Brummagen Mummers 

Ann Simpson (41.50)


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 play.

Panel 2: European Contexts


The Buso Masks of Hungary

Dr Ildiko Solti (00.50)


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.


The Merry Mourning: The Festival of the Burial of the Sardine in Madrid

Dr Leticia Carlino (22.03)


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.


Was Pulcinella a Pastafarian? -- Folk plays, Folk Religions and the Evolution of Carnival

Bill Tuck (43.57)


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!


Mummerandada; Mumming meets Dada

Dr Bim Mason (1.04.11)

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.


Keynote and Panel 3 Keynote:



Mummers’ Plays Revisited

Professor Peter Harrop (01.50)


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.


Panel 3: Contemporary Reinventions and Re-imaginings

Pagan Rave, Ireland

Dr Billy Mac Fhoine (1.22.15)


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.


The Long Company (Yorkshire, UK)

Pete Coe (1.42.08)


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.


The Armagh Rhymers (Armagh, Ireland)

Dara and Anne Vallely (2.01.24)


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.


Panel 4: Mumming in the New World (and plenary discussion)


Off the Streets And On To the Stage And Back Again - Mumming in The United States

Claudia Chapman (video sadly unavailable due to a technical glitch).


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.


50 years of Disguising: Newfoundland Mumming, 1970-2020

Dr Lynn Lunde (00.00)


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.


The Newfoundland Mummers Parade

Lynn McShane (21.04) 


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!

Plenary Discussion (50.00- 1.53)

Conference date(s): 
Sunday, 21 February, 2021