Thursday, May 4, 2017

British May Day Scarecrow Festival Gets 'Trumped' With Twists on Fairy Tales

Photography by David Billinge
Anyone else notice that fairy tales are being used less as a description for the ideal/unrealistic romantic adventure and happily ever after, and more as a statement in calling out the truth in a situation these days?
It's safe to say that the last year has been tumultuous on the political front. While many countries struggle with this all the time, the UK and US in particular have been floored by the turn of events of the past many months and a lot of people's world view has had to change.

May Day, and associated festivals, are all about renewal, Spring, growth, new beginnings and what seems to be a relatively new 'scarecrow festival' in Britain seems to have caught on as part of the celebrations. Scarecrows protecting the newly seeded fields, Jack in the Green - these have a long standing tradition in celebration and folklore this time of year but the specific scarecrow festival, while clearly in tune with tradition is apparently fairly new. That hasn't stopped it from becoming a much-enjoyed annual event all around the UK.

For the past couple of years fairy tales and nursery rhymes have been associated with the festival by being the theme for people to riff on with their creations. This year, the traditional tales theme in the small English village of Wray, took a turn into political commentary, using fairy tales to make their very clear points with a variety of Donald Trump effigies. (All the more interesting when a number of these scarecrows move thanks to a little animatronic magic!)
At least six contestants created versions of Trump to fit in with children's stories, including a 'Pinocchi-Trump' with an extra-long nose and a 'Humpty-Trumpty' falling off his own border wall. 
...Another was Pinocchi-Trump, created by Judith Smith and her husband Ken Wilson. 
This tableau was inspired by 'fake news' and combines the 'traditional tales' theme of Pinocchio with the US president. (Daily Mail)
While Humpty-Trumpty and President Pinocchio were popular notions, another scarecrow display had a Trump figureup a beanstalk, with a Mexican man at the bottom. The sign said:
"You're welcome Jack, to climb the stalk,
but when your' up we need to talk.
There's a guy up there who's sure to SEIZE YA,
if you don't possess a VISA."
A Rumpelstiltskin effigy had the Trumpish figure 'spinning straw into something else!"
Although scarecrows and straw effigies have a long history in being associated with political figures - and protest against them - it was a little unexpected to see so many making statements on Trump in this manner, especially outside the US. On May Day this year the US had its own day of political statements, in the form of wide spread protests and marches against the immigration policies of President Trump, making this the second year there has been direct protest against his policies on this day. Both years there have been effigies too.
Members of the "Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition" displayed a giant effigy of then-candidate Donald Trump on May Day in Los Angeles last year. (NPR)
Other scarecrows focused on traditional fairy tales and legends, such as Red Riding Hood and Robin Hood, but with so many blonde-wigged effigies around it becomes difficult to see even these tales without a political spin. Is that wolf looking a little blonde, dressed in Grandma's nightie? Are Robin Hood's promises really in aid of the common people?
Interesting to see how many folks used the simple language and motifs of fairy tales, to make some contemporary, relevant and head-turning statements. Here's a quick video tour of Wray village on May Day.

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