Maypole Fest returns after Covid delays

A tradition that dates back centuries is returning after a five-year absence and coincides with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

By Janet Harrison
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 11:52 am
Updated Thursday, 12th May 2022, 11:56 am

Barwick-in-Elmet Maypole Festival is a triennial event and should have been held in 2020 but has been delayed twice because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This year’s Maypole Festival on 2nd June coincides with the Queen’s Platinum jubilee, so it’s great to be bringing the village together for a double celebration,” said spokesman Mark Vipond.

“There’s been a maypole in Barwick for hundreds of years, and the lowering, repainting and raising of the pole dates back well into the 18th Century.”

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Raising of the Barwick-in-Elmet Maypole. The Maypole being raised.Leeds, Barwick-in-Elmet, 31st may 1969

But Mark added that keeping the the tradition alive was difficult during lockdowns and social restrictions.

“Fundraising was tough through the pandemic but we were able to raise money through JustGiving and the people of the village and further afield were incredibly generous.

“It costs over £12,000 to put the Festival on, so never an easy task to raise funds, even in non-Covid times.”

Mark added that traditions are key in the entertainment of the event, which will also see arts, crafts and artisan food.

Leeds, Barwick-in-Elmet, 30th May 1972 Helpers put ladders in position as the newly painted maypole is put up for the triennial festival at Barwick-in-Elmet.

“The day will start with villagers carrying the maypole - at 90 feet and just over a tonne in weight, no simple task - from Hall Tower Field where it laid for painting, down its hole next to the village cross,” said Mark.

“We’ll then raise the pole - done nowadays with the help of a crane - but then held in place manually by ropes as we back-fill the hole.

“Once the maypole is back in place, the Maypole Queen’s Procession (the Queen having been elected by village children a few weeks ago) makes its way along Main Street.

“It will be accompanied this year by the Harrogate Brass Band, Leeds Morris Men and 400 Roses folk dancers, to Hall Tower Field where the Queen - 10-year-old Felicity Burn-Chandler - will be crowned.

“This is followed by a performance of traditional maypole dancing by local children.”

Mark added: “The culmination of the Festival comes at 5pm when local lad James Brown will attempt to climb the 90 foot maypole to spin the silver fox weathervane on top.

“James’ younger brother, Chris, is a three-time former climber, so he certainly has a tough act to follow.”