The Eleventh Festival
Friday July 2nd - Sunday July 4th. 2010
The band leads the way - Sunday's procession
© Steve and Brenda Day
A particular feature this year has been the extraordinary number of talented photographers who have covered the festival. Thanks to them all for their interest and stunning pictures. Some small copies of their work are used below to illustrate our account but please do follow the links and visit their individual galleries.
Click here for Rosy Burke's wonderful slide show - the music's pretty good too! Just a few of her many pictures are used below
On Friday we had workshops for school children run by artist Matthew Cowan fresh from his year long residency at Cecil Sharp House, headquarters of the English Folk dance and Song Society. As the creator of the 'Four Hobby Horses of the Apocalypse' - of which more later - we were delighted to welcome him to the festival. Working with a mixed age group at St. Mary's School together they created some natty horse head masks to bring along for the procession on Sunday.
Later that evening there was some marvelous music in the Old Reindeer courtesy of the Minehead Sailors Horse musicians and a number of strange encounters in restaurants round the town!
In for a session, Friday night at the Reindeer
© Jim Parham
Saturday dawned bright and warm and everyone gathered for the usual briefing in the hall of St. Mary's School before processing along the canal tow path, lead by the town band: Stephen Wass (melodeon), Meg Graham (pipe and tabor), Bryan Martin (violin) and Malcolm Woods (pipe and tabor) to the stand outside BHS at the Castle Quay Shopping Centre. Derek Droesher had already got Sarum Morris in place with Hob Nob and their 4 metre high giant Christopher by guiding them along a path which avoided the low canal bridge. He worked similar miracles throughout the day navigating the group round the town and avoiding the many obstacles put there with the express purpose of braining giants. It was an effort well worth making as Christopher really was a spectacular addition to the proceedings.
The town band Sam and Pete from Ilmington with Spike and one of the Wantsum Hoodeners Minehead at castle Quay
© Rosy Burke
Outside BHS each group was introduced and put on a turn. Morris was provided by Sarum as mentioned above, Ashley's Rise with Dennis the Horse, Cry Havoc with their accompanying buzzard and Adderbury by themselves. Also stepping forward to be introduced at the start of the day were the splendidly sinister hooden Horses from Broadstairs, the extraordinary Four Hobby Horses of the Apocalypse, the processional Dragon Spike from Golden Star Morris, Coppin, of course, and Douglas Pickering with Guiness his Mari Llywd from North Wales, Jules Proctor with Horton and last but not least our old friends Alhambra. We were also honoured to be joined once again by Sam the antique horse from Ilmington with his not so antique rider Pete Shadbolt. The Sailors Horse from Minehead made a splendid entry and stunned everyone with its energetic display of music and dance. Once everyone had made their bow we split the party up: some went to dance at the top end of the newly pedestrianized Market Place while others made their way to the bandstand.
The Cry Havoc Buzzard spreads his wings Douglas Pickering with Guiness in hand The Four Hobby Horses of the Apocalypse take in the shops
© Rosy Burke
A recurring feature of the festival in the appearance at the bandstand on a Saturday morning of a local preacher who takes it upon himself to preach against what he sees as the excesses of the Hobby Horse festival showing particular concern at those who were, "following those jingling bells to hell!" You can't beat it and few of us will forget the encounter between him and the Four Hobby Horses of the Apocalypse, especially the moment when they handed over a brief note proclaiming, "The end of the world is neigh." Once again sides, groups and beasts took it in turns to strut their stuff and be introduced to the spectators before moving up to the top end of the High Street for the final spot before lunch.
