Pageant 2022

Save the date: Saturday, 22nd January, 2022, Axbridge Town Hall for a FREE Axbridge Pageant information and recruitment day for the community event running from 27-29 August in the Town Square. The day in the town hall runs from 11am-5pm and includes a chance to learn about the town’s big event, volunteer and sign up to take part as a group or as an individual. There’s videos, display boards, talks by academics from London, a chance to talk to the organisers and those involved in previous pageants and live theatre – plus a separate rock concert in the evening – so pop along and wear a mask but find out more. More information to follow with the usual provisos for late changes in these unusual times. Look out for more details soon. More at…/axbridge-pageant-2020/ and on social media and at

Green light for town’s 2022 Pageant

The Pageant will go ahead next year as planned. That was the decision made by the Axbridge Pageant Committee on January 18th, when a Zoom meeting was held to discuss the situation in light of the on-going Covid-19 crisis.

There is one important caveat, of course, that the event will only proceed as long as the vaccination programme, being rolled out over the Spring and Summer, is a complete success.

The Artistic Director of the Pageant John Bailey said: “We are cautiously optimistic that the 2022 Pageant will be able to take place as long as life looks to be returning to normal, more or less, by August of this year. If it does then we can begin to plan meaningfully ahead, ramping up preparations for ticket sales, casting, costuming, construction, promotion and fundraising.”

Ticket sales are crucial for the event’s success as without the income generated in advance there can be no pageant. Traditionally tickets are on sale before Christmas – hence the need to have confirmation of the Pageant taking place by the autumn.

John Bailey said: “The Committee will meet again at Easter time of this year to further review the situation and allow us to give a further up-date on the state of play. We sincerely hope that it can be a positive one.”

The pageant is a two hour long history play based on the town’s past starting in Romano-Britain and ending in the 21st century with scenes that include a Saxon v Dane battle, the Lady Day Fair, the Monmouth Rebellion and the coming of the train and motor cars. It features a cast of hundreds with many roles behind the scenes including photographers, dressers, make-up artists, designers and marshals.

The pageant is set to take place at 3pm daily over the Bank Holiday weekend of Saturday-Monday from August 27-29, 2022.

For more news, features and photos on the pageant visit and


Axbridge Pageant 2022 News: The event is provisionally slated for August 2022.

A letter from the artistic director John Bailey.


It is the end of September, 2020 and the town of Axbridge should have been basking in reflective glory from another riotously successful Pageant, carried out in a cavalcade of colour and collective exuberance over the blessed three, sunny, dry days which marked the August Bank Holiday.
All the hard work and attention to detail done, the exhilaration of performance spent, leaving, as it has in the past, a recognisable sense of well being which will have kept us warm through the long winter months. A job well done, the costumes and props carefully packed away and leaving lingering memories for another ten years.
It wasn’t to be of course and the Bank Holiday weekend saw the Square empty of Stands and packed audiences, empty without it’s hundreds of performers and the place was all the poorer for it’s absence.
As we all know only too clearly the whole thing was taken out of our hands and was replaced with the increasingly grim world which is Covid 19, our ‘new normal’, to coin a horrible phrase.
We had great hopes back in March that by postponing the Pageant of 2020 we would be clear of this thing by the winter and we would then be able to resume work in earnest in readiness for 2021. Work we would be starting now, on all fronts, with groups of people working closely together on costumes, props, construction, fund raising, rehearsing, planning ; marching on to bring it back to life for the new summer ahead.
However, ‘this thing’ has not gone away and as we move toward winter the country has been, once again, thrown into chaos and uncertainty. We are subject to the ‘Rule of 6’, threatened further lockdowns, Christmas has been put on hold or cancelled and the grim, ubiquitous mask is an obligatory, vital, part of our wardrobe and lives.
It will come as no surprise then that we have taken the sad but inevitable and sensible decision to postpone  the Pageant from 2021 as, quite simply, it cannot and will not happen in a forbidding climate which is set to with us for the foreseeable future.
However, we are determined that this unique event, destined to be written in the history books, will not be beaten out of sight. We know that the Community of Axbridge value it highly and that a huge amount of hard work, goodwill and love has already gone into it.
Therefore, we formally announce that we are not in the business of defeat. We aim, instead, to re-route the Axbridge Pageant to August Bank Holiday 2022 when we sincerely hope that we will once again have the time to prepare carefully and safely, the freedom to perform collectively as a town and to be able to see the Square full to the brim with expectant crowds for what is a joyous and memorable event.
We need to continue to live the dream. We all hope that it is a realistic dream.

John Bailey.
Artistic Director.
Axbridge Pageant.

More details to follow soon – in particular for people who have volunteered to take part and for those who wish to be involved in 2022.

For more news, features and photos on the pageant visit and

For more features, reviews, news and views on a variety of subjects visit

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Organisers of the Axbridge Pageant 2020 have pulled the event due to the coronavirus crisis – and will reschedule it for August 2021 – full statement here from John Bailey the artistic director

At a crisis meeting held last night in the town the committee that organises the Axbridge Pageant made the decision to postpone this year’s August production for 12 months.

The artistic director John Bailey said that due to the Government’s advice to cancel meetings for the next few weeks meant rehearsals would be affected and there would be a reluctance for people to commit to the pageant.

“We cannot risk it,” he said, “The coronavirus has blown it away, and we have had to bow to the inevitable and put it off for a year.”

However he said he remained committed to the project and fortunately no money had yet changed hands as tickets had not yet gone on sale. Nigel Scott the treasure said it was fortunate that no major purchases had been made as the finance of pageant was vital to its success. John Bailey agreed saying the pageant had to be a sell out in order to cover costs and although things may improve by August ticket sales would be hit as a result of the crisis.

