Thursday 2 February 2017

A Different World

I've no idea what this quirky item is doing on the BBC News website, but I'm delighted to have found it on this grey, wet and windy day, and pass it on in the interest of spreading a little good cheer.
 I particularly like the piquant juxtaposition of details of everyday Seventies life (and fashion) with these bizarre traditions - some of which I imagine have since passed into oblivion. Those that survive are no doubt barely visible these days for the ranks of head-high tablets and mobiles filming the proceedings. None of which will come up with anything half as eloquent as Homer Sykes's old-school black and white photographs.


  1. Homer's name was in my head almost immediately! How the world has changed with less sense of community and continuity, thank goodness he criss-crossed the country to record these events before the authenticity was lost. At the end I was thinking that there was nobody in these images with a camera and now nobody would be watching except through their phones but would be destroying any chance for anybody to ever again make such clear images...

  2. You're so right Coline - now everything is filmed and that easy communal unselfconsciousness is gone. In many of the images, the people seem unexcited by what they're doing, as if it's just a job that, for some long-lost reason, has to be done. Thomas Hardy says somewhere that this is the sure sign of a living tradition, and when people throw themselves into it with gusto, that usually means the tradition is actually dead and being kept alive artificially.

  3. Yes, Hardy says this about the mummers' play in The Return of the Native:

    "A traditional pastime is to be distinguished from a mere revival in no more striking feature than in this, that while in the revival all is excitement and fervour, the survival is carried on with a stolidity and absence of stir which sets one wondering why a thing that is done so perfunctorily should be kept up at all. Like Balaam and other unwilling prophets, the agents seem moved by an inner compulsion to say and do their allotted parts whether they will or no. This unweeting manner of performance is the true ring by which, in this refurbishing age, a fossilized survival may be known from a spurious reproduction."

    Wonderful photos.

  4. Thanks Jonathan - that's it!