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Plough Monday in Cambridgeshire 1978 and Tipping Point Recordings: Audio Visual Transmission Guide #50/52a


Plough Monday In Cambridgeshire 1978 is a short film of folkloric traditions in Cambridgeshire which can be watched at the BFI Player:

For Fenland land workers, Plough Monday marks the beginning of the agricultural year and the resuming of work following the Christmas period. Locals in Cambridgeshire honour the traditions and execute a traditional Plough dance with great vigour. Anglia TV news reporter Alison Leigh interrupts the ‘Molly dancers’ to interview a participant. ‘Why have they revised this jolly old custom?”

It is an interesting snapshot of local traditions and celebrations which despite being recorded a number of decades before its publication, would not necessarily seem out of place in Sarah Hannant’s Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey Through the English Ritual Year book from 2011, where she photographically documents contemporary folkloric rituals.


Along which lines, one of the things that struck me when I watched Plough Monday was that although a period piece, it did not seem so far removed and almost from a parallel world as such films from just a few years before can do.

It seemed to have more than just hints of what I think of as modernity or modern times – something in the atmosphere and spirit of the time and place, alongside certain aesthetic details such as the style of some of the cars and the branches of national shop chains that are pictured.


It made me think of comments I wrote back in the first year of A Year In The Country about such things, that this film feels like it on the edge of now, today, while earlier films seems to be from an elsewhere-like before:

…in a more abstract sense, possibly it’s because that point in time was a tipping point in society, it’s direction, aims, wants and needs; a move towards more individualistic concerns, accompanied by a move economically, politically and socially towards the right… Programmes made up until that point somehow are imbued with an antideluvian quality, they are now broadcasts or remnants from an “other” time…

Watched now Plough Monday seems to be a document not so much of folkloric rituals but rather a recording of the new sitting alongside the old but with the new having the dominant hand and the old appearing already somewhat out of place, almost as though it is ready to shuffle off like creatures from an evolutionary strand that has almost come to its end.


(File Post Under: Cathode Ray & Cinematic Explorations, Radiowave Resonations & Audiological Investigations)

Audio Visual Transmission Guide #1:
Plough Monday In Cambridgeshire 1978 at the BFIPlayer

Local Broadcasts:
Day #66/365: Sarah Hannants wander through the English ritual year
Day #183/365: Steam engine time and remnants of transmissions before the flood
Ether Signposts #5/52a: Homer Sykes Once A Year And A Lineage Of Folk Custom Wanderings
Audio Visual Transmission Guide #46/52a: Barsham Faire 1974 And A Merry Albion Psychedelia


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