2005 Press coverage

Village revives historic holiday maypole tradition

Harrogate Advertiser
Wednesday 1st June 2005

“HUNDREDS of villagers lined the streets of Barwick-in-Elmet on Bank Holiday Monday to celebrate the return of the traditional maypole ceremony in the village. After the ceremony was cancelled because of health and safety fears in 1999, organisers decided to bring it back with the help of manpower and machinery. A team of men carried the maypole into position before ropes hoisted the 86ft pole into place. Nigel Trotter, chairman of the Barwick Maypole Trust, who led the ceremony, said: ”We are delighted with the way the event has gone. “Its lovely to keep the tradition going. “We’ve had to slightly change the way of doing it, but I think we have successfully evolved the tradition.” The raising of the maypole was central to the proceedings early in the day, before 13-year-old Maddi Cornforth was crowned Maypole Queen by Lady Mayoress of Leeds, Pat Hyde. She was joined by Maid of Honour Phoebe Hainsworth, also 13, as the pair led a parade through the village. Children from Barwick-in-Elmet Church of England primary school entertained the crowds with maypole dancing before villager Chris Brown wrapped up the proceedings by climbing to the top of the maypole to spin the weather vane. “We look forward to doing it again in 2008,” Mr Trotter said.”

Painter puts village in pole position for parade

Yorkshire Evening Post
Friday 27th May 2005
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“Hard-working Alan weathers the storms as an old ceremony is set to make a comeback

By Howard Williamson

PAINTING the Barwick-in-Elmet maypole was as hard as it gets for local pensioner Alan King. He set aside a month for the task but did not plan for weather more suited to March than May. The 72-year-old former sales manager said: “It was harder than I expected and I reckon I have spent 170 hours on planing, sanding and then painting the 86ft pole. “It was quite tiring and I’m not getting any younger. Frost made it hard for the paint to set and I was caught in hail storms three times. There is no shelter in the field where I worked and at times it was like a wind tunnel. “But it’s finished now and the pole looks nice in red and blue paint.” Alan, of Leeds Road, moved to Barwick in 1964 and began helping the maypole committee two years later. He became apprentice to the former maypole painter, John Leek, from whom he took over in 1991.

The maypole ceremony will be revived on Monday after a gap of six years. The pole will be raised by volunteers at 11am. At 1pm there will be a parade through the village led by May queen Madelaine Cornforth, 13, who will ride on a decorated farm cart pulled by a tractor. The parade will also include vintage tractors. The Lady Mayoress of Leeds, Mrs Pat Hyde, will crown the queen by 2.15pm, and at 2.30 schoolchildren will dance around a smaller replica pole. At 4pm garlands will be raised on the big pole and a volunteer will shin up it to spin the weather vane at the top.
Car parking will be available in Jack Heap’s Field – a short walk from The Cross where the maypole will be raised – and from Hall Tower Field, where there will be dancing. More than 250 people have asked to place their names and brief messages in a time capsule to be buried next to the maypole base. “We will leave instructions that it should not be opened until May 31, 2056,” said Nigel Trotter, chairman of the maypole trust.”

Village set to welcome its new 86ft maypole

Yorkshire Evening Post
Friday 8th April 2005
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“THE east Leeds village of Barwick-in-Elmet has ordered a new maypole from Scandinavia for its Spring Bank Holiday festival. It has cost 1,400 and, at around 86ft, will be the tallest maypole in Britain. It has been shipped to Newport, South Wales, and will be pressure-treated with preservative. Soon it will be transported to the village where it will be painted and have brackets fitted to take floral garlands. It will then be raised in a ceremony on May 30.

“With luck the new pole should last 20 years,” said Nigel Trotter, chairman of Barwick Maypole Trust and its consulting engineer. “The old pole was lowered on Easter Monday and it was not possible to carry out a detailed examination of it before then. “We thought this might reveal the need for some expensive repairs and that would have left little time to prepare a new pole before the ceremony. So, looking to the future, we thought it would be safer and more cost-effective to replace the pole with a new one.”

The best type of tree for a maypole is a slow-growing species like Scots Pine. Though these do grow in the UK, the best specimens are from the colder parts of Scandinavia. The Trust intends to recycle the old pole by using part of it to make a new gate for Hall Tower Field, where maypole dancing takes place, and by cutting the rest into souvenir logs which will be sold.

Four new garlands, which will be placed high up the maypole, have been made by local women and during May will be taken door-to-door by local footballers in the traditional ceremony of “showing the garlands.”
They hope that householders will give a donation to the Trust.”

We’re back in pole position…

Yorkshire Evening Post
Friday 28th January 2005
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“Traditional ceremony to return after six years

by Howard Williamson

IMPROVED technology will enable the country’s highest maypole to turn again after a gap of six years. The traditional maypole ceremony is to take place in an east Leeds village after residents found a way to meet new health and safety regulations which had silenced the fun back in 1999. Residents at Barwick-in-Elmet had traditionally lowered and then raised the 86ft wooden pole with ropes, ladders and plenty of human effort.

It was last done this way in 1999 since when health and safety regulations have been made tougher. These caused problems for villagers in 2002 – when the triennial festival was last held – and so they held the celebrations without the maypole ceremony. But now they say they can meet the regulations and will first take down and then raise up the pole again, using a tractor and crane and manual labour.

Nigel Trotter, a qualified engineer, was confident the village could meet regulations and called a public meeting to galvanise support. Now chairman of the maypole committee, he said: “Although the lifting techniques will be new to the ceremony, they are a logical development of the traditional techniques used over the past 50 years.”

The maypole is traditionally lowered to ground at Easter and then raised again at Spring Bank Holiday (formerly Whitsuntide) which this year falls on Monday, May 30. Popular features of maypole day will be retained. Children will again travel in procession from the village primary school to the ancient Hall Tower Field on farm carts, pulled by tractors provided by local farmers. A maypole queen will be crowned before children dance around a smaller replica of the main pole.

A team of ladies is now hard at work making traditional garlands from fabric which will be hung two-thirds of the way up the pole. These will look like flower baskets and each petal will be made and stitched by hand. Festival spokesman Ron Miller said: “They have to be weather proof because they will have to stay on the pole for three years until the next ceremony.”

A 2005 calendar featuring photographs of previous maypole ceremonies and Barwick in Bloom floral displays was so popular it sold out in days. Most of Britain’s surviving maypoles – which in pagan times were fertility symbols – are in Yorkshire. They were banned in Oliver Cromwell’s time but were allowed again with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Iron age earthworks can be found in Hall Tower Field where the maypole dancing takes place.”

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