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Twelfth Night at Bankside

To Bankside on Sunday for the Twelfth Night celebrations from the Globe to the George Southwark.  This is a totally barmy, barking mad, eccentric English celebration incorporating ancient rituals like beating the bounds, mumming, wassailing, the traditional play of St George and the Dragon updated with the Mayor of Southwark and topical jokes. The Holly Man, as a winter projection of the Green Man of spring and fertility is (I believe) relatively modern, but built on sound tradition. He is evergreen in his holly (and ivy) and New Year is a good time for renewal and good cheer. 

It all starts outside the Globe Theatre the recreation of Shakespeare's theatre on the original site (the southbank of the River Thames, opposite the City of London and away from the Corporation's rules and legislation.)

Musicians played, singers quaffed (that's like drinking but you spill more - unnecessarily wasteful if you ask me) and pedlars sold programms and cheese rolls.

Exit pursued by a bear...

Some were Tudor, some Victorian, some Civil War era but who cares - London is an old city. The Southwark Town Cryer called out attention (Oyez, Oyez!) and the mayor and mummers waited for the arrival of the Holly Man. Sometimes he comes by boat but if the tide isn't right he and his party process over the Millennium footbridge from St Pauls.

The River was wassailed and the Mayor wassailed the gates of the Globe.

Then St George fought the Dragon, sometimes he kills the dragon, or the dragon kills him, but they are revived by The Doctor, which is the cue for pertinent jokes about the state of the NHS. 

Baskets of cakes were passed round and the two persons who found the pea and the bean were crowned King and Queen. Then the procession (which was all of us) danced and shuffled along Bankside, down Clink Street (site of the old Clink prison) through Borough Market, stopping the traffic in Borough High Street to the George Inn which is the last of the galleried coaching Inns in London. The next yard is Tabard Yard; you will recall that Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrims started from The Tabard one April morning. There was more merriment, but we couldn't stay.

 

Wassail! 

Photographs E Weatherwax, her husband and Susan Sto Helit. London 2018

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