ALL HAIL THE MAY QUEEN!
The main thing I did yesterday was watch old British Pathe videos of coronations May Queens. There are a few videos of margates may queens being crowned. There is a video from Ramsgate 1937. A one Gwen Bourne. Nineteen years old being crowed at the bandstand up at the plains of waterloo. There’s loads of these videos. Most of them are silent. I’ll include a photo of my aunty carol being crowned may queen in the show notes.
Tho there’s one from Elstow Bedfordshire from 1936 that has some commentary.
Isn’t that wonderful? 1936. What do you think that line ‘What if the law did forbid the maypole? the only May politics worthwhile are the old english dances?” meant at the time to the people on the village green? The Long Parliament’s ordinance of 1644 described maypoles as “a Heathenish vanity, generally abused to superstition and wickedness.”
“The Two Babylons”, an anti-Catholic conspiracist pamphlet from 1853 Is a good read too.
Imagine what it means for a community to crown someone a queen. Even just for a day. The agency a community has over its own affairs. A coronation from Coronare ‘to crown, adorn with a garland’.
It is a shame that as the world has begun to turn around commercial rhythms and interpretations of the seasons that we don’t celebrate the outside more. Adorn one’s door or shop fronts with garlands, celebrating the season ahead. Is it smack of catholicism or something much older and more important?
I remember the first time I did a Maypole dance. I can’t remember if it was for a May celebration or for pentecost. And Did I learn the dance pattern at church or at school? I forget.
I do however remember my Nana who despite everything was always a farm girl at heart, and her elation as I told her i was going to be doing the dance, looking up at her from the floor of their backroom. “You hear that Laurie?” I can still hear her call that out now.
My memories of that dance are hazy. I don’t remember much, feelings more than memories. We were on kitties green just down from the church, the photo i mentioned is taken in the same place.
I remember the joy of skipping with a ribbon. The feeling as they tend round the pole that we were all in this together, as we continue the pattern will grow and it will bring us literally and perhaps figuratively together. Perhaps at some point when we can all dance and sing together again, there should be a ceremony. One that binds and shows that complicated connections we all share are part of a larger whole.
The above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in audio due to time constraints.