Mischief making in the Warwickshire countryside - The Leamington Observer

Mischief making in the Warwickshire countryside

Ian Hughes 7th Jan, 2023   0

THERE will be mischief making of a very British nature at Compton Verney this year.

The country house art gallery near Wellesbourne will be staging Making Mischief – the first exhibition in the UK dedicated to British folk costumes and customs from February 11 until June 11.

It will feature outfits made and worn for customs practiced by diverse communities across the country – from the Notting Hill Carnival in London to the Festival of the Horse in Orkney.

More than 40 costumes will be on display. Each one will demonstrate how widespread and diverse such folk customs are, from rural locations to towns and cities, as well as the creativity and evolution of Britain’s folk communities, which have continued to adapt and embrace changing times.

The exhibition will also highlights how connections with the environment and natural world are explored across different communities.

By highlighting developing practices, such as the rise of all-female Morris sides and the inclusion of LGBTQ+ performers in some customs, the exhibition also turn the spotlight on the increasing inclusivity among the UK’s folk communities.

The exhibition will also trace the origins of folk costume in Britain through objects from Compton Verney’s collection and loans from the Museum of British Folklore, the English Folk Dance and Song Society and the English Folk Costume Archive, alongside the costumes and personal stories sourced directly from participants.

Covid had a huge impact on folk events and while many communities adapted by putting their events online, nothing could truly replicate the collective joy of Hastings’ Jack in the Green festival, or the raucous Haxey Hood game, played annually in the Lincolnshire village.

As these traditional activities begin to re-emerge, Making Mischief explores the shared creativity, resilience, identity and communal nature of British folk cultures and the vital role dress plays within them.

As the exhibition shows, certain themes recur throughout the various events and festivals – notably horses and, of course, music and dance – albeit with widely differing interpretations.

Embracing colour, sound and digital technologies to bring the experience of attending the many lively celebrations directly into the gallery spaces of Compton Verney, Making Mischief will also be accompanied by a programme of public workshops and events, which will enable visitors to learn new skills while exploring Britain’s rich folk heritage and links with seasonality, sustainability and the natural world.

The programme will include a new commission for dressing the facade of the historic house, as well as a new co-created dance piece taking inspiration from the diverse folk-dance traditions found in the Midlands.

Compton Verney curator Oli McCall said: “This unique and ambitious exhibition promises to be a vibrant demonstration of the sheer variety of local and seasonal folk customs practiced in Britain today, some of which have roots stretching back centuries. It will be an exploration of the enduring appeal of folk customs and a celebration of their communality.

“Visitors will come face-to-face with costumes – many of which will be on public display for the first time – that have been skillfully crafted and imbued with the love and care of their makers.

“Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we will also have an exciting public programme, including new artistic commissions with local groups, practical workshops and communal events. It is especially exciting to have this exhibition at Compton Verney, where so many of the themes will resonate with our rural location and the layered history of our site, as well with our local communities.”

Simon Costin, director of the Museum of British Folklore, is one of the curators of Making Mischief.

He said: “Folklore and vernacular culture have been over-looked and under-valued for so long in the UK and this exhibition hopes to give people an insight into how rich and vibrant it currently is, along with a timely reminder of the need for strong community relations, group creativity and radical self-expression.”

Visit www.comptonverney.org.uk for further details.




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