How Did it all Begin?
More information can be found on the Widcombe Mummers’ own website widcombe mummers.org.uk
The Widcombe Mummers began in 2005 following an inspirational sighting of the famous Marshfield Mummers in a rare summer performance at the English Country Music weekend.
If Marshfield could do it why not Widcombe? Recruitment of performers and musicians built to a frenzy over the Autumn period, aided by a stirring talk from Britain’s top mumming expert, Doc Rowe, at the Widcombe Association October meeting. Script writing and practices miraculously occurred, with the first performance being unleashed on New Year’s Day 2006.
What is ‘Mumming’?
Think of it as street pantomine with a 300-year history. There is a traditional story with traditional characters but no fixed script, and indeed every mummers group takes pride in creating its own tradition. Once upon a time mummers groups existed in villages the length and breadth of the country. Many groups died out after World War I, but there are still many groups active. Locally they can be found at Marshfield and Keynsham as well as Widcombe. (The other Bath group, Weston Mummers, had a rest this year.)
The basic Mummers story is easy to tell. A ‘head man’ makes space for the players and introduces some heroes. They have a fight and one is killed. A Doctor and his boy are called in to find a cure. After some small adventure a cure is brought but the Doctor wants to charge too much. King George takes matters into his own hands to cure his friend/enemy and all ends happily.
How do we do it in Widcombe?
Performances are held on New Year’s Day starting from St Thomas’ Church at noon. Performance venues are (depending on circumstances) Widcombe Manor, Widcombe Crescent , and Prior Park Garden Centre. The players process from place to place preceded by musicians playing tunes carefully chosen to stir the blood and ward off evil weather. Each performance lasts about 8 minutes and ends with a song This year (2010) we premiered the brand-new Song for Widcombe: Widcombe you’re a Jewel.
The whole thing is over in about an hour.