In brief

21st May 2004 at 01:00
The Pace-Egg Plays of the Calder Valley

By Eddie Cass

pound;6.99 inc pamp;p from The Folklore Society, The Warburg Institute, Woburn Square, London WC1 0AB. Tel: 020 7862 8564

When I was a head, I had a teacher from Lancashire who regularly produced a mummers' play with the children. The result was sheer joy: the story was robust, the language as vulgar as we dared, the costumes a hoot, and the parts varied enough for each child to take gleeful ownership of one of them.

Unlike mummers' plays, which usually appear at Christmas, north of England pace egg (Easter egg) plays are traditionally performed at Easter. Eddie Cass traces one branch of the tradition and the part played by schools.

This attractive book reproduces a parents' concert programme of 1932 from Midgley council school, with "The Pace Egg" coming soon after Schubert's "Cradle Song" and before Arne's "Where the Bee Sucks". Now, the baton is held by Calder high school, which keeps the tradition alive, bending occasionally to changing social assumptions ("the word 'black' was dropped from the phrase, 'Thou Black Morocco Dog' ").

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