Axbridge Pageant 2022: a message from the artistic director John Bailey

Such a long time coming but here we are.

Axbridge Pageant 2020 was doomed and in 2021 the curse stayed with us. But Axbridge did not give up.

With major local sponsor and great friend to the Pageant, Axbridge business Enable, as well as our ‘Redress the Past’ partners, Kings College London and University College London, we forged ahead and officially re-launched Axbridge Pageant on 22 January 2022 on a cold, raw Saturday morning.

It was now or never and we realised that we would have to operate under strict but necessary COVID rules. This duly limited our daytime audience to 40 people at a time, for an ever changing, kaleidoscopic, programme. There were talks on Pageants through history and the ‘Pageant Fever’ which swept through Britain in the early decades of the 20th Century. The Town Hall was be-decked with impressive, eye catching banners projecting images from the 2010 Pageant, a display of Pageant costumes, books and ephemera. The programme of events was performed in front of a fitting back drop provided by the wonderful Pageant tapestries.

The talks from academics from the aforesaid universities and further afield created much interest and debate from an audience who began to put their own, local, experience into the melting pot of the 20th Century. They heard their own town, Axbridge, spoken of as part of that illustrious history and lauded as the last recognised Pageant continuing to thrive in the UK! History coming home.

After a welcome lunch break and further entertainment, which included music and fascinating, archive film, members of Axbridge Community Theatre company performed a drama entitled ‘Axbridge Pageant Snap Shots’. This was a piece the Company had taken to London in August as part of the National ‘Redress the Past’ Historical Pageants project at Cecil Sharp House; a celebration of Pageants through history which the community of Axbridge and its sponsors were proud to be part of.

The performance, twenty minutes in length, depicted three scenes from the Axbridge Pageant in quick fire drama and song, greatly enhanced by costumes from the Pageant Costume Team. By this time there was a tremendous atmosphere in the Hall and a very real sense of expectation that the Axbridge Pageant was steering itself home again.

Axbridge people saw themselves depicted through the ages, reminding us all of the breathtaking spectacle which will take place over August Bank Holiday 2022. It was very warmly received.

Of course it would have been preferable to have opened the doors to more than 40 people at one time but throughout the day we dutifully and appropriately abided by the COVID restrictions. The fact that the audience changed throughout the day thankfully meant that many more than 40 people enjoyed the collective thrill.

The point of the day was many fold; to continue to place the Axbridge Pageant on a National stage and to remind people here and elsewhere of what we are about to embark upon. This is not just about sharing it amongst ourselves – once we start working on this great event again in the coming months, we will all be reminded that people come from all over the world to see it.

Incidentally, if any casual observer thought that the audience was made up of people just wishing to sign up, as important as that was, then they would have been much mistaken. People from across the country came to hear the talks about Pageantry, part of a network of people who have a fascination for the subject and who will be amongst the first to buy tickets for our event in the summer. We are important to the wider historical picture. And people also came to take in the music – musicians and singers who are keen to be part of our event and also people who recognised that we were using music to assist us in telling our story.

We picked up many admirers in 2010, who came from across the country and around the world and who were dazzled by the spectacle and the quality of performance. And there were people here at the re-launch, just as at a new fashion show, who were checking out how we are moving forward for 2022. Have we trained on? How much stronger are we going to be in the new one? We had theatre critics there and a costume expert who was more than impressed. They will hold a keen eye on how we will re-interpret the Pageant in 2022.

All of which goes to show that we cannot rest on our laurels. None of us should underestimate how events of this nature become significant to people from outside of the community. We are on a social, National and international calendar and by God doesn’t that feel exciting!

Of course, after many, unavoidable, false starts the most important thing about Saturday 22nd January was that we were officially re-launching the Axbridge Pageant to its people. They found us in significant numbers throughout the day; re-affirming their loyalty, passion, assistance and expertise in ways that would be un-imaginable to an outside observer.

I would like to thank everyone in Axbridge and beyond who has signed up, given positive responses, or offered support and encouragement to an event which I know is going to be a dazzling success in August.

Incidentally, there will be one last opportunity to sign up over the next couple of months, so watch this space for details. Or in the meantime why not contact us personally (you can email John Kendall on (jk_axbridge@yahoo.co.uk) We have room for everyone.

We are looking forward to working with you all over the coming months. Believe that we are going to take this to another level!

Warm Wishes

John Bailey.

Artistic Director.

Axbridge Pageant

The Axbridge Pageant takes place from Saturday-Monday, August 27-29, 2022

Rehearsals take place in the summer

Look out for more details soon. More at http://www.harrymottram.co.uk/axbr…/axbridge-pageant-2020/ and on social media and at http://axbridgepageant.com/Axbridge_Pageant_News