Community News: Festival Spirit at Foxton…

Festival Spirit at Foxton

The first crude scarecrows were pioneered by the Egyptians to protect wheat fields in the fertile Nile Valley from Quail. In Medieval England, farmers employed children to chase off birds and wildlife that constantly destroyed crops, but the Great Plague of 1348 decimated the population which resulted in a dire shortage of youngsters to carry out this task. In desperation, landowners took to stuffing unwanted clothes, positioning a turnip as the head, and attaching the entire bundle to a pole or wooden frame.

Although the majority of farmers now use pesticides to safeguard against birds and other marauders there are still a number that use the good old traditional method. Scarecrow festivals are common throughout the world and last week 40 of the wonderful characters were unleashed into the attractive Cambridgeshire village of Foxton.

This year heralded a record crowd of locals and visitors with a warm and sunny day turning the event into an almost carnival style attraction, with an added touch of English quirkiness, and raising £2,800 to be split between St Lawrence’s Church, the school, and the pre-school.

Odd figures had been popping up for the previous weeks, initially at the Post Office, and then spreading throughout the village with families and groups coming together to erect their contributions.  Some of the exhibitors had been working on their displays for the best part of three weeks and were now excited and eager to unveil their creations. Ladders were propped up thatched roofs, models appeared on lawns, under hedges, over walls, and hanging from garages, some deliberately in sections. Straw was provided by the Mead family, who farm locally. By midday, all was in place to welcome the excited crowds.

The biennial Scarecrow Festival, the theme of which was movie titles this year, has grown beyond recognition over the years since its inauguration in 2011 by Christine McFadzean and is now run by a committee with contributions from many residents. “ It was a wonderful day that brought the village together” one local remarked, “whether baking cakes, donating jams and chutneys, or neighbours co-operating over groups of scarecrows”.

“I grew up here and expected to walk around for an hour or so, but it’s so brilliant that seven hours have elapsed,” said Lizzie who had driven from Haverhill. “I’ve chatted with old friends and met visitors from Landbeach to Southend!” remarked James, a former resident who had brought the family from Cambridge.

Some of the displays were truly spectacular. Victoria and Davey Jarman who designed the wonderful and colourful ‘Tiger Comes to Tea’ last year, presented cleverly animated scenes from Mary Poppins, whilst another regular contributor to the event, Ruth Trinidad, exhibited a giant 7-foot-tall paper mache Buzz Light Year, which won joint winner status along with Deana Vaughan’s Dobby, skillfully made from hessian. The White Horse Public House exchanged its name for the Three Broomsticks for the day with landlady, Beverley, proudly showing off her contribution of Harry Potter to the Festival crowds. Rosalind Meese‘s cleverly constructed representation of a scene from the BBC’s famous ‘Life On Earth’ series depicting Richard and David Attenborough filming with a Giraffe was certainly very imaginative. Over in St. Lawrence’s Church, the younger set were making their own scarecrow interpretations to take home as a momentum of the day.

But the day wasn’t just about our scary friends. The mellow sounds of the Impromptu Band, composed of local musicians, producing snazzy, jazzy music, along with plenty of famous blues and swing numbers behind the village hall pleasantly contrasted with The Lane Children’s Dance Academy’s sparkling performances to the audience inside. Teacher, Rosalind, was also responsible for the other budding young naturals singing and playing various musical instruments that day with her ‘Semitones’ Music Group. (Please see separate article – The Semitones).

In Foxton House, there was a queue for bacon butties and delicious soup, whilst at the village hall there was coffee and homemade cakes in abundance. Certainly, a day to remember for a long while.

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Article Clive Porter and Rosalind Meese
Copyright Photos – Clive Porter Photography 

Photos – If anyone is interested in owning any of the fine photos in this feature, please contact Clive Porter: 07594 259 410