Fire Breather - 'Jack in the Green' May Day Celebrations, Hastings, May 2014
A Jack in the Green is a participant in traditional English May Day parades and other May celebrations, who wears a large, foliage-covered, garland-like framework, usually pyramidal or conical in shape, which covers his body from head to foot.
The Romans dedicated May Day to the Goddess Flora and would go to the woods to cut a tree and decorate it with ribbons and flowers, this is the origin of the May Pole. In the 16th and 17th centuries in England people would make garlands of flowers and leaves for the May Day celebration.
In Hastings there were at least two groups who paraded a Jack in the Green until about 1889. By the turn of the century the custom was seen no more.
The custom was revived in Hastings by Mad Jacks Morris Dancers in 1983.
In Hastings, the celebrations start with 'The Gathering'
The Bogies, Morris sides, Sweeps and a host of colourful characters gather outside the Fisherman's museum on Rock-a-Nore Road eagerly awaiting the Jack. The greening begins here!
Then the Jack is released from the Fisherman's Museum and bursts into the crowd. Mad Jack's Women welcome him by performing a dance around him. Then the procession forms up. Following the Jack and the Bogies are Mad Jack's Morris, the Sweeps and the May Queen, Hannah's Cat, The Lovely Ladies and the Gay Bogies, Giants, visiting performing groups and the rhythm section.
The procession weaves its way through the Old Town and stops in the High Street befire winding up Swan Terrace, Croft Road, along Collier Road and finally along Priory Road and onto the West Hill.
The procession reaches its climax on the West Hill festival site.
The Jack arrives at the festival site on the West Hill where the Bogies drum the procession in. After the Morris Dancing on the West Hill, the Bogies parade the Jack down to the main stage where he is symbolically slain and the Spirit of Summer is released for another year.