Spike makes new friends A Wantsum Hoodener scans the market "Is it real?" - an encounter with the Sailors Horse
© Rosy Burke
The Old Reindeer has always been a wonderful spot for lunch but now that the road is closed to traffic it makes an even better venue with music in the Globe Room, sandwiches in the back courtyard and dancing in the street and again the opportunity to savour the spectacle of the Sailors Horse wending its way up Parsons Street. Also attracting admiring gazes was Sarum's Christopher who propped himself up outside. We would have served him a pint - or perhaps a gallon would be more appropriate - if it hadn't have been for the fact that drinking in the street is frowned upon. Teams danced once again outside the Reindeer before spending an hour or so visiting those venues not scooped up in the morning. The Sailors Horse made its traditional visit to the Buck and Bell whilst the Four Hobby Horses of the Apocalypse managed to gate crash a wedding at St. Mary's Church -should make for some interesting photographs in the happy couples' album!Jim Parham visiting with the Minehead crew has a brilliant collection of pictures which can be viewed here, you can see some examples below:Christopher wondering when he's going to get a beer The Sailors Horse and St. Marys Church Death rides with the Company of the Owd Oss - scary
© Jim Parham
Eventually everyone reconvened at the top of the High Street for a procession, lead once more by the town band, to the bandstand. Here we were welcomed by the town Mayor, Councillor Colin Clarke and once again the beasts went through their paces the dances danced and the drummers drummed and two young ladies advertising the pleasures of a local night club got more than they had bargained for when the agreed to carry sandwich boards round town. Paul Bryan from Ilmington performed his famed broom dance haveing liberated a new one for under a fiver from the hardware shop opposite. Tea and Banbury cakes were calling and thanks to Trisha Campbell and her town hall team everyone enjoyed a well earned breather.
By 7.30 p.m. most people were sufficiently rested to venture back for the evening's 'Feast of the Beasts' - a suitably informal occasion at which the diners were served a choice of pates and hummus with French bread for starters, cooked meats, quiches and salad with hot new potatoes and ratatouille for main course and a fantastic selection of desserts produced by Yvonne Hallows. All this for just five pounds a head plus a free bar, ably organised by Paul Montague of Adderbury Morris. Thanks to them all and to Jane Hamel who supported us all in the kitchen. We were also very pleased to welcome the mayor and his consort to our little soiree. I'm not quite sure what they made of such entertainments as the Hoodeners sand dance (see a version performed here), dancing dolls, German tap dancing, step clog, virtuoso pipe and tabor playing, a variety of songs both traditional and music hall and of course Alhambra's incomparable rendition of 'Tip Toe Through the Tulips'. Whatever the case they stayed pretty well until the end.Chris Mitchell contributed this terrific portrat of the Fine Lady 2010 and the image at the head of this page. You can view his whole album here.
© Chris Mitchell
The festivities on Sunday began at 11.30 a.m. outside the town hall when again the remaining beasts put on a show. We were thrilled to welcome back the Company of the Old Oss for this with their musical mumming and also enjoyed a performance by the diminutive stick squad from St. Mary's School and Bloxham Morris. The Fine Lady's Fool organised, and with the help of local dignitaries judged, the fancy dress competition and then, as expected, the high point of the festival was naturally the appearance of the Fine Lady, looking younger than ever and gracious as always. She lead the procession which departed at 12.30 accompanied by her fool and the town band up the High Street, round the Cross and down into Peoples Park. here the crowds were able to enjoy the parade of the beasts and bringing up the rear in fine style once again the Sailors Horse from Minehead delivering a final superb display in the arena. This included the unusual if not unique sight of the Fine Lady's Fool being ceremoniously booted, an honour very rarely bestowed on anyone outside of Minehead.We have a wonderful video shot of the procession by Jim Parham featuring the Minehead Sailors Horse, here are a few stills, click here to view it all
The Fine Lady shows the way, the apocalypse follows on and Minehead brings up the rear
© Jim Parham
Later in the arena we had brief appearances once again by Bloxham Morris and the St. Mary's School Stick Squad, the maypole was erected and danced round and the band 'Old Mettle' entertained away from the arena and as far as the festival was concerned that about wrapped it up expect for saying many goodbyes to friends old and new and many thanks to our brilliant team of helpers especially Derek and Mary, Steve and Brenda Day, Monty and Yvonne, Philip, Paula, Brenda, Maggie, Tony, Linda and John. And that was it until next year.
The Sailors Horse pays its respects to the Fine Lady The Fine lady's Fool recovering from her booting All around the maypole
© Steve and Brenda DayThe Tenth Festival
© Rosy Burke
For centuries hobby horses, Jack in the Greens, straw men and other similar characters brought life and colour to civic processions in towns and cities across the country. Many of them can be seen in carvings in local churches.
Four hundred years ago the Puritans not only destroyed Banbury’s famous crosses but rid the streets of these practices along with Morris Dancing and other ungodly festivities such as Christmas and football!
