Showing posts with label mummersfestival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mummersfestival. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Are you ready for the 2012 Mummers Festival?

We sure are! This year promises to be the biggest and best Festival to date. We’ve got some exciting new events lined up and our much loved Hobby Horse and Ugly Stick Workshops are set to go!

Expect to see more oversized bras and long underwear than ever before! The Mummers Parade is growing each year, and the energy levels keep rising! There will be a few new surprises along the Parade route this year too!

This year marks the 150th year of the ban on mummering (which was later overturned). On Sunday, December 5th, Folklorist Joy Fraser will be discussing the alleged murder of fisherman Isaac Mercer by a group of men disguised as mummers in Bay Roberts in 1860. It is one of the most notorious episodes in Newfoundland’s history, prompting a legislative ban on mummering that remained in force for over a century. Joy’s lecture, Mummers and Murder, reveals a remarkable collection of archival discoveries that shed new light on the circumstances surrounding Mercer’s death.

Also new this year: Mummer-oke! If you’ve ever felt the slightest bit shy about singing in front of a crowd, fret no more! When you’re in disguise, who cares?! Mummer karaoke at the Georgestown pub will challenge you to sing your favorite tunes in your best mummer voice. It’s gonna be ugly, so bring an ugly stick.

If you don’t know much about mummering come out to our event “How Do You Mummer Anyway” and meet two of the most vivacious mummers out there! Direct from the Southern Shore, these two will give you the lowdown. We’ll ask all the vital questions: Which houses have the best food and drink?; What are the best ways to disguise yourself?; To knock or not to knock?; And how do you go to the bathroom in a disguise like that?

Of course we’ll also be hosting the Province’s largest dress-up party just prior to the Parade. So if you don’t have a disguise, come to the Rig Up an hour before the Parade and sort through the endless supply of ridiculous clothing on hand.

The Parade ends at The Rooms for a hard-stepping mummers dance to some high energy live music. We’ve got some tasty baked goods and enough Purity syrup to make yourself sick! So pace yourself! And, as always, you can strike your best pose at our “Mummeries Forever” Photobooth.

And remember...the Mummers Parade needs YOU!! Yes you! YOU! People love this event because they get to participate! Talk to anyone who’s been in the Parade and they’ll tell you how something funny happens to them...something odd, wondrous, magical. This is the effect of dressing in disguise. You get a bit more freedom to be foolish. We all want that, yes? And bring your friends! Bring your family! It will make your experience all the richer!

There are lots of tips for new mummers and some colourful photos on our website if you need a little guidance and inspiration.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Help unmask these accordion-playing Newfoundland Mummers

These two pictures were snapped by artist/photographer Dominique Hurley at the Mummers Parade, and I'm hoping some of you can help. She is looking for permission to use these images, and needs consent from the mummers themselves.

She writes:

"Do you, by any chance, know who these two accordion-playing mummers are? And if not, do you have a way of getting word out that I need help identifying uncovering their identity? If so, please ask people to contact me via my website at"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Hobby Horse Revival in Newfoundland and Labrador

The poster above was one designed by Target Marketing for the 2011 Mummers Festival. It bears the caption "Terrifying and delighting children for over 400 years" and the image of a handsome mummer (yours truly) peeking out from inside a great grey horse's head.  This is a hobby horse - and not the child's riding toy hobby horse most North Americans are familiar with. The hobby horse of Newfoundland's mummering tradition is much more fearsome beastie, with big eyes, and a wooden jaw with nails for teeth, which snock together as it nips and bites at the people it meets along its route. It is an archetypal figure associated with chaos, unpredictability, fertility, and, as the poster suggests, even a little terror.

When we started planning the very first mummers festival in 2009, we went looking for hobby horses. Chris Brookes, who started the Mummers Troupe in 1972, had a couple, one of which, "Old Ball" is shown to the right. Local actor Andy Jones had one. One was found tucked away in the MUN Folklore and Language Archive. The Kelly family in Cape Broyle had another, made of styrofoam to replace an older, wooden head.

But other than those few models, very few existed outside of reminiscences.  Andrea O’Brien contributed memories of hobby horses from the Southern Shore, and a man from Bonavista Bay remembered a hobby horse made out of an old cardboard beer carton.

The hobby horse was a Newfoundland Christmas tradition which, not particularly widespread in the twentieth century, had seemed to have faded from both the cultural landscape and popular memory in the twenty-first.  It was a shame, for hobby horses have a long and complicated history

Hobby horses (along with their colourful cousins hobby cows, hobby goats, hobby sheep, and hobby bulls) have been here on the island of Newfoundland for a long time. In 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert wrote in his "Voyages and Enterprises":  

Besides for solace of our people, and allurement of the Savages, we were provided of Musike in good variety: not omitting the least toyes, as Morris dancers, Hobby horsse, and Maylike conceits to delight the Savage people.

