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On Saturday 19 January 2019, the Pentacle Drummers will be appearing in the Cattle Market Car car park in Pevensey in front of the Ryoal Oak and Castle Inn from 18:00-23:00.—Pevensey Bay Journal, 19 January 2019

image credit: Pentacle Drummers

Local people are invited to Wassail into 2019 with the Pentacle Drummers.

The popular group, founded in 2001, is based in Eastbourne and often seen around Pevensey and Pevensey Bay.

With 7,311 followers on Facebook, their original inspiration provides cheer to the locality at key moments in the seasonal calendar.

They describe themselves as ‘the the Lords of the Earthen Drums, the original and the best’.

On Saturday 19 January 2019, they will be appearing in the Cattle Market Car car park in Pevensey in front of the Royal Oak and Castle Inn from 18:00-23:00.

Talking on their Facebook page back on December 23, the drummers said, “Solstice Is over. Christmas day is nearly here.. and before you know it New year will have passed.

“But fear not, there is still something to celebrate in January. The Pentacle Drummers Wassail. The Royal Oak and Castle will be donating 10 pence a pint to our charity. So come and Drink Hale with us and raise cash for charity in the process”

The event which attracts big crowds to the Cattle Market car park in Pevensey, is likely to bring a lift to local people looking to attend an event at a time in the year that is a low point for festivities and community events.

The Royal Oak and Caste Inn in Pevensey, which is planning to use Twitter to inform local people about their “events, specials and good things occurring at The Royal Oak & Castle Inn” in 2019, has a series of events being promoted in  January, including a quiz, and karaoke night as well as live entertainment.

The origins of wassailing, like Christmas carols, are fascinating and complex, with a rich landscape intimately associated, in particular, to rural communities.

Wassailing demonstrates an interleaving of social history and religious events linked to the seasonal calendar.

In “Under the Greenwood Tree” (1872) by Thomas Hardy, for example, there is a tradition of Christmas caroling, (which was earlier known as wassailing), with groups of singers travelling from house to house, singing carols at each, for which they are often rewarded with gifts, money, mince pies, or a glass of an appropriate beverage.

The original title for the book was ‘The Mellstock Quire”.

Wassail, (literally: be hale) is a beverage of hot mulled cider, drunk traditionally as an integral part of wassailing.

Hugh Chisholm, (1911). in the Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.) describes a wassail as a “Medieval Christmas tide English drinking ritual intended to ensure a good cider apple harvest the following year”.

The association of the wassail, promoted by the Pentacle Drummers, with the event staged in the Cattle Market car park in Pevensey, with some of the drinking proceeds donated by the Royal Oak and Castle Inn to charity, is tapping into deep historical roots.

These kinds of event date back to medieval times and the way in which the group resonates with local people, seeing over 7,000 people on Facebook liking what they do in the locality, in fact is a story as old as the hills.

No doubt in 1872 when Thomas Hardy was writing, word of mouth spread the story of wassailing as groups of singers moved from village to village.

There was no internet, but ‘Under The Greenwood Tree’ was the last Thomas Hardy novel publishedon an anonymous basis.

He went on to write some of the great English novels of the nineteenth century.

An early reviewer for the Saturday Review, the critic Horace Moule, descrinbed ‘Under the Greenwood Tree ‘as “a prose idyll”.

In Thomas Hardy from Serial to Novel (1927), Mary Ellen Chase describes how 12 of the novels by Thomas Hardy were published first in serialised form.

In the second half of 1891 the weekly magazine the Graphic, for example, published Tess of The Durbervilles.

The Graphic was a British weekly illustrated newspaper, published on a Saturday describing itself as “a superior illustrated weekly newspaper, containing twenty-four pages imperial folio, printed on fine toned paper of beautiful quality”.

In addition to its home market the paper had subscribers all around what was known as the British Empire and in North America.

The Graphic devoted much attention to literature, arts, sciences, the fashionable world, sport, music and opera. Royal occasions and national celebrations and ceremonials were also given prominent coverage.

Without the internet, the story of the singers in Under The Greenwood Tree in 1872 and notions of wassailling would have been as widely known as the story behind popular films today, promoted on the side on the 99 horse and carriage that takes people from Pevensey Bay to the metropolis of Eastbourne in 2019.

There is something timely and coincidental about the wassailing event promoted by the Pentable Drumers taking place in a cattle market car park in the medieval setting of Pevensey.

Just as with the Thomas Hardy novel, that fact that the event is taking place under a tree, will make English literature buffs smile.

Perhaps the deep roots of these kinds of events resonate with people well beyond the social media circles that we see in the Digital Age.

No doubt hundreds of people will turn up under under the Royal oak tree outside the Royal Oak and Castle Inn in Pevensey on Saturday 19 January 2019 to wassail with the Pentacle drummers, just as they have done for hundreds of years on the same spot.

In Bring it on—Wassail 2019 confirmed for Pevensey, (edition 22 of The Peveney Bay Journal), published on Saturday 29 September 2018, the local newspaper said, “the popular Pentacle Drummers have confirmed that the 2019 Wassail will take place in Pevensey outside the Royal Oak and Castle Public House on Saturday 19 January.

“The Pentacles say, “back by popular demand, the Pentacle Drummers Wassail now in its 7th year.

“Once again this free event will include a torch lit procession and Wassail ceremony to wake those apple trees. There will also be a raffle and proceeds will go to a local charity”.

“The group say on their website, “Pentacle Drummers were founded in Eastbourne, East Sussex in 2001. Since then we have grown from a small group, in to the premier Drumming troupe in Sussex. We perform at over 40 events a year all over the UK. We always seek new avenues where we can share our contagious, powerful, tribal-esque rhythms and entertain the masses.

“A few of our drummers can be seen in the Dizzee Rascal Video for Dirtee Cash filmed in Autumn 2009, and one of our drummers can be seen in the award winning Florence And The Machine Video for Dog Days 2010”.

“Greg Draven, one of the key figures in the group, who describes himself on his twitter feed as “Actor Husband, Father, Model,Voice Artist, Drummer & Beard Wearer”, commented on the Bay Life News Feed, “ It’s an alright little event isn’t it?”

The event is likely to be attended by many local people and the delight enjoyed as a rural ceremony, as has been the case for hundreds of years.

Wassail 2019: Cattle Market Car Car Park, Pevensey
Saturday 19 January 2019, starting 18:00.


SATURDAY FEATURE: Wassailing with the Pentacle Drummers: When Greg Draven meets Thomas Hardy under the Royal Oak Tree in Pevensey
Simon Montgomery
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