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It all started many years ago when I saw a photo of the Longparish Mummers and a copy of the script in a glass case in the Church. There were some interesting old scrapbooks there too. I wonder where they have gone.

I transcribed the text (as dictated to Ernest White) and put it in the Players area of the village website with a message saying that one day it might be revived.

Then four years ago I met Mike Dommett in a sweltering hot railway sleeper compartment in China and it turned out that he is a Crookham Mummer. That led to a Boxing Day visit to Crookham to see him and his team. It seemed like a good idea: beer, banter and a certain amount of gratuitous violence. Crookham regularly break 40 swords over three performances!

Then along came Terry Hemming with his pageant idea and could we revive the Mummers. Yes please!

Internet research turned up a picture of the Mummers outside Tudor Cottage. A book of folk plays from 1930 had a chapter on Longparish and Overton Mummers and it became clear that Longparish were the best dressed troupe in Hampshire.

Mary Snow’s eyes lit up when I visited her to mine her memory. As a child at Southside Farm in the 1930s she was told she could get up and watch the Mummers if she went to bed early. She peered through the banisters in her night dress to see the spectacle unfolding in the hallway below. Mary confirmed that the costumes were in colour though the photo was sepia. How could we re-create the wonderful costumes she remembered?

A very diffident call to Helen Ridge of the Craft Club produced an enthusiastic response. Martin Hulme produced six boiler suits and they were away. On successive Tuesdays the Village Hall was abuzz with the sound of sewing machines. More and more people volunteered to help and provided material to make the tatters and it turned out that Zoe Randall is married to an Overton Mummer and that Mike Dommett’s Dad helped re-start them 40 years ago. It’s a small world.

Then there were the hats. Georgina Knipe created what she termed “huge tasselled condoms” and we all made hats to put them over. They were painful and heavy to wear but you have to make sacrifices for art.

Meantime Martin already had a sword and shield (as you do) and being an engineer was able to make another. We rehearsed and adapted the play. The Turkish Knight became Yorkish, his sword became a cricket bat, the phrase “swivel eyed loon” was work ed into the script, Emma Smith started practicing on an accordion which I just happened to have lying aroun d (as you do) and we decided to use the Wassail Song.

In true Mumming tradition we practised at the pub (actually not so; true Mumming tradition is not to practise) and the clanging sounds of battle reached Sugar Lane. The first dress rehearsal showed that inhaling when wearing a hat covered with a huge tasselled condom can leading to nasty choking and hair grips and scrunchies came to the rescue.

We’d never used microphones before but it all worked out well. Our singing was boosted when the three choirs learned the Wassail Song on the afternoon of the Pageant and it was all systems go.

We crowded into the disabled loo to change and waited apprehensively for our cue. On we went. We remembered most of the words. The battling was noisy, the children watched with rapt attention and it all seemed to go down well.

Next day we re-enacted the Tudor Cottage picture, much to the amusement of passers-by. Martin and Sylvia Crook kindly plied us with drinks which made us think about what to do at Christmas. In the words of Mr Schwarzenegger, “We’ll be back!”.

Jeremy Barber aka Tall and Smart.