Weird England [the Essay]

Episodes

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Horn Dance20181221

In this series of Essays, we usher you into a secret world of hidden folklore. Five young writers explore the odder, darker corners of English tradition: this is not an England of bluetits, roses and white cliffs, nor of country lanes and thatched cottages, but an invitation into a compendium of bizarre and sometimes creepy rural rituals.

Each writer lives or has lived in the area. Their impression of the event stirs childhood memories, fires new convictions, deepens an understanding of ritual and reveals the awkward transposition of ancient ceremonies in contemporary life. In the final essay, the Japanese poet Lila Matsumoto takes her visiting parents to a Staffordshire horn dance.

This series attempts to hear younger witnesses writing for the times in which we live: dispatches on Englishness from the weird frontline.

5. Horn Dance

Poet Lila Matsumoto was born in Japan but has made the Midlands her home. In the final essay, she takes her visiting parents to Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire, to watch the ancient Horn Dance. A group of local men carry stags’ horns on their heads, dancing through the village and the surrounding countryside. As Lila watches with her Japanese parents she explores the meaning of home, and what it feels like to be cast as an outsider in this weird England.

Poet Lila Matsumoto visits Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire and the ancient Horn Dance.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

Snatch Valentine20181220

In this series of Essays, we usher you into a secret world of hidden folklore. Five young writers explore the odder, darker corners of English tradition: this is not an England of bluetits, roses and white cliffs, nor of country lanes and thatched cottages, but an invitation into a compendium of bizarre and sometimes creepy rural rituals.

Each writer lives or has lived in the area. Their impression of the event stirs childhood memories, fires new convictions, deepens an understanding of ritual and reveals the awkward transposition of ancient ceremonies in contemporary life. In the final essay, the Japanese poet Lila Matsumoto takes her visiting parents to a Staffordshire horn dance.

This series attempts to hear younger witnesses writing for the times in which we live: dispatches on Englishness from the weird frontline.

Snatch Valentine

Valentine’s Day in Norfolk and other parts of Eastern England was a children’s festival, where Jack Valentine would appear on the night before, mysteriously leaving a gift for the younger members of the house. But the unluckiest Norfolk children were faced with the ordeal of Snatch Valentine, where the gift was suddenly taken away from them. Writer Laura Joyce follows Jack Valentine down the streets of Norwich. Laura lived in Norwich for many years, and her essay is both a celebration of and a valedictory note to the city. In an elegiac piece, she reflects on the pleasures and the pains of gift-giving.

Writer Laura Joyce follows Jack Valentine down the streets of Norwich.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

Tar Bar'l20181217

In this series of Essays, we usher you into a secret world of hidden folklore. Five young writers explore the odder, darker corners of English tradition: this is not an England of bluetits, roses and white cliffs, nor of country lanes and thatched cottages, but an invitation into a compendium of bizarre and sometimes creepy rural rituals.

Each writer lives or has lived in the area. Their impression of the event stirs childhood memories, fires new convictions, deepens an understanding of ritual and reveals the awkward transposition of ancient ceremonies in contemporary life. In the final essay, the Japanese poet Lila Matsumoto takes her visiting parents to a Staffordshire horn dance.

This series attempts to hear younger witnesses writing for the times in which we live: dispatches on Englishness from the weird frontline.

1. Tar Bar’l

On New Year’s Eve in Allendale, Northumberland a group of men heave barrels of burning tar, kindling and paraffin onto their heads and process through the town. This is a programme devoted to the appeal of fire and flame. This is the Tar Barl Festival, Allendale’s way of marking the New Year for over 160 years. Groups of ‘guisers’ dress in costumes (‘guises’) and carry the fiery barrels on their heads. Novelist Naomi Booth presents. Naomi lives in Yorkshire, but remembers the icy cold of childhood Northumberland holidays. She finds herself strangely drawn to the fiery energy at the heart of Allendale’s New Year’s Eve festivities.

Novelist Naomi Booth is drawn to the fiery energy of Allendale\u2019s New Year festivities.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

Weird England: Bonfire20181219

In this series of Essays, we usher you into a secret world of hidden folklore. Five young writers explore the odder, darker corners of English tradition: this is not an England of bluetits, roses and white cliffs, nor of country lanes and thatched cottages, but an invitation into a compendium of bizarre and sometimes creepy rural rituals.

Each writer lives or has lived in the area. Their impression of the event stirs childhood memories, fires new convictions, deepens an understanding of ritual and reveals the awkward transposition of ancient ceremonies in contemporary life. In the final essay, the Japanese poet Lila Matsumoto takes her visiting parents to a Staffordshire horn dance.

This series attempts to hear younger witnesses writing for the times in which we live: dispatches on Englishness from the weird frontline.

3. Bonfire

Costumed revellers march to the drum beat. Fireworks crackle and explode, making patterns in the sky. Burning crosses move through the streets. And a giant effigy of Donald Trump is paraded through the town. This is Lewes, East Sussex, on Bonfire Night. Writer David Barnes, who grew up near the town, joins the processions, exploring the strange relationship between history and myth on display at Lewes Bonfire.

Writer David Barnes is immersed in history and myth at Lewes Bonfire.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

Weird England: Hunting the Earl20181218

In this series of Essays, we usher you into a secret world of hidden folklore. Five young writers explore the odder, darker corners of English tradition: this is not an England of bluetits, roses and white cliffs, nor of country lanes and thatched cottages, but an invitation into a compendium of bizarre and sometimes creepy rural rituals.

Each writer lives or has lived in the area. Their impression of the event stirs childhood memories, fires new convictions, deepens an understanding of ritual and reveals the awkward transposition of ancient ceremonies in contemporary life. In the final essay, the Japanese poet Lila Matsumoto takes her visiting parents to a Staffordshire horn dance.

This series attempts to hear younger witnesses writing for the times in which we live: dispatches on Englishness from the weird frontline.

2. Hunting the Earl

Poet Elizabeth-Jane Burnett takes part in the ritual of the Hunting of the Earl of Rone in Combe Martin, Devon, and investigates its history. The tradition commemorates the shipwreck of the Earl of Tyrone in 1607, captured by grenadiers and executed for sedition. Elizabeth-Jane is originally from Devon. In this essay, she weaves memories of life and loss, childhood and belonging into a poignant reflection on ritual and place.

Poet Elizabeth-Jane Burnett sets out to Hunt the Earl of Rone in Devon

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond