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       1952                             1973                                  1992                               2000                           2010

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Mumming [Ritual Drama]


Merrie England Mummers repertoire includes the following traditional plays:




Rudheath, Cheshire

Oct/Nov, All Souls

Hero Combat/Soul Cake

Firle, East Sussex

Dec. Christmas

Hero Combat

Ovingdean, East Sussex

Dec. Christmas

Hero Combat

Ovingdean, East Sussex

Dec. Christmas

Hero Combat

Selmeston, East Sussex

Dec. Christmas

Hero Combat

Cocking, West Sussex

Dec. Christmas

Hero Combat

Fittleworth, West Sussex

Dec. Christmas

Hero Combat

Steyning, West Sussex

Dec. Christmas

Hero Combat

Gainford, Co. Durham

Dec. Christmas

Sword Dance

Kempsford, Gloucester

Dec. Christmas

Hero Combat/Robin Hood

Cropwell Bishop, Notts

Jan. Plough Monday  

Courtship/Plough Play

Plumtree, Notts

Jan. Plough Monday  

Courtship/Plough Play

Far & Near Sawrey, Cumbria

March/April Easter

Hero Combat/Pace Egg

Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria

March/April Easter

Hero Combat/Pace Egg

Ulverston, Cumbria  

March/April Easter

Hero Combat/Pace Egg


In addition to regular appearances throughout Sussex each winter the group have performed at the following major events:

Bognor Regis, Sussex

Folk Festival


Brighton, Sussex

Festival Fringe

1980, 1981, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1995

Broadstairs, Kent

Folk Show

1975, 1976, 1981, 1982, 1995, 1996

Crawley, Sussex

Folk Festival

1991, 1995

Eastbourne, Sussex

Folk Festival

1976, 1977, 1982, 1993, 1994

Firle, Sussex

Folk Festival

1991, 1992

Hastings, Sussex

Jack in the Green


Cecil Sharp House, London

E.F.D.S.S. Ceilidh


Barbican Centre, London

Foyer Show

1986 (twice), 1988

Loughborough, Leics

National Festival


Michelham Priory, Sussex

Folk Night

1976, 1977, 1992

Rochester, Kent

Sweeps' May Ceremony


Rye, Sussex

Medieval Fayre

1979, 1981

Waldron, Sussex

Wassail Ceremony

1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003

Wareham, Dorset

Folk Festival

1983, 1985, 1987, 1988

Wells, Somerset

Medieval Fayre


Tubingen, Germany

Folk Festival


Heidelberg, Germany

Folk Festival


Tauberischofsheim, Germany

Folk Festival


Characters from the

Ovingdean [Sussex] play c 1996

Father Christmas

[the late Eddie Scott] Characters from the

Ovingdean [Sussex] play c 1996

Twin Twan

[Clive Bennett]

Belzeebub [Mike Reilly] &

King George [Trevor Curry]

Turkish Knight [Felix Byrne]

& Doctor [Ben Miller]

Black Jack

[Norman Hopson]

MEM's Horse

enjoying his 'oats' - resting 

13 May 1977 M.E.M. At

The Star, Heathfield

Mike Anderson, Clive Bennett

and Keith Duke

7 May 1979

M.E.M. at The Juggs Arms,

Kingston, East Sussex

Colin Burge [Molly Masket] Ed Ford [Doctor]

Dave Fisher [Turkish Knight]

& Trevor Curry [St George]

31 March 1986 M.E.M. at



John Holton, Colin Burge,

Rob Dumbrill, Alastair Turner,

Graham Ellis-Pratt and Clive Bennett

26 Dec 1987 M.E.M. atThe Tiger, East Dean,


Trevor Curry, Dave Fisher and Alastair Turner

19 Jan 1988  M.E.M. at

Thatched Inn, Keymer,


Trevor Curry & Clive Bennett

13 April 1996  M.E.M. at


Felix Byrne & Trevor Curry

9 June 1974

M.E.M. Sword Team at Eastbourne

Colin Haverson, Clive Bennett,

Mike Anderson, Ray Marshall,

Alastair Turner & Ray Langton [seated]

15 Aug 1982

M.E.M. Sword Team

at Wells, Somerset

Clive Bennett, Trevor Curry,

Gordon Allen, Ed Ford,

John Witty and Paul Crathern

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Merrie England Mummers, Founder Members

Mike Anderson

Living in Heathfield,

E Sussex.

Performed regularly until 2013

Clive Bennett

Living in Hove,

E Sussex

Co-founder of Seaford Folk Song Club.

Performed regularly until 2013

Bob Foyle

Moved to Hannover,

Germany in 1974

Now living in Ireland.

Colin Haverson

Moved to Yorkshire

in 1974

Now living in Middlesborough.

Terry Lees

Living in Eastbourne,

E Sussex

Acclaimed guitarist,

2000 won National Guitarist of the Year competition at NEC Birminghamin

Ray Langton

Moved to Shrewsbury,

Shropshire in 1976

Morris & Ceilidh band musician.

Children’s Festival Producer at

Sidmouth International Festival.

Alastair Turner

Living in Eastbourne,

E Sussex

Performed regularly until 2013


The group evolved during 1974 through a series of workshops within the Merrie England Folk Song Club, Eastbourne, East Sussex.   For almost forty years the group was among the most experienced revival teams in the country with a repertoire of plays covering the entire season of English Ritual Drama.   Performances sometimes commenced with an extract from the long sword dance of North Skelton, Yorkshire and normally ended with a programme of English traditional folk songs.

Merrie England performed at a number of sites in Sussex during the winter months and on Boxing Day each year at: The Tiger Inn, East Dean at 12.30 pm and The Dewdrop Inn, Peacehaven at 1.30 pm

It was customary that, having been fortunate to witness one of these rare performances, the onlooker contributes to the collection taken, which in turn assured good luck and fertility during the coming year.

Merrie England Mummers

9th June 1974  Prior to 2nd public performance Eastbourne Western Lawns

during the college Rag Week.    : left to right:

Bob Foyle, Terry Lees, Mike Anderson, Colin Haverson, Ray Langton and Clive Bennett.

13th April 1996 Bancroft Gardens, Stratford-Upon-Avon

left to right: Felix Byrne, Trevor Curry, Norman Hopson, Clive Bennett,

guest with the Horse, Eddie Scott, Mike Reilly and Ben Miller


By the end of the nineteenth century, despite changes within society resulting from the industrial revolution, the villages of England remained socially isolated and much of everyday life was ruled by folklore and local customs which was often based on superstition and primitive rituals. Alongside this was the rural calendar, which reflected the ever changing seasons, welded the population into a tight community with dancing, plays and ritual.

Even today many of these customs linger on as part of the collective wisdom of village communities. Of these practices, Mumming Plays have proved to be the most persistent and while few 'traditional' performances survive, they were widely known in towns and villages - each with their own variant - until the 1914-18 war decimated the male population.

The origins of this Ritual are lost in history and while the early theories about it being based on pre Christian primitive magic with a theme of death and rebirth are not substantiated by any evidence there are, nevertheless, records of the custom dating back some 250 years.

Historically, in England, the drama was performed in the old style winter months commencing at All Souls (31 October) and ending at Easter although appearances were most common at Christmas when players collected money to augment low winter earnings.  It is this socio-economic aspect of the performance which modern theories focus on as a key element in the birth and survival of the tradition.

Traditionally performers were always men, even when a female character was required. While early theories suggested that to be recognised broke the 'luck' brought by the players causing them to hide their identity by dressing in disguise consisting of strips of paper or rag attached to ordinary clothes which completely covered the wearer, including the face, modern thinking tends to see the disguise as a simple means of avoiding identification by authorities concerned with the 'rough' behaviour and begging aspect of the performance.  This style of costume appears to have survived longest in the rural Southern counties but eventually performers began to dress according to the character.

In this country three distinct forms of the play exist. The most common is called Hero Combat in which each performer enters in turn, introduces his character by name and proceeds in rhyme to issue challenge and counter challenge. A fight follows in which a player is 'killed' only to be revived by a Quack Doctor. This form includes both Soul Cake plays from Cheshire performed at All Souls in the autumn and Pace Egg plays from the North West performed at Easter.

Of the other forms, one - from the East Midlands - is normally performed in early January on Plough Monday and has, in addition to the Hero Combat scene, a courtship sequence and representation of three generations of life with an old couple, a young couple and a baby while the other, found only in the North East, combines the dramatic action with an intricate 'sword' dance in which performers link themselves together with strips of wood or metal and the 'death' results from the action of the entire group.

These forms of the ritual are unique to England but similar traditions have been noted from the Pyrenees, through the Swiss-German border area, Rumania, Thrace and Macedonia in the Balkans to Skyros in the Aegean.