Langton school revives old tradition, come what May

The pupils of St George’s Primary School in Langton Matravers, Dorset have dusted off a maypole in order to bring back an ancient May custom – and the whole village has been invited along to watch!

With dry weather forecast for Thursday 22nd May 2024, the old tradition of maypole dancing will be given a new lease of life by the children on the school playing fields off the High Street.

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St George’s School dance club will perform a routine choreographed by Hannah Seaton-Sykes and Nikki Rutter

Whole village invited to watch

Parents and grandparents of children at the school have been invited to join the celebrations beginning at 2.30 pm, and everyone else in the village can join in, too.

All of the school’s four classes with children from the ages of 4 to 11 years old will show off the maypole dances they have been learning through the month, while the school’s dance group steps out with a more complex routine.

Traditional country music will be played for the displays, but it is hoped that as the tradition becomes fixed in the school calendar in future years some more modern music will be incorporated in the event as well.

St George’s head teacher Katy Astle is keen for traditions to pay an important role at school

Ribbons in hand and ready to go – the ancient tradition of maypole dancing is about to be revived

“Tradition is very important to us”

Although St George’s School has had a maypole for many years, last being used in 2011, it is unclear why or when it was acquired in the first place – but possibly for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002.

Katy Astle, headteacher of St George’s School, said:

“We have had a maypole in the school for a very long time, but it has basically gathered dust in the corner of the hall. I started three years ago and it has just stayed there during that time, but we thought this year we would finally get it out and renew a tradition.

“We are a church school with a lot of links to the church in the village and want to keep that village school feel, so tradition is very important to us and we are excited about restarting this one.

“Most schools used to do maypole dancing once, but I’ve been teaching for 20 years and have yet to work in a school where they still carry on with the tradition.”

The girls of the dance club are Jess, Iona, Lydia, Izzy, Lola, Summer, Giuliana and Elsie

School admin officer and TA Mrs Seaton-Sykes puts the dance club girls through their paces

“The children have done really well”

Katy Astle added:

“Every class from reception up to Year 6 have learned a bit of maypole dancing and the dance club has learned more complex steps with Mrs Hannah Seaton-Sykes and Mrs Nikki Rutter who have helped choreograph the children.

“The dances were traditionally held on May Day to help welcome in the summer, so we have slightly changed it, but it is the last day of our half term and still in May, so I think we can say that’s acceptable for this year!

“We don’t know where it will lead us, but we do want to continue with it. The children have done really well this year learning the dances since the start of May and are really looking forward to performing for the village.”

Iona, Ivy, Ariana, Isabella and Edith are part of the Maple Class dance, along with Alice, Jack, Thomas, Jess, Edee, Eliana and Albie, shown all together in our top photo

The maypole celebrations will be held on the St George’s playing fields, Langton Matravers

Collection for school funds

St George’s PTA will be selling treats after the exhibition performance and a collection will be made for school funds, currently helping to finance a new playground and a forest school-style outside learning space on the playing fields.

Maypole dances, which go back many centuries were originally held around living trees as part of spring and summer rites to ensure fertility, usually held on 1st May, although the Scandinavian version is still practised at Midsummer.

Finally putting the school maypole to good use, the celebration will now be held every May

St George’s Church of England Primary School in Langton Matravers

Bringing in the May

Other traditions associated with May Day include bringing in the May – waking up before dawn and going outside to wash your face in the dew, gathering flowers and creating garlands for friends and family to wear.

The earliest known May celebration is the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, held from 27th April to 3rd May during the Roman Republic era, as described by Ovid.

It began with theatrical performances during which hares and goats were released and crowds were pelted with flowers and beans for good luck.

Watch the Royal Ballet’s maypole dance from The Wayward Daughter

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