December 20 2013 Latest news:
Friday, December 21, 2012
The Sidmouth Mummers will be undertaking their annual tour of the town’s pubs tonight (Friday, December 21).
The streets will resound once again to the sound of battle - as the unique group perform their Ancient Christmas Play in aid of Children’s Hospice South West. The piece features several heroes and villains from history such as St George, the Turkish Knight, King Tippoo and Lord Nelson, as well as The Duke of Wellington and a mysterious French general named Merman.
There is also the eccentric Dr Ben, who claims to be able to raise the dead and cure any disease known to man, and Old Father Christmas in his guise as the Holly King.
The play, which is peculiar to Sidmouth and the surrounding villages, was first noted by an American visitor in 1820, so ranks as one of the oldest surviving plays of its type in the country.
The Sidmouth Mummers have performed it regularly since reviving it as a custom in 1978 – with many performing the same parts since then, which itself is something of a record.
“In the old days the mummers would have collected money to augment their finances over the Christmas holiday,” said Old Father Christmas Henry Piper.
“Nowadays we collect for our chosen charity Children’s Hospice South West, so please come and support the mummers.
“By doing so you will be helping to keep this ancient custom alive, as well as supporting a most deserving charity.
“Remember, giving money to the Mummers is said to bring good to the giver for the coming year.”