At the beginning of the new millennium it was decided that the time had come to reinstate these traditions; bring fun and splendour back into the life of the town.
The Outside Capering Crew cut a dash
© Rosy Burke
The Programme for 2011
We will be continuing with a range of free workshops during the day which will culminate in a performance during Town Mayor's Sunday.
And in the evening.....
Visiting teams and beasts can register their presence at St. Mary's School, Banbury from 4.30 p.m. until 7pm, and thereafter at the Reindeer.We will issue information packs for each group and show you to your camping pitch. There are a number of places very close by to eat before adjourning to the Reindeer for a good pint of "Hooky" a chat and a music session.
For those arriving on Saturday someone will be available to welcome you at the school with refreshments and information pack from 9.30 am.
From 10.30 a.m. onwards: Morris, mumming and general horsing about in Banbury. There will be some "organised" tours, but groups are free to go off and make mayhem within a general and very flexible framework if they prefer.
12.30 - 2.00 Rolling lunch break in the Old Reindeer Inn in Parsons Street.
Lunchtime music session in the Globe Room, courtesy of Derek and Mary from Banbury Folk Club.
2.00 - 2.50 Further performances round town meeting at the White Lion for....
3.00 procession down High Street, massed stand, then a bit of a breather for those who need it, and for those with energy to burn a chance to look round the town and shops. It may be possible to arrange a guided history tour, and I have had offers of workshops from several participants (details to be confirmed shortly) if anyone is interested- please let me know.
Evening Following the success of the 2010 meal with catering by 'Hungry Horse Enterprises' the 'feast of the beasts' again will be at the Town Hall, as guests of the Mayor, with a three course sit down meal with hot options (buffet service). Everyone will have a chance to dance, sing and otherwise cavort as befitting a bunch of beasts!
11.00 onwards performances in High Street and outside the Town Hall as crowds gather for ....
12.30 Mayor's procession, Town Hall - Banbury Cross - People's Park for....
1.00 Town Mayor's Sunday (organised by Banbury Town Council): parade of beasts, dancing, beer tent, comic cock horse races for adults and children (feel free to enter a team), sideshows, fairground rides, teas, children's fancy dress on cock horses.
During the afternoon we deck and erect a traditional English maypole, based on 16th century engravings. This commemorates the Neithrop Maypole which was suppressed by local Banbury puritans in 1589, which just goes to show you can't keep a good pole down.
Over the last few years guests have included:
Wickham Morris and Dragon
Rabble Folk Theatre
Sam from Ilmington
Llantrisant Mari Lwyd
Cry Havoc with their accompanying buzzard
Sarum Morris with Hob Nob and Giant
Minehead Sailor's Hobby Horse
The Fine Lady and Blanche
Cobb's Horse from Adderbury Morris
Taureau de Perols and Greatworth
Nell the Elephant with Bloxham Morris
Eric the Wyre Forest Stag,
Trigger and Trotter of Trigg
Ashley's Rise and Dennis the horse
Bristol Morris Horse
Smiffy (Richard Lewis)
Headlong (Tim Healey)
Root and Branch Theatre
Wessex Morris Men and the Dorset Ooser
Outside Capering Crew
Wantsum Morris Men's Hooden Horses
Black Skunk Border Morris and Alligator
Spike from Golden Star Morris
Company of the Old Oss
with many other assorted fine animals:
For many years Sandy Glover, town crier, acted as master of ceremonies around the town on Saturday, and introduced participants at our massed stand in the afternoon. Sandy maintained a parallel site at Hobbyhorsefest.has.it
(If your link is not here please let us have it and we will happily include it!)
As this is essentially a free festival we do not book guests as such although we may in certain circumstances offer financial support. We are not always sure, until the weekend itself exactly who is going to turn out,. If you've been before we would love to see you again, if you are Hobby Horse Festival virgins we will be equally pleased to see you (we'll be gentle with you).
All beasts and attendants are welcome - please let us know if you are coming so that we can tell the rest of the world!
The festival operates in partnership with Banbury Town Council as Sunday's procession is in support of the new town mayor, find out more at Banbury.gov.uk
A rare siting of Cobb's Horse ( it's that red thing )... Sidmouth 1976
Banbury Hobby Horse Festival extends an open invitation to all hobby horses and related animals, plus companions, to have a great time at each year's gathering.
