News & stories

This page not only features the news stories on the Pageant and fundraising events… but we’d also like to hear YOUR personal stories about previous pageants.

To tell us your tale, contact press@axbridgepagent.com

News

Pageant Cancelled!

17 March 2020

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.

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 break 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:

PAGEANT CANCELLATION

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

Casting has begun!

As we continue to ratchet up the intensity of work required to make Axbridge Pageant 2020 a success, to that end, on Sunday, 16th February, in the Town Hall, we held auditions for the third key Narrator role or Chronicler as she/he is known, and other key speaking roles.

As we already have our two Principal Narrators in place, Chris Jarman and Kate Lynch, who are reprising the roles they delivered so memorably in 2010 and who have been working with me over the last month in preparation for 2020, this was a very important day to add to the talent already in place.

Over six, exacting, hours we saw a tremendous variety of talent. Perhaps, most exciting was the fact that we assembled a potent mixture of old and new faces. Some, gratifyingly, experienced veterans of previous Pageants, who bring with them a wealth of past expertise but also, most encouragingly, a considerable number of talented people who will be experiencing their first Pageant and who are eager and excited to be involved. This sends out a loud and positive message to the future wealth and health of Axbridge Pageants to come.

The level of interest and passion to be part of it seemed to be the message of the day. The role of the Chronicler is a big deal and it is a role we have much changed from 2010. From an acting point of view it presents a host of exciting challenges to open out and improve this wonderful event still further.

For that reason, for 2020, we have chosen to split this key role in two - a dual role, which, after much consideration will be played by Sian Tutill and Tony Wilson. Our congratulations go to them- they were worthy winners of a very close contest full of exciting possibilities. They bring to the role considerable acting experience, scope and charisma and I look forward to working with them from early April onwards.

There are no real losers in this contest, however, as there are key speaking roles to fill for the scenes in the Pageant and they will be taken by some of the people who auditioned and gave such a brilliant account of themselves. These specific roles will be formally announced next week.

Finally, for everyone who has signed up, and the list is impressively large, we will be in a position to announce the full cast list for all 15 scenes by the beginning of April. Exciting times for this unique event. Watch this space.

John Bailey, Artistic Director 2020 Pageant.

Axbridge Progressive Supper raises cash for the Pageant

One of the biggest sources of funds for the Pageant is Axbridge Progressive Supper, and the Committee in November, when 116 people in the town took part, raising £1,400 for the 2020 pageant.

The annual charity event consists of couples eating three courses at different addresses in the town for which they pay to enjoy. A grand draw also took place with prizes from local firms such as Acutabove, Nugents Gentlemen's Barbers, Gin Jar, The Roxy, Hair on the Square and Compton House. The event began and ended at the Lamb Inn. The next progressive supper is on Saturday, November 14, 2020. A dedicated Facebook page gives updates and news about the supper.

Roxy The Draughtsman’s Contract - Big screen donation to the Axbridge Pageant 2020

27 February 2020

Fans of Peter Greenaway’s 1982 period drama The Draughtsman’s Contract have boosted funds for this year’s pageant when the movie was screened at the Roxy Cinema.

The High Street picture house was packed on Friday, February 21st, 2020, for a special screening of the murder mystery set in the 17th century. The film had been marked down on the Roxy Cinema’s programme as a fundraiser for the pageant by the outgoing owner of the Lion House which incorporates the community cinema by Juliet Maclay.

New owners Sebastian Llloyd alias the Modern Carpenter (known as Bash) and craftswoman Gemma Trickey welcomed the audience to the cinema and even entertained a party afterwards from Bristol who had travelled down to see the film.

Filmed at Groombridge Place in Kent the drama tells the story of an unusual contract in which the artist Mr Nevill played by Anthony Higgins has a sexual relationship with his patron Virginia Herbert (Janet Suzman) – which inevitably goes wrong and ends in gory murder.

It’s a film noted for its musical score written by Michael Nyman in the style of Henry Purcell which incidentally is one of the favourite pieces of music of the artistic director of this year’s Pageant John Bailey.