"Hobby horse" and "Horsy-hops" both get their own entries in the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, and folklorist Dr. Joy Fraser has included references to  hobby horses in her stellar research on mummering and violence in nineteenth century Newfoundland. Fraser includes one account, where a complainant in a legal case describes how “I heard some person running and turned round I was struck on the head with something like a horses head and knocked down I rose on my knees to get hold of the man who struck me and he kicked me on the breast”.

A 1913 Christmas engraving by John Hayward includes, in the background, what can only be a hobby horse (detail below).

Folklore research in the 1960s and 1970s uncovered many stories and references to hobby horses and bulls, but by the time the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador instigated its first Folklife Festival in 2009, very few hobby horses existed, no one had made any for years, and most people had never heard of the tradition.

Mummers Festival coordinator Ryan Davis, working with long-time Lantern Festival organizer Kathleen Parewick, designed a cardboard template to make a hobby horse head, and the hobby horse workshops which were first offered in 2009 have since become a firm part of the annual festival.

The hobby horse workshops have been taught outside of the festival, as part of ICH workshops, community centre outreach programs, and workshops for high school teachers.

Ron Delaney of Bay Roberts has made his own hobby horse from wood, based on his own memories.  In December of 2011, Delaney wrote,

“As a child , growing up in the 70’s and early 80’s I was mortified of Jannies, I use to hear my relatives talk about good and bad Jannies , as a result , in my mind they were all bad, especially the hobby horse. The hobby horse usually was the last Jannie to enter the house; I could remember scooting in the room as fast as I could when I heard the SLAP of its mouth.”

One of the participants in a hobby horse building workshop I taught in Bay Roberts, Delaney brought along Meggie and Kaegan, who now represent a new generation of hobby horse owners. Another horse foaled that day made its way back to Ontario, to take place of honour as Bottom's Head in a Grade 8 student production of Midsummer's Night Dream.

One of the participants in a 2011 Arts Work Conference hobby horse making workshop I taught in St. John's was teacher Amanda Gibson, who teaches at Amos Comenius Memorial School in Hopedale. She made her hobby horse, then went off to Labrador armed with her new skills. Horses not being common along the northern Labrador coast, Gibson adapted the template, adding hobby polar bears to the list of hobby animals now made in the province.

"The kids had a fun time making them and loved choosing the colors for their 'bears'" she wrote me. "It took a few hour-period classes, but it was a great way to end the unit in Grade 8 NL history on 19th Century Lifestyles for students that are hands-on learners."

This year, 2011, there were hobby horses galore at the Mummers Parade. Everywhere you turned, a gaudily-decorated horse's head was poking up above the sea of mummers and janneys, including one devilishly fine, black and red steed, crepe paper fire billowing from its nostrils.

For me, it was a particularly moving sight, and proof that tradition is sometimes more resilient than we give it credit for. For whatever reason, hobby horse making has struck a chord with a new generation of janneys, and I look forward to new additions to the herd in 2012.

And next year, I think the parade needs at least one hobby goat...

Merry Christmas, mummers!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mummers on YouTube - 2011 Mummers Festival Parade

Here are some of the YouTube videos that have been put up from the Mummers Parade this past Saturday. If you know of more, email me at

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mummers in the Schools - a Legacy Activity

Earlier this year, the Provincial Historic Commemorations Board designated the Christmas tradition of mummering and janneying as as a Distinctive Cultural Tradition or Practice of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

As part of that commemoration, the province set aside funds for some type of Legacy Activity project which would promote the tradition.

We started off with a series of questions. We all know what mummers look and sound like, but there’s much more to it than dressing up and dancing around. What do mummers do? What is a hobby horse? Where do mummers come from? What are the best ways to disguise yourself? And does the current generation of students, particularly urban students, know much about the tradition at all?

With those thoughts in mind, HFNL's ICH office sponsored a Mummers in the School program as part of the 2011 Mummers Festival ( The program is designed for grades 4-6, and this year is lead by Ryan Davis, who is the coordinator of the annual festival.

All this week, Ryan has been touring schools in St. John's, Goulds, Paradise and Portugal Cove-St. Philip's with a slide show on mummering, his own hobby horse, and a tickle trunk of mummers costumes to get kids excited about this old Newfoundland tradition. Kids (and teachers) have been given a chance to dress up and give their classmates a chance to guess who is under that old lace tablecloth.

Feeling left out? No problem, the Mummers Parade is this Saturday, and we want YOU to be in it, in costume! See you there!

Some comments so far:

Hi Dale, I just wanted to send you an email to say Thank you for setting up the presentation for today. The kids and teachers absolutely loved it. It was very well done and interesting. Tell Ryan how much we enjoyed it!!! Thanks again.
Krista Molloy, Larkhall Academy

Thanks for an interesting and timely presentation for our students.Ron Parrott, Principal, Larkhall Academy

Thanks so very much!! Great sessions today! The kids are so very excited.
Several want to go home and make a hobby horse, including a few teachers!!
Thanks again!

Jill Moores, Paradise Elementary

The photos below are from Larkhall Academy in St. John's: