Marshfield Mummers Paperboys, Marshfield, Gloucestershire, England
Vintage Gelatin Silver Print
24 x 30.5 cms (9.43 x 11.99 ins)
Acquired directly from the artist
Signed on the reverse.
Although its origins are unknown, the "Marshfield Mummers" or Paper Boys is a folk tradition unlike any other. By the 1970s, when Homer Sykes was photographing, many traditional oral dramas had become fixed by having been written down, but the "Paper Boys" continued to base their performances on oral tradition which allowed for an improvised and spontaneous performance. Despite having been discontinued in 1890s, in 1932 Folklorist, Violet Alford and her brother, the local victor, reconstructed the play based on descriptions by older villagers who had performed it in their youth. The traditional costumes are made of newspaper stuck to a cowgown and then cut to a make a fringe. There were seven Mummers that made up the dramatic company including Father Christmas, Little Man John, King William, Dr. Phoenix, Saucy Jack, Tenpenny Nit, Beelzebub and a town crier that announced each performance. The Paper Boys performed five times each Boxing Day at the market square, three times on the village High Street and in the garden of Dr and Mrs Eastes where they recieved refreshments.
This photograph was included in the book by Homer Sykes Once a Year: Some Traditional British Customs (Gordon Fraser, 1977)
British Photography / The Hyman Collection