THE BROMSGROVE MUMMERS PLAY
In the early 1970s a series of Christmas dances was organised by Avoncroft Folk Dance Group and held at Bromsgrove Baths. It was suggested that there should be a Mummers Play and eventually separate plays, following the traditional theme of Saint George conquering evil, were devised by Dick Hodges and Bob Bailes. In fact, St George does not actually appear in the play devised by Dick Hodges and performed today in Shenstone - being woven around a Lichfield theme and enabling the inclusion of the names of the Lichfield dances.
The second play, by Bob Bailes, and known as the Bromsgrove Play, had a text unashamedly and ruthlessly cannibalised (as quoted by Bob Bailes - as is most of this text) from several different traditional mummers plays. At the conclusion of the play there was usually a Longsword Dance. This Play was performed indoors annually for about four years and the mummers were Green Man dancers mainly from three families; the Hodges, Taylors and Bailes, but with Ken Smith, Tom Woodward, and later additions including, notably, Ray Cope (a.k.a. “Moose”) and his son John.
The play then went public and, for at least twenty five years up to about Boxing Day 2002, enacted at about six venues in and around the town of Bromsgrove; in pubs, in the street, in old people’s homes and for several years at the Indoor Christmas Camp of the Camping Club at Avoncroft.
For the first few years the costumes were spectacular creations made by Ken Smith and consisting of many strips of heavy wallpaper formed into hat, cape and skirt. The huge hats were most spectacular and made the performers seem anonymous and about eight feet tall.
Woodwind music was provided for many years by the Bailes daughters and by Stephanie Taylor and later by Moose on violin, his son John on melodeon, and Bob Bailes on concertina.
Cast in the picture to the left is (left to right):
Belzebub – Jeremy Bailes
St George – Tim Taylor
Father Christmas – Dick Hodges
Turkish Night – Peter Taylor
Doctor Watson – Bob Taylor
Little Johnny Jack – Adrian Hodges
The Noble Captain – Bob Bailes
The words for this Mumming Play are here.
Here are some more pictures featuring Jeremy Bailes.
On the left he appears as Beelzebub (with Ken Smith as St. George in the background
and to the right as Molly Masket.