29 April 2017 - Offham May Day Celebrations

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We are off to Offham.
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When Offham is mentioned, what immediately comes to mind? A piece of forgotten pork languishing at the back of the fridge? No, for me it is the iconic quintain on the village green.

In case you didn't know, a quintain is a practice target for jousting. The idea is to charge your horse up to the quintain, hit the plain arm (on the right in the picture) with your lance and deftly move out of the way to avoid being hit by the cosh on the other arm as it swings round. The modern version of this challenge is to run up to a Kettle Bridge Clogs dancer during their tea break, grab their cake off their plate and escape before receiving a clip round the ear from a bobbin.

To get back to Offham, each year the village holds a May Day celebration and we were very pleased to be invited to take part. Our role was to lead the procession through the village and perform a couple of dancing spots.

This was just a small part of the event which lasted all afternoon and took over most of the village green. There was the traditional maypole dance by the local school children, a series of children's races called the Offham Dash, a dog show and a junior cake baking competition (Bake-Off-Ham?). It was good to see so many things for the youngsters to get involved in and the village community spirit was much in evidence. Most importantly though there was a cake tent and the pub was open! The barbecue seemed to be very popular as well.

The procession started at the village hall, led by Kettle Bridge, with the May Queen following on behind on a tractor trailer and the maypole dancers bringing up the rear. Thanks go to Nicola for doing the honours with the bass drum and keeping the dancers in step, and well done to Wendy who was taking part in her first procession.

Once we arrived at the village green, we formed a guard of honour for the May Queen before going off to prepare for our first stand. This featured KBC Processional, Sidcot and Marston 6 and, despite an occasional early-season mishap, the dancing was very well appreciated by the substantial crowd.

The new May Queen was duly crowned and then it was the turn of the Offham County Primary School children to do their maypole dance on the village green, and very well they did too. This was the opportunity for Kettle Bridge to recharge their energy levels in the time honoured fashion, involving tea, cake and a sit down.

Next on the agenda was the traditional series of races up to the village green for children of various ages, know as the Offham Dashes. Meanwhile the various stalls on the green were doing brisk business and there were plenty of games and activities to keep everyone happy.

Then it was time for our second stand of the day where we danced Saint Helens Gala and Aughton 6. As usual, we ended with an all-in Churchtown with plenty of audience participation. That marked the end of our formal involvement in the day's proceedings but there was still time to wander round the green and spend some money.

Many thanks go to the organisers of the event for inviting us. It is always a real pleasure to be involved in a great piece of English tradition like a village May Day celebration. It is very much in accord with our own aim of keeping English customs alive, relevant and enjoyable.

I must also thank all the friends and family who come and support Kettle Bridge at these events and to Margaret for displaying the banner and Mary B for going round the crowd with leaflets and badges.