This Winter Solstice event is in its 7th year and involves the revival of recorded traditions in Cornwall but in particular, in West Penwith. It originated as another wonderful Penzance event to ‘balance’ with the Midsummer’s Golowan Festival.
Reflecting the ‘death’ and ‘rebirth’ of the sun, Rivers of Fire are created. Lantern-lit processions from different areas of the town, meet at the highest point, Lescudjack Hillfort, an ancient fortress site. Here, the community gathers to watch The Lord of Misrule light the beacon, fireplay, dancing, drumming and the magical, mischievous Turkey Rhubarb Guise Band. The site is lit by natural light from the numerous lanterns and torches, crafted in the previous week at community workshops.
All return to St John's Hall in one ‘River of Fire’ where the guising, music, acrobatics, singing and mayhem begins, masked and dressed in tattered or ‘mock posh’ attire, as recorded in the history books. Later, another band-led torch lit procession begins from the top of Chapel Street, leading to a lower beacon behind the Barbican for community dancing, music and the Chalking of the Mock ceremony.
Visually spectacular, you will not be sorry if you pay a visit to Penzance on this mid winter night. Make a mask, dress up (or down!) and come along!
About The Turkey Rhubarb Guise Band
The band was originally created to perform at the Montol Festival in 2007. The band follows the 'Guising' tradition; performing traditional Cornish, Celtic and other music, dance and theatre in the pubs and streets of Penzance and the surrounding areas. The band dresses in 'Mock Posh' and 'Tatters', as described above, with the addition of traditional Christmas colours. Venetian-style masks, Top Hats and 'Tails' are to be encouraged alongside any other fanciful adornment!
Whilst the band is primarily a Montol Guising Band performing mainly during the Twelve Days of Christmas, the band will also come together informally to celebrate the Celtic cycle of events throughout the year.
About The Montol Lord of Misrule
The Lord of Misrule, in the context of Montol, is the leader of the masked Guisers during the festival. The Lord of Misrule has a special costume and mask made for the occasion, completely disguising the features of the occupant of the office. Montol has had five Lords of Misrule in its history; two ladies and 3 men. During the festival the Lord of Misrule will be seen lighting the beacons, leading the processions and taking part in the ceremonies. The role is similar in some ways to the Mock Mayors of Cornish tradition but different in that the Lord of Misrule is chosen completely randomly by the casting of lots, in this case coloured beans.
The Lord of Misrule has had many titles including 'The Abbot of Unreason' and 'The King of the Bean'.
To be considered for the honour of Lord of Misrule you must be dressed in full Montol Costume ( see costume guide ) and mask. Present yourself to the Master of Revels at 5.45pm on the evening of Montol Eve at St John's Hall steps. Take a bean from the Master of Revels. If you select the 'Montol Bean' you will have the honour of serving as Lead Guiser for the nights celebrations. We will never reveal your identity. You must not be a serving member of a local authority, a MP, or a member of the House of Lords.
The Guisers will obey you for the entire evening and you must return the costume to the Master of Revels after the event.
Photos courtesy of Phil Green