Wednesday, 29 June 2016

SPIRIT OF THE FESTIVAL

Photo courtesy of Kim Garland/Middlewich Today
 For the 2016 Middlewich FAB Festival Michelle Parsons of local Facebook Group Middlewich Today had the bright idea of running a competition, open to mobile phone camera users only, for pictures capturing the spirit of the Festival.

Festival organiser Dave Thompson offered a prize of  two tickets for the 2017 festival for the winner, and members of the group cast their votes for a final shortlist of eight photos. The Middlewich Diary is pleased to present the first and second prize winners for those who haven't seen them.

The first prize was won by Kim Garland for her excellent photo of this year's Festival Queen Chloe Garland in the company of some very distinguished avian visitors from just down the road in the village of Moulton.

This photo is very historic for two reasons; firstly because it shows Chloe on what must have been one of her very first official engagements, doing just what she will be doing all over the local area between now and June next year - meeting people of all shapes and sizes. Though rarely, perhaps, people dressed in such an unusual fashion.

MIDDLEWICH ROSE QUEEN 2016 CROWNED (MIDDLEWICH GUARDIAN REPORT)

This photo is also historic because it captures something unique: a visit by the Moulton Crows to a neighbouring town. They normally only perform their 'Crow Dance' in Moulton itself. All credit to festival director Dave Thompson of Middlewich Town Council who persuaded them to break their 'golden rule' and perform in Middlewich as part of the 10th Anniversary of the revival of the original Moulton Crows.

The Moulton Crow Dance, and the Moulton Crow Fair date back to the 1920s. Details of its history can be found on the BBC's Domesday Reloaded site:

MOULTON CROW FAIR


And here's a more detailed history from Kim Garland:

The Moulton Crows started in the 1920's when many of the men had been laid off from working in the Salt Mines.

They started dancing in competitions to win money. They won so many competitions that they stopped entering them in order to give others a chance of winning, and made paid appearances instead.

The dance was traditionally known as "The Relic of the Cornfields" and was originally danced by men dressed all in black with  yellow beaks.

The dance also features a farmer and a scarecrow who comes to life at the end and follows the crows.

Over the years the dance slowly declined until it disappeared altogether.

The tradition started again around the late 70's/early 80's. This time it was the local school children who performed the dance.
The children's version of the dance was performed for over thirty years, and there aren't many Moulton children who weren't 'crows' at some time in their lives!

As so often happens,  this tradition also slowly died. 

Then, on  Saturday 15th July 2006  a group of men from the village restarted the tradition of performing the dance at the annual Crow Fair (I  know the specific date of this as it was the day I got married and the whole village was lining the streets waiting for the crows as I arrived at church!)

The men have gone back to performing the original, traditional dance as performed back in the 1920's.

There is a great shroud of secrecy around the Crows.

Their identity is to be kept secret at all times (although it's hard to maintain this secrecy when they all congregate in the pub ready for rehearsal!)

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the revival of the  Moulton Crows, and this is one of the reasons why they decided to perform at the FAB Festival. 

Kim Garland
June 2016

The gentleman on the right, by the way, is festival veteran and melodeon virtuoso Ian Murfitt, who came to Middlewich by boat in the 1990s intending to stay for a little while. He's still here and very much a part of our community.


Photo Courtesy of Rachel Humphreys/Middlewich Today
Second prize was awarded to Rachel Humphreys for this evocative photo which was christened The Boy On The Bridge by group members. It perfectly captures the air of anticipation in the days before the FAB Festival each year as canal boats from far and wide gather for the event.

As it became clear just how successful the 2016 festival was going to be, someone commented that the fact that Middlewich hosted this amazing event year after year meant that living here was 'like having Christmas twice a year'!

You can, of course, see canal boats in Middlewich any day of the year, but in the week before the annual FAB Festival the amount of boats on the Trent and Mersey and the SUC Middlewich Branch, and the sheer variety of the boats to be seen, with historic working boats mixed in with pleasure craft and modern-day trading boats of all kinds, is truly something to behold.

Don't you just know that The Boy On the  Bridge just can't wait for the festival to start?

You can find the other short-listed competition photos, along with many other pictures of this year's FAB Festival on the Middlewich Today group:

MIDDLEWICH TODAY ON FACEBOOK

Dave Roberts
Editor

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