The Widcombe Mummers are a group of players dedicated to the art of mumming in its various guises. We like the traditional form, - but we also like to tweak this by incorporating as many humorous local references as we can. Music and song are important components in our performances. Our main performance spot is on New Year's Day, around noon in various locations in Widcombe, Bath, UK. We are also frequently invited to perform on other occasions and in other places.
The story of the Widcombe Mummers begins in June 2005. Ian Gilchrist had been at the English Country Music Weekend, and seen a performance from the Marshfield Paper Boys, and also been entertained by a talk from Doc Rowe, the country's leading archivist of mummers. On the way home back to Bath he started to think, "Why not in Widcombe...?"
In Autumn he persuaded the Widcombe Association to support the idea with a little money, just enough to pay for some rehearsal space and a little party afterwards. Ian then recruited and advertised until he had enough players, wrote a script based on traditional sources but with a local twist (Traffic Wardens) and arranged some rehearsals.
The first performance took place on New Year's Day 2006. The main character 'King of the Beggars' was taken by Tim Sebastion in what was to be his first and last performance (sadly he was taken ill during rehearsals for the following year and never recovered.)The other surprise was Rob as Hobby Horse. Rob didn't have any speaking lines in the first performance but has had some in every year since.
Performances have followed on every New Year's Day since then. The picture here shows us in in 2008, which happened to be when the character of Beelzebub made his first appearance. Two of the star characters who have been making regular appearances as our 'bringers-on' have been King Bladud (a well-known Bath character) and Mrs Bladud, his less well-known consort.
It would be only right to include in this brief history a short mention of the musicians who play an important role in each performance. Their task is to lead the procession playing some nice English traditional marching tunes, and then accompany the actors in the closing song. For example, in 2012 the procession tune was Monks March, and the song was a Gloucestershire Wassail.
In addition to our regular performances in Widcombe, the Widcombe Mummers have performed on request at other times and places. Since 2010 we have performed our specially written St George and the Dragon play. This has featured a specially made dragon comprising a Spanish/Portugese head on an English body. He can be seen here, with St George, King Bladud, and the Princess (King of Egypt's daughter).
Other special command performances have included for the unveiling of the Holloway horsetrough plaque, the opening of a new pathway in the Abbey cemetery, and the inauguration of a sundial at the 200th anniversary of the Kennet & Avon canal.
Lastly, we would not be forgiven if we failed to include a picture of Mrs, sorry, Queen Bladud, so here she is, with her favourite pig ring. This picture was taken by Pete Salt of the council's Arts Department who have been kind enough to support our efforts in many ways
There have been so many other great people involved in our efforts and so many good times that if we tried to list them all we'd never finish, so better stop here.
You can download a full pictorial history of the Widcombe Mummers updated January 2019 here