Caught by the River

Making Mischief

11th March 2023

Sneak a peek inside the first ever exhibition dedicated to British folk costume and customs — open at Compton Verney from now until June. All photographs © Jamie Woodley.

Costume: courtesy English Folk Costume Archive; Image: Sir Benjamin Stone, Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, c.1900

Hobby Horse (L) courtesy EFDSS; Hoodening Horse (R) courtesy Museum of British Folklore

Making Mischief: Folk Costume in Britain displays more than 40 costumes, with examples drawn from as far afield as Cornwall, Sussex and the Midlands. Each one will demonstrate how widespread and diverse such folk customs are, from rural locations to towns and cities, as well as the creativity and evolution of Britain’s folk communities, which have continued to adapt and embrace changing social mores. The exhibition also highlights how strong connections with the environment and natural world are explored across these very different communities.

Making Mischief is both a celebration of grassroots traditions and a challenge to preconceived ideas about seasonal customs being fixed and nostalgic. By highlighting developing practices, such as the rise of all-female Morris sides (including Gloucestershire’s Boss Morris) and the inclusion of LGBTQ+ performers in some customs, the exhibition addresses increasing inclusivity among the UK’s folk communities.

The Darkest Ooser, courtesy Jamie, Blackthorn Ritualistic Morris

Mari Llwyds, courtesy John and Sue Exton

Orkney Festival of the Horse costumes courtesy Moira Budge, Anne Peace, Fran Gray, Margaret Cromerty, Amy-Jane Budge, Wilma Currie, Jacqueline Scott

Leeds Carnival costume, courtesy Hughbon Condor, High Esteem. Minehead Hobby Horse courtesy John and Jacqueline Land, Museum of British Folklore

Making Mischief is curated by Simon Costin and Mellany Robinson of the Museum of British Folklore, and Professor Amy de la Haye, London College of Fashion, UAL, in association with Compton Verney, with generous support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Find out more information here.