Priston Festival – a village affair

Sunny Priston Festival

Sunny Priston Festival

Priston Festival on a Sunday. Four morris sides dancing for a couple of hours in the middle of a little village deep in a fold of the hills in north Somerset (officially now part of the less romantic-sounding Bath & North East Somerset). There is something very comfortable about this dance out. It’s not the most complicated or over-organised of affairs. It fits on the Sunday of a long weekend of various music events; involves local cake-bakers, farm shops and ice-cream makers alike (as well as the local pub, Ring O’ Bells). Quintessential middle-England hidden away in a nice sunny corner of the world.

Four sides dancing for two hours sounds quite relaxing – but it can get quite hard work when the sun’s up and the wind has vanished. Beautiful weather for the audience, but I was happy to stop and grab my barbecued burger at the end. The dancing is organised by the resident side, Priston Jubilee Morris, and they invite along some of their friends. We’ve been doing it for about four years now, along with Somerset Morris. Often Winterbourne Down Border Morris come along, but this year Beetlecrushers were showing off their step morris skills.

Priston Village across the fields

Priston Village across the fields

On my way down the lanes to the village, and looking across the fields to the village through a (rare) gap in the high hedges, I did start wondering whether this was the smallest village to hold a music festival. Pilton in Somerset is officially home to the Glastonbury Festival, which attracts thousands of people every year it runs. The population of that parish is 998 people, so a bit of an influx. OK, so Priston’s Festival isn’t on that kind of scale. But we do go to fairs and festivals in various locations. There are large town/city festivals in Oxford, Sidmouth, Swanage and even Bath, but I looked up some village sizes for some of the ones we’ve attended in the past.

Bampton in Devon holds a festival After The Fair following their historic Charter Fair – that village is the largest on my list at 2113. We’ve only been there once (and danced round the inevitable manhole cover). Downton Cuckoo Fair, just outside Salisbury (and nothing to do with Downton Abbey) happens annually and is more of a street fair with dancing. They rotate the visiting sides, so we tend to do it every second year. It’s population is 1618, which expands greatly during the Fair. In comparison, the village fete we attended earlier this year in Poulshot was a local affair rather than a full scale festival, but even there the population is 1499. And Priston, which started all this statistical wandering? It’s population is listed as 232. Anyone know of a smaller village holding a regular music festival? I’m curious.

Congratulations to such a small village putting on a growing and popular local festival, and thank you to the residents for suffering the invasion of bells, clogs, musicians etc. once a year (along with the inevitable traffic issues). We look forward to visiting again next year.

[Note: statistical information from the Neighbourhood Statistics section of the Office of National Statistics website.]

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