Merry maypole’s ageless appeal

Merrymakers of all ages have flocked to Centenary Green in Wisbech to revive the lost arts of maypole dancing and weave some May Day magic.

Boys and girls from Tydd St Mary Church of England Primary School, who travelled to the festivities with Judd’s Coaches, together with pupils from St Peter’s Church of England Junior School and Cambian Wisbech School, gathered to learn how to celebrate one of the great traditions of merry England.

Under the watchful eye of maypole teacher Lynda Robinson the 40 youngsters learned the steps of the festive dances, including the Barber’s Pole, in which two concentric rings of dancers take opposite paths.

To the children’s cries of “Go faster!” the adults attending , including Wisbech mayor Councillor Peter Human, mayoress Mrs Janet Tanfield, Octavia Hill volunteers and representatives of the Army Cadets and the national Trust, stepped up to the mark and proved that they could also tread a merry measure.

Among the Octavia Hill volunteers was Gary Bishop, who captured the spirit of past festivities by dressing as a vintage Victorian.

Octavia Hill’s friend and mentor, the Victorian polymath, John Ruskin, was a prime mover in the revival of the May Day celebrations and in 1881 he inaugurated the annual May Day ceremonies at Whitelands College, a teacher training college for women in Chelsea, which now forms part of the University of Roehampton.

It was Ruskin’s wish that each year the women students should elect ‘the likeablest and the loveablest’ of their number to be their May Queen.

Lynda Robinson said:  “The celebrations went really well.   The dancers, both children and adults, were brilliant and Octavia Hill would have been delighted.

“The music was so cheerful and it lifted all the gloom – and the children loved it.   Even the weather cooperated and we did not have the wind blowing the ribbons out of reach as has happened in the past.”