Gemma said: “Thank you so much to everyone who came last Friday to see The Draughtsman's Contract - we had a sell-out crowd who together raised £140 for this year's Axbridge Pageant. It was a fantastic occasion and we were so glad to contribute to the pageant.

“We even had a group from Bristol down especially to watch it, and stuck around for a few drinks afterwards to enjoy the bar with us and chat about the film.”

John Bailey the pageant’s director said it was a wonderful donation which would help to ensure the pageant was a success.

Paul Hughes from the Pageant’s committee said: “The pageant costs thousands of pounds and so every contribution is brilliant – especially this one as it comes from the community cinema.”

For details of the Roxy’s programme of films visit: http://www.axbridgeroxy.org.uk/

Axbridge residents sign up to fight in the Monmouth Rebellion and First World War…

26 January 2020

Sunday, January 26th was an evening with a difference in the ancient Somerset town of Axbridge as Saxons mingled with Victorians, Tudors chatted with the Home Guard… and scores of people signed up to fight in historic battles.

The past and present collided at a recruitment and information session for the 2020 Axbridge Pageant. Held in the Town Hall, the event gave local people a chance to embrace their inner historical character or to take on a role behind the scenes.

Whole families signed up for the Lady Day Fair and Edwardian scenes as well as the Monmouth Rebellion where they could wave off their loved ones to fight in two different conflicts hundreds of years apart.

One lady offered a flock of sheep complete with sheep dog for the Lady Day Fair, while equestrian Liz Scott pledged to bring fellow horse riders to the occasion.

The Tite family will once again be putting the diesel into the Second World War scene with a vintage tractor and trailer to give the Land Girls a ride into the Square. And Mrs Tite is keen for her 1970s moped to make an entrance in the post war scenes.

Artistic Director of the pageant John Bailey said: “It’s been very busy with a lot of people committing themselves to more than one scene - which is really heartening. It’s still not too late to sign up but it is essential to have the names for each scene committed very soon so the costumes can be arranged.”

Producer John Kendall said: “A lot of people have come to the town in the last ten years and so don’t know about the pageant. With the display boards and the video running throughout the evening they had a chance to soak up the concept and become engaged with it – and sign up.”

Wardrobe mistress Barbara Wells said: “I think once people saw the costumes we had on display and the photos of some of incredible outfits they became hooked. It is a chance to be a character from the past and become living history – and that’s what got so many excited.”

The Axbridge Pageant 2020 is over the bank holiday weekend in August, Saturday to Monday, August 29-31, in the afternoon. If you missed the event and would still like to take part email John Kendall at production@axbridgepageant.com

Axbridge's very own Pageant ‘‘Calendar Girls’’ make a date with 2,000 years of local history

12 November 2019

With less than 10 months to go before Axbridge’s historic town square is once again transformed into a huge stage for the 2020 Pageant, local seamstresses have had their work immortalised in a fund-raising calendar to celebrate the occasion.

Each month of the calendar, now on sale in local shops for £8.00, depicts a scene from the Axbridge Tapestry, the town’s very own version of the Bayeux Tapestry. And each of those tableaux faithfully recreates one of 12 dramatic scenes in the Pageant itself: from Roman times right up to the 20th century.

The Axbridge Pageant is the last historic pageant of its kind in the country and is now attracting huge interest from academics, some of whom will be studying and filming the build-up and performances.

Over the last half a century, the event has taken place every ten years over the August Bank Holiday weekend and has become a key part of Somerset’s rich tradition of carnivals and community events: the performance is a spectacular re-enactment celebrating 2,000 years of Axbridge history. The next one will be held over three days in the last weekend of August 2020, and a cast of upwards of 400 local performers of all ages will be supported by over 100 volunteers… all of whom give their time, experience and skill to ensuring this unique event goes from strength to strength.

Each performance is held in front of over 600 people, while a host of other entertainments will also be run across the weekend.

The creation of the Axbridge Tapestry has added another colourful chapter in the Pageant’s history, as Janie Gray, who heads up the Pageant’s 20-strong costume making team explains: “After the 2010 Axbridge Pageant some of us who had been meeting regularly for over two years realised that our lives felt a little empty! And so, in 2012 the Axbridge Sewing Group was formed.