The festival provides a rare opportunity to perform alongside groups of dancers with traditions stretching back centuries - and their hobby horses, of course.
We have around 40 animals each year. The atmosphere is extremely convivial, and the pace fairly relaxed. As well as general horsing about and processing spectacularly through the pleasant market town of Banbury, we have music and song sessions, talks and great food. There are also community events.
Doc Rowe, folklorist and sword-swallower extraordinaire, has joined us and given talks in the past. Stephen Rowley, professional beast-maker and taborer, has also given workshops on "working" an animal. There's always time for sharing ideas and knowledge over a pint of Hook Norton.
We cannot cope with large numbers of morris teams, but are generally keen to welcome teams with animals depending on the responses we have already received. Please let us know if you would like to come as a team
Fools, musicians, green men or a groom or two are very welcome to accompany their animal, especially one with restricted vision.
For all this, we make no charge!
All enquiries should be Emailed to The Fine Lady's Fool
Eat drink and be merry.
The Olde Reindeer Inn continues as our base through Saturday with lunch from 12.30 onwards, there may have to be a little staggering depending on numbers followed by further sessions on into the evening.
The Feast of the BeastsThree course meal on Saturday Evening followed by dance, music and song and all manner of other antics - polish up, your party pieces!
Sunday is catch as catch can day as far as eating is concerned, but there is plenty to catch! . Food stands are in attendance in the People’s Park on Sunday, and you can also get a traditional afternoon tea with scones and lashings of cream!
...and somewhere to lay your weary head.
Camping is being provided by those wonderful people at St. Mary's School with a large playground and car park for motor homes and a grassy field for those who want to sleep in the bosom of Mother Earth.... or something like that! Here's a picture of the school to help you recognise it:
Please let us know how many spaces you need for outdoor hard standing and outdoor grass (tents only). Information can be sent to this address:
Fine Lady's Fool,
3, Chapel Row, Cropredy, Banbury OX17 1 NS
NB. in the past we have been able to offer indoor camping at St. Mary's, but new rules regarding safeguarding mean that we can no longer use classrooms. We are working hard to resolve this by sourcing a neighbouring facility - watch this space!
Alternatively the Banbury Tourist Information Office will be delighted to help with anything short of letting you sleep on their floor.
Telephone 01295 259855
Fax 01295 270556
Here are a couple of maps to help you get, and then hopefully keep, your bearings:
Participants the festivities in 2001
The festival started with an extraordinary collection of beasts coming together on the streets of Banbury for the first time. Included in the throng were Banbury's very own Fine Lady, Sam, the hundred year old horse belonging to the Illmington Morris men and Hobnob the famous Salisbury civic dragon. We also commemorated the destruction of Banbury's medieval crosses with a specially commissioned piece of street theatre
The Ilmington horse Sam ridden by Pete Shadbolt in 2000
© Rosy Burke
Saturday saw revels in and around the town centre with an opportunity for groups to put on displays at a number of attractive locations and meet the town mayor. On Sunday everyone joined in with the grand civic procession, lead by the town's mace-bearer, from the town hall to the Peoples Park which became the scene for further spectacle including mass hobby horse racing.
The procession to the park passes Banbury Cross
© Rosy Burke
Sticking pretty closely to the previous year's format we saw many groups returning and some important new arrivals on the scene, perhaps the most spectacular being the Minehead Hobby Horse. The festival took on an international dimension for the first time thanks to the efforts of a group of children from Montpelier in the south of France who. with a little local help, created Le Taureau de Perols. The town was treated to a fine display of hoodening by an antique horse from Kent and the Derby Tupp burst on the scene. There was also a performance of a specially written piece in the tradition of the 'Robin Hood' play to comment on the destruction of Banbury's Maypoles, by local puritan MP Sir Anthony Cope, in the sixteenth century. The floral horses made a welcome return to the Cross, a testimony to the close working relationship between the festival and the 'Banbury in Bloom' committee.
Banbury's floral horses being readied for their outing
© Rosy Burke
The Minehead Horse in Banbury High Street
© Rosy Burke
The Abbots Bromley Horn Dancers and Leominster Morris prepare for a hard day doing whatever it is they are going to do.
