About the Stony Stratford Mummers
Origins: Stony Stratford Mummers was formed when a group of dedicated folkies decided that they would entertain those in the local hostelries at Christmas time. A group of friends went round the pubs singing Christmas Carols and one year late they decided to perform a Mummers play. It was in the year 1973 that Stony Stratford Mummers was born.
Apart from a one year break in the late 1980’s Stony Mummers have performed every year since its inception.
Performances: Our performance schedule in the winter always starts when the town holds its annual ‘Switching on of the Lights’ celebration which heralds the start of the winter festivities at the end of November or beginning of December. For some years we have appeared at the Dickens of a Christmas Fair in nearby Olney. Finally, we enjoy a tour round the pubs in local villages on the Friday evening before Christmas.
In past years we have also performed at summer events such as the Waterside Festival in Great Linford, and Stony Live, a week’s festival of events held in June each year. We have also presented a "Meet the Mummers" evening as part of the Stony Words literary festival in January.
Plays: Stony Stratford Mummers perform a hero combat play (we have several in our repertoire) in winter and on the occasions we perform in the summer months, we perform a wooing play*. Sometimes the wooing play is presented at Christmas as well.
Whichever play we present, we seldom repeat any script in exactly the same way. We add the occasional contemporary reference and new supernumerary characters (invented for topical reference, or borrowed from other mummers' plays) to accommodate the number of people interested in taking part at the time. Some plays traditionally include a solo dance (often a broom dance) and we sometimes perform a molly dance before or after the play.
Mummers Band: In recent years we have developed our Mummers Band both to accompany the songs in the plays and to perform after the play as an extension of the entertainment we offer. The Band typically has a concertina, melodian, violin, mandola, recorder or chalumeau, and drum. The whole troupe also sings folk songs, a capella or accompanied by the Band.
*The wooing play we perform is from Sproxton in Leicestershire. This text is the only one which has been collected in full, with the music for the songs. It was usually performed on ‘Plough Boy Night’ in early January.
The wooing play is less performed than the hero combat, maybe because they only survived in a small area of the country, mainly the counties of Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Rutland and Nottinghamshire.
Traditionally the wooer of a young ‘female’ is rejected in favour of a ‘clown’ and enlists in the army. In the ensuing action a champion overcomes an opponent who is revived by the doctor. Part of the action is expressed in song. Performers include the Recruiting Sergeant, the Lady, the Clown and the Fool. The Sproxton play is a variation in this theme.