“Each Pageant costs a huge amount of money to stage,” adds Janie, “far more than the ticket sales alone will provide. And while we have had some generous sponsorship, we still need to raise a lot more between here and next August. We have produced a limited run of the calendar – and if we can sell them all that will be a very helpful boost for our funds!”

Copies can be bought for £8.00 at outlets including Ripleys Antiques, Acutabove, The Almshouse Teashop and the Post Office.

Major sponsorship deal puts historic Axbridge Pageant on the road

30 July 2019

Axbridge Pageant, one of the UK’s most famous community pageant events, has secured major funding for next year – by far the biggest in its 50-year history – helping to ensure that the event can be held.

Enable Promotional Marketing, based in the historic town square but serving major brands all around the world, is providing a package of sponsorship money and technical support - including database management for organisation logistics and the Pageant’s website.

Says the Pageant Director John Bailey: “We are massively grateful for Enable’s support, without which we would simply not be able to put on such a spectacular show. We will still be looking for other sponsorships to secure the financial foundations we need for such a huge event, but this is a massive start for us.”

Enable provides project management support to some of the world’s biggest brands for their promotions online, via social media, in-store, at events or on-pack. Although the business works in Latin America, across Europe, Asia- Pacific and the USA it proudly supports the local community.

Neil Barnes, MD of Enable, said: “The Pageant happens in the Square right outside our office window and is an amazing event. All our staff are just as enthused as I am to be playing a part and we will be giving practical support as well as financial support.

‘‘As a Somerset-based business with a worldwide client base, and we’re keen for all directors, managers and staff to get involved in the Pageant, ‘giving back’ to our community by passing on what we can about our town’s history. We are extremely proud of our roots - it’s a very big part of who we are - and we are always ‘spreading the word’ about the town with our clients around the globe.’’

‘‘Enable believe the key to a passionate, enthusiastic, healthy and forward-thinking company is a strong positive relationship with the community. Thus, we strive to play a full role in giving life and energy into the local area.’’

Axbridge Pageant receives £2,000 business boost

8 May 2019

Every ten years the town square of Axbridge becomes a massive open-air theatre where the past 2,000 years of history is dramatically brought to life in front of around 2,000 people over three days.

So it was entirely fitting that the local business community has played a big part in making next year’s pageant a reality by donating £2,000 - raised by social activities in the town. The shot below shows John Bailey (centre) the Pageant’s artistic director, receiving a giant cheque for £2,000 from officers of the Axbridge Chamber of Commerce: left to right - Rose McDonald, Pat Filer, Liz Scott and Mike Sartain.

Says John: “Putting on the Pageant is a hugely costly affair - not least finding multiple costumes for the 300+ local people who take part! The generous support of the Axbridge Chamber of Commerce will play a big part in making next year’s event possible.”

Mayhem groove the night away at Pageant fundraising event

Saturday 1st June in the Town Hall was the setting for a musical fundraiser… the evening proving a great success with all attending having a groovy time listening and dancing to Mayhem. This was despite attendance at the event being lower than hoped for, due to the clash with the UEFA champions League Final that happened on the same night… we need to be more mindful of the times we host events for the future! A big thanks to all in Mayhem for a great night out and for their support for the Pageant fundraising! Also - big thanks to a wonderful support act early in the evening.

We raised over £552 towards the pageant and much of this was from the proceeds from the raffle. A big thanks goes out to all of the local businesses who contributed prizes (see below). Some of the prizes were drawn on this evening and some will be held over for the future benefit event planned for 12th October where the fabulous Stop Cocks will be entertaining us.

Thanks to the following businesses for their generous raffle prizes:

  • The Oak House
  • ACutAbove
  • Somerset Charcuterie
  • The Almshouse
  • Maunders DIY
  • The Roxy Cinema
  • The Lamb Inn
  • Axbridge Chemists
  • Cheddar Ales
  • Cheddar Gorge & Caves