Museum exhibition focuses on the magic of myths and tradition

Oxford Mail: Ock Street Mayor Roger Cox is carried aloft after his election Ock Street Mayor Roger Cox is carried aloft after his election

IN an ancient tradition dating back to 1700, Roger Cox was carried aloft through the streets of Abingdon.

Last June, Mr Cox was elected Mayor of Ock Street for the sixth year running, and also as the Squire of Abingdon Traditional Morris Dancers.

As part of the ritual, morris dancers deliver ballot papers to all Ock Street residents who then vote for their chosen ‘mayor’ as a traditional snub to civic authority.

The image of newly-elected Mr Cox being carried through the town is one of 50 photos in a new show highlighting folklore, myths and traditions from across the country.

The exhibition at the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock features the photos of Sara Hannant, and is entitled Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey Through the English Ritual Year.

Ms Hannant, from London, said: “Oxfordshire has a lot of fascinating traditions and I’m delighted the museum in Woodstock is staging the exhibition.”

The photos went on show at the Park Street venue on Saturday and the exhibition runs until July 28.

Museum director Carol Anderson said: “With May Morning celebrations in Oxford tomorrow, it’s a great time to put this on.

“People will be able to find out more about local traditions, and traditions in other parts of the country.

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“As well as the photos, visitors can see a Maypole from Cogges Manor and costumes worn by Abingdon Morris men.

“Woodstock has its own tradition of a Mock Mayor and we have a Mock Mayor costume dating back to the 18th century.

“Sara’s photos are very lively and she has captured different traditions at festivals around the country.”

Lorraine Horne, audience development officer at the museum, added: “These photographs show a quintessential English life that is steeped in tradition and mystery.

“All of the pictures are compelling and give a real sense of the excitement of costumed processions, traditional dances and mumming plays that are held in rural and urban locations throughout the country.”

Other photos show Maypole dancers at the Jack-in-the-Green Festival in Hastings, Sussex, the Tree of Fire celebration to mark the beginning of spring in Marsden, Yorkshire, and flaming tar barrels at a ceremony in Lewes, Sussex.

During the Woodstock Carnival on Saturday, June 22, Ms Hannant will be at the museum.

An activity session on the day will give visitors the chance to make a mask to wear in the carnival procession.

The museum is open from 10am to 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday, and from 2pm to 5pm on Sunday.

lFor more exhibition details, go to the website sarahannant.com

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