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Ideas / Album / Jack In The Green
Photos from the Jack In The Green festival in Hastings

The Jack-in-the-Green festival in Hastings is based on a tradition which started in the 1830s, died out at the start of the 20th century, but was revived in 1979 by a group called Mad Jack's Morris Dancers. It is now an annual event which takes place during the bank holiday weekend at the start of May. On the Saturday and Sunday there are bands and Morris dancers in the pubs and streets and the May Queen is crowned, while the main event (shown below) is on the Monday (a public holiday in the UK).

In 2011 the main Jack In The Green event is on Monday 2 May.


Jack is a winter form of the traditional character known as the Green Man, who represents the spirit of the forests. He is covered in twigs and leaves, with a crown on his head and a black mask on his face. He leads the procession, which starts in the Old Town of Hastings.


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Jack is escorted and carried by the bogies, with their faces painted green. Bogies are spirits which live in dark places. There are several different groups, including the Hastings Bogies and the Gay Bogies.

Behind Jack there are groups of drummers (dressed like bogies) and people carrying sponges soaked in green paint which are used to mark the noses of spectators.

Let's bogey ...

A Morris Minor

Shades of green

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There are also a series of giants. These are made from papier mâché and are about 12 feet (4 metres) tall. Each one is made by one of the local towns and is believed to protect that town from danger. The form of the giant depends on the town's characteristics and its legends.

Hastings' local giant is a witch called Hannah. She is based on Hannah Clarke who, in the 16th century, lived together with her cats in the Stag public house in All Saints Street in the Old Town. She was angered when the government introduced a hearth tax and rid the town of bailiffs. At night it is believed that she flew on her broomstick, looking out for French invaders. She left the town when her broomstick was stolen, but her cats continued to keep watch ...

Nathandriel (from Huddersfield), and
Hannah (from Hastings) holding her broomstick

Giants are scary - they must
protect their town from evil spirits

The Moon Goddess

The Morrigan (accompanied by two giant Ravens)

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The procession starts outside the Fisherman's Museum, goes up All Saints Street, down the High Street and into George Street, where there is a break. After some liquid refreshment, it continues along the seafront and then along the narrow streets to Castle Hill Road and into the castle grounds. Crowds line the route.

This dog enters into the spirit of the day



Percival Victor Arbuthnot String
(PVA String): a local Hastings giant

Clerical Error (from Wales) - the
red dragon is a Welsh symbol

Collectors raise money for charity.
The RNLI supports lifeboats in the UK.

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A couple of storytellers wander around during the day. If you meet one, ask them to tell you a tale or two ...

One of the storytellers

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It is a Maytide tradition to raise a collection of twigs (known as "Twiggy") up the flagpole when Jack arrives at Hastings Castle.

"Twiggy" is raised

In one area there are a series of tents and stalls selling crafts and beer (which has been specially brewed for the occasion). A stage is put up in the centre of the castle ruins. For a couple of hours the teams who took part in the procession put on performances of morris dancing and drumming.

Who can jump higher - the men ...

... or the ladies? (Ditchling Morris)

The dance shown below, by a women's morris team called Black Annis, is a tribute to a man called Captain Matthew Webb (born in the town of Dawley in Shropshire). In 1875 he became the first person to swim the English Channel (it took 22 hours for him to cross). He drowned a few years later when he tried to swim across the rapids at Niagra Falls.

Black Annis (a women's morris team from Leicester)

Copperfield Clog dance in their hand-made clogs (shoes) carrying colourful garlands. Clog Morris processional dances originated in the mill towns of Lancashire.

Copperfield Clog (from Higham, Kent)


Rabble (from Kent)

Rhythm Warriors

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During the last few performances the bogies, standing on the hill which overlooks the stage, start to drum. The noise becomes louder and louder as the end approaches. Finally Jack and the bogies come onto the stage.

Mad Jack's Morris Men jump onto the stage, dance around Jack and then slay (kill) him. Now that Jack (a symbol of winter) is dead the summer can start. The leaves and branches are given to the crowd. People take these home and keep them until the Winter Solstice (in late December), when they burn them to get rid of any bad spirits.

Mad Jack's Morris Dancers throw
Jack's remains to the audience ...

... helped by the bogies.
Leaves are kept and burnt in mid-winter.

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For more information about the Jack in the Green festival in Hastings, see:
Hastings tourist information:

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Photos from other festivals: Ideas/Album
Brighton Festival: Ideas/Album/Brighton-Festival
Morris dancing: Ideas/Album/MorrisDancing
Sweeps Festival in Rochester: Travel/Tours/England/Rochester
Events in the UK in May: Ideas/Events/May

Home page: Home

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