This year was characterised by some inventive and entertaining dancing which provided an admirable setting for a whole host of animals to perform to. There were many memorable moments, particularly the impromptu tour of the Castle Quay Shopping Centre by Abbots Bromley with a Channel 4 camera crew in hot pursuit.
Hooden Horses from Kent, the black one on the right is from Hoath and dates from 1906
© Rosy Burke
The first gathering point was the small plaza between the Castle Quay Shopping Centre and the canal. Here every team, group and individual had an opening spot before dividing into smaller groups to prowl round the town
Sandy Glover has an excellent collection of snaps at
A new initiative for this year was the addition of a 'mini-festival for schools on the Friday, with groups of children from Banbury and further afield performing around the bandstand at the bottom of the High Street. As well as a variety of beasts we also saw maypole, morris and country dancing from the children. A high light was a performance of a play based on the 'Mum and Tuk' mummers plays from the West Indies put on by a school from Gloucester.
Saturday evening saw a further recognition of the Town Horse's growing civic role when the group were invited to greet guests at a gala dinner being laid on to celebrate Mr. Tony Baldry's 20 years as Banbury's member of parliament.
The Fine lady and Attendant pose for photos with Tony Baldry M.P., Lord Saye and Sele and Banbury's Town Mayor, Rosemaries Higham
© Rosy Burke
The Town Mayor's procession and the celebrations in the park were undoubtably the best yet.the new Mayor, Rosemarie Higham had become a very enthusiastic supporter of the event. We were joined by an extraordinarily animated group of Chinese lion dancers from Oxford who added a touch of Eastern spice to the proceedings and our good friends "The Boxhedge Clippers" played their own unique brand of 'skuffle' in the park. The 'Beast of your Own" competition attracted many entrants with prizes being donated by two local businesses: Fashion Fabrics and Hoods the Ironmongers. the event was judged by Tony Baldry M.P and Mary Wass won the best hobby horse category with her princess on a unicorn and Rosie Pipe was the best character in fancy dress astride a cock horse.
The Fine Lady leads the Town Mayor's Procession up to the steps of St. Mary's Church
© Rosy Burke
2005 saw the arrival of a permanent monument to Banbury's Fine Lady in the form of a magnificent 13 foot high statue. Designed by Andrew Edwards, Carl Payne and Julian Jeffery of Artcycle Ltd. at a cost of £170,000 the sculpture draws on Celtic imagery to suggest a mythological context for the piece. Unveiled on Wednesday April 27th. by the Princess Royal with your very own 'Fine Lady' also in attendance (yes we did meet and chatted about the difficulties of keeping grey horses clean.) the statue will figure in celebrations in years to come.
The Sixth Festival July 1st. - July 3rd. 2005
It was with some trepidation that we approached the 2005 festival, personal circumstances had meant that we had become a little out of touch as preparations went ahead but on the day all the right people turned up and the impact on the town was bigger and better than ever. Sadly missed were the Abbots Bromley Horn Dancers who had been planning to attend but had been prevented by an unexpected accident, however, we were ably supported by some individual members who came along. We're looking forward to seeing them again soon.
The Harthill Tuppers pose for the camera
© Rosy Burke
Rabble Folk Theatre announce their presence
© Rosy Burke
This year the decision had been taken to focus activities in Banbury itself with camping, indoors and out, at St. Mary's School - what a marvelous person their head teacher is, and drinking and eating centred on the Old Reindeer Inn. After the traditional Saturday morning gathering at the school with dough nuts and coffee provided it was off into town. A special feature of this year was the number of other local events which have coalesced around the festival, there were the 'elephants for peace' workshops (see News item)
Elephants for Peace!
© Rosy Burke
a nursery rhyme marathon and fete at St. Mary's Church and of course we were able to pay our respects at the Fine Lady Statue for the first time. By coincidence the festival also coincided with the construction of a human chain down the High Street as part of the 'Make Poverty History' campaign, it was all happening in Banbury. The new town mayor, Councilor John Brooks was particularly supportive and welcoming even to the point of joining in an impromptu version of Shepherds Hey choreographed by the irrepressible Simon Pipe. As our fame travels we attract other interested parties notably Eton College who having made four superb glass fibre tourney horses for a theatrical event donated them to the festival where they made a splendid addition to the scene.
The Eton Horses, jolly good horsing weather.
