Green Women and Green Beasts - performance

My Maypole performance was an amalgam of May celebrations through different points in time. I was looking to create an experience through ritual, rather than faithfully recreate an event from the past.


In my imagining I combined elements of earlier Maypole dance with the May Day procession seen in London streets in the 18th and 19th centuries. Neil Transpontine observes that with May Day celebrations different elements are picked up, some lost or forgotten but various people at different times choose the parts which chime with them and their views and concerns [1]. According to Roy Judge, “May Day should be thought of as producing a diversity of activity, which changed its associations... not a set, immutable pattern, but rather a fluid, moving process, which combined different elements at different times”. [2] 


Nostalgia for May Day has been around for centuries, illustrated by the lament of one writer “The May-day morris dancers have degenerated into Jack-in-the-green and his attendants, and they are not what they used to be; the dance of milk-maids is no more; the May-pole is unhonoured; all the old customs are dying out"[3].


Paradoxically, nostalgia is what Transpontine believes has helped May Day endure and give it longevity: “We love it for what it has been - for what it reminds us of; for undying memories and evergreen associations”[4]. However, May Day's link with the past doesn't stop it looking forward - there is a fundamental hopefulness in honouring the continual return of burgeoning growth.


May Day festivities offer a brief look at another way of life. They're a pronouncement of joy - time spent with others in the open air and a prioritising of pleasure over work.





[1] Neil Transpontine ‘May Day in South London: a History’
[2] Roy Judge (2000) ‘Jack in the Green’

[3] John Stowe (1870 'Sports and Pasttimes of Old Time’

[4] PIP 2 May 1863, quoted in Neil Transpontine ‘May Day in South London: a History’