The massive project includes 15 scenes, 400 actors, 200 production people and costs £60,00 to stage

Some of the factors behind the decision included the large number of the audience who would be in their 70s or older, many in the cast being of a similar age and the uncertainty over the length of the coronavirus crisis inevitably would be a brake on residents volunteering.

The pageant was set to take place from August 29-31 but will now be rescheduled to be performed on August 28-30, 2021.

John Bailey’s full statement:


In troubled times difficult and troubling decisions, inevitably, need to be made. I have had the privilege to oversee two Axbridge Pageants in 2000 and 2010, and have spent the last two years progressing and developing the 2020 Pageant with the exceptional community that is Axbridge. Hard work? Yes, but always rewarding and heart-warming because of the collective will of the people who believe in something and want to make it happen.

It is, therefore, with heavy heart that I need to announce that we have found it necessary to postpone the Axbridge Pageant for 2020. I am sure, that in the light of escalating events, that I do not need to outline in great detail why we have made this difficult decision. However, the acceleration and severity of the Coronavirus leaves us with no alternative.

In making this decision we are seeking to protect the commitment, passion and enthusiasm that the community has for this unique event. A spectacle which has achieved international recognition and has even gone into the history books. Plaudits indeed, and all the more reason to protect it from the scourge of our time.

This, of course, is hugely disappointing news for the many people who have worked tirelessly on the event and for the hundreds who were about to embark on the exciting journey of bringing the Axbridge Pageant to fruition in August of this year. But, very sadly, these are exceptional times and we are sure you will realise that this is the responsible thing to do.

However, we must feel that this postponement is not without a sense of hope. By making the decision now we firmly believe that we can put the whole thing on ice and hope to re-convene when there is no longer a threat to our society. To that end we cautiously announce that the Axbridge Pageant will be put on hold until August of 2021. It is to be hoped that, later this year, when we have negotiated our way out of the present gloom we may be able to pick up where we left off.

In the meantime I send you all the warmest of wishes.

John Bailey

The finale of the pageant in 2010

In 1963 the former Cheddar Valley Railway often called The Strawberry Line was closed after almost a century of use. A few years later the line above the town was turned into the bypass ending the traffic jams that had dogged the town for years. To celebrate a pageant was proposed to chart the town’s history in the square soon after.
It was a huge success prompting further pageants in 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010. Each time the Square was turned into a vast arena and stage – to portray the long and extraordinary story of the town through drama, music, poetry, spectacle and pageantry. And so we gather once again in August 2020 to maintain this tradition – that in its own way has also become part of the town’s history. The website will carry news, views and features about the pageant and will carry photos of the past productions.

Take part

Rehearsals take place in the lead up to the event in August

Recruiting is underway

If you would like to take part either behind the scenes or as a walk on part or as an actor or musician then send an e-mail to with the following details:

  • Names of other family members who would like to take part
  • Whether you/they would like speaking or non-speaking parts or either
  • Any particular parts or scenes you/they would be interested in
  • Any backroom/backstage roles you/they may be interested in (eg. Fund raising, marketing, costumes & props, design & construction, etc)

You may have missed the recruitment days or the chance to complete a form and leave it in the Post Office – it’s not too late – email your details and prepare to be part of the town’s biggest and most famous event this summer.

The scenes include the Romans and Celts, the battle of Saxons v Danes, Normans, founding of Christian Axbridge, Queen Henrietta Maria’s visit, Bull Baiting, The Lady Day Fair, Hannah More and the fighting vicar, Victorian Axbridge, Edwardian scene and World War One, Inter war years and World War Two, plus post war and the late 20th century.

Rehearsal dates announced

The important dates are:

Saturday 22nd August – collection of costumes

Sunday 23rd August – dress rehearsal in the Square

Saturday, Sunday and Monday 29th, 30th & 31st August – three performances commencing at 3pm daily.

Pageant rehearsals will take place on Sundays during the 10 week period leading up to the dress rehearsal. These will be in various venues including the town hall – although sequences involving actors and the narrators are already underway.

For more details email the producer John Kendall on


Some background

In the 1960s the Cheddar Valley Railway (often known as The Strawberry Line) was finally closed after almost a century of use. The railway had taken Axbridge’s people and produce out into the wider world. It had been an escape to the seaside, to the shops of Wells and a means of getting to work for generations of workers. And it had placed the valley’s famous strawberries onto teatime tables from Scotland to Cornwall.

Then the age of steam had come to an end, and the motorcar was now king.

At the time Axbridge was a bottleneck for traffic with its narrow streets – with no alternative route. When the Axbridge bypass opened in 1967, heavy traffic ceased to pour down the High Street and through the Square. The traffic jams had been legendary with long tailbacks to Cheddar in one direction and Cross in the other.

Crowds would gather outside the Lamb Inn to witness the chaos as lorries and buses backed up in order to squeeze past the medieval houses.

Peace descended as the traffic roared past on the new road that ran along the old railway embankment – and the town was able to breath a sigh of relief. To celebrate, the community held a pageant in the Square with hundreds of residents embracing their inner Roman, Tudor and Victorian personas.

The two hour long drama immortalised the community’s history in a moving tableau representing many of the town’s key moments in time. From the era of the Roman Empire to Queen Victoria, the charters, fairs and personalities were brought to life by ordinary members of the public.

It was a huge success prompting further pageants in 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010. Each time the Square was turned into a vast arena and stage – to portray the long and extraordinary story of the town through drama, spectacle and pageantry.