© Rosy Burke
This year we reinstated the Friday school's festival with free workshops in the morning culminating in a procession into town and various performances.
On Saturday the sun shone and the beasts cavorted
the Minehead Sailor's Horse made a powerful impression wherever it went
and Adderbury's Cobb's Horse made a welcome reappearance, along with Wickham Morris.
No photographs are available of the Feast of the Beasts on Saturday night, which is probably just as well. Suffice it to say a good time was had by all.....
The grand civic procession on Sunday saw a colourful and multicultural display
and more horsing around
Thanks to Rosy Burke for all her hard work (and photos) for the Festival yet again!
The focus was on a more community based event with guests from our twin town in France - Les Chevaliers d'Ermont and lots of involvement by local school children. Friday saw another school's festival with morning workshops and performances around mid-day.
On Friday children from St. Mary's School take a breather.
The Saturday gathering with town crier, Bloxham Morris and our old friend Trig.
The Saturday evening saw fine food and a ceilidh especially in honour of our French guests.
On Town Mayor's Sunday once again the Fine Lady leads the way.
...and the town joins in.
...and they keep on coming - it was a great procession.
Les Chevaliers d'Ermont strut their stuff in typically Gallic fashion!
The Ninth Festival Friday July 4th - Sunday July 6th. 2008
Sorry no coverage availableFriday we had workshops for local school children with the Root and Branch Theatre Company introducing their dragon play and Ginnie Wormold leading a beast making workshop.
© Rosy Burke
The wonderful Wessex Morrismen, Cadbury their horse, and the Dorset Oozer - he's the good looking one! Here they are gathering at the start of the day on Saturday at St. Mary's School
© Rosy Burke
Also up for a big day out were Cobb's Horse from Adderbury, Thatcher Snatch and Brown Beauty of Kashmir and Knotty from Stafford.
© Rosy Burke
First the procession into town to dance on the canalside esplanade where amongst other things we saw the first performance in Banbury by the Company of the Owd 'Oss. After an exciting transit of the Castle Quay Shopping Centre here are Bloxham with their elephant Nell dancing outside Debenhams.
© Rosy Burke © Rosy Burke
After further adventures and performances round town we adjourned to the Olde Reindeer Inn for lunch where we met this marvellous beast courtesy of The Company of Crows.
© Bob TrubshawMore performances in the afternoon saw action outside St. Mary's Church from the Root and Branch Theatre Company and the Company of Crows who all went about slaying dragons while the Fine Lady's Fool struggled with the attentions of Coppin.
© Bob Trubshaw © Rosy Burke © Bob Trubshaw
St. Leonard and the Nightingale - more from the Root and Branch Theatre Company
© Bob Trubshaw
Dennis, in a new suit of armour and Trigger get acquainted with Ashley's Rise whilst the Outside Capering Crew levitate!
© Rosy Burke © Bob TrubshawLater in the afternoon there was more 'horsing about' and morris dancing in the High Street before taking tea with the Mayor. Here are Ashley's Rise and Simon Pipe of the Outside Capering Crew in full flight.
© Bob Trubshaw
Later that evening everyone made their way to the Bell Inn in Adderbury for a barbeque and further dancing from Wessex and the Adderbury Morris Men. Here the musicians team up for a final Shepherds Away.Sunday saw the traditional civic procession from the town hall lead by the town mayor, Tina Wren to the People's Park. Here we see mortal combat delivered by members of Cropredy's Harlequins and the venerable Bubbles making perhaps his last appearance.
© Rosy Burke
© Rosy Burke
We finished the afternoon with the erection of the Neithrop Maypole, suppressed by puritans in 1589 amid public rioting and much litigation, now gloriously reinstated for the second year running. Massed ranks danced around it, initially in the 'old English manner' but then to everyone's delight the Kashmiri Pipers got in on the act and we ended with a truly multi-cultural 'knees up'!
© Rosy Burke
As ever thanks to Derek and Mary Droscher and their team from 'Ride A Cock horse Folk Club' for stewarding the event and collecting, we look forward to helping out with their Banbury Folk Festival in October of each year, click on their logo for more
We are also collecting together video clips of the various events and performers associated with the Hobby Horse festival. these are currently very large files and take a lot of downloading. To run the them you need to have a copy of
QuicktimeTM which can be downloaded here
Other articles of related interest: