What’s going on in the background?

Back in June, a friend and I headed to the Crypt Gallery to see Ben Edge and the Museum of British Folklore exhibition on Ritual Britain. With this focus on an area I knew very little about I was intrigued to see what angles were taken and ground covered.

Throughout the exhibition, I was drawn to the detail of Edge’s paintings. Particularly, when looking beyond central figures in the foreground. Edge’s inclusion of a lively and recognisable background adds a contemporary layer to the rituals or folklores being depicted.

These four paintings below stood out to me for that very reason. And made me wonder how these depictions would be interpreted in the future…

From top left to right, ‘The Summer Solstice’, 2018’; ‘The Hallaton Hare Pie Scramble’ (2020); ‘The Flaming Tar Barrels of Ottery St Mary’ (2020); ‘The Autumn Equinox’ (2018), Author’s own images (2021).

Edge’s accompanying documentary answered a lot of initial questions I had whilst encountering each painted scene. In response to the Flaming Tar Barrels, I was thinking about how long this tradition has endured. And the role of the future generation of retaining this tradition, which appears quite likely going by Edge’s depiction of an excited young person in the front line. Belief systems was also a strong theme present in the Hallaton Hare Pie Scramble — in terms of links between Pagan traditions and Christianity. As well as the different rituals practised to celebrate the change of seasons in both The Summer Solstice and The Autumn Equinox.

But I still have questions about how and where these rituals, traditions and histories manifest today? And if there is an appetite to discover and share this knowledge with other people? I wonder how many people born across the UK are aware of some of these rituals and folklores highlighted?

You can find out more information about each piece mentioned in this blog by visiting Ben Edge’s website.



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Lisa @Heritage_io

Hi I’m Lisa | Based in Brum, UK | Curator | Blogging to challenge the idea that history, art, culture and heritage is irrelevant| Twitter & IG: @heritage_io