16th Pollux Awards, Culture and Daily Life Series, Honourable Mention
“Sara Hannant’s photographs of English folk customs capture the eternity of tradition and the spectacular force of movement contained in group celebrations. From Ottery St Mary’s blazing tar barrels to the colourful greenery of Deptford’s Green Man, Hannant shows with dramatic vividness how the Wheel of the Year keeps spinning even when so many of us have forgotten its pagan ancestry” Abraxas: International Journal of Esoteric Studies
"England’s strange and ancient winter rituals" Linda Serk BBC
Lighting up the darkness to guide or to repel spirits underpins many of the British folk customs occurring during what ancient Britons called the Dark Season. Contemporary folk rites to brighten the dark season include costumed processions, symbolic and sacred drama, traditional dance, street music and fire ceremonies. Observations often enact cycles of nature, employ ancient imagery or incorporate aspects of local history.
Beginnings and endings are consciously blurred in some of these photographs. Although documenting real moments in time the gestural style allows the image to become imbued with transitions and traces of movement. The photograph freezes history into an ever-present moment, which remains open to future interpretations, similarly traditional culture is adapted and renewed to serve modern communities.
The photograph of a Hallowe’en ritual to honour the ancestors at Chalice Well, Glastonbury is represented in a fluid timeframe allowing light trails to emerge from the candles lit for the departed. Similarly, on Punkie Night, the horse-drawn carriage moving through Hinton St George, Somerset, is illuminated by the lanterns ‘punkies’ hollowed-out mangelwurzels, pumpkins, and turnips carried in procession.
On Bonfire Night in Lewes effigies known as ‘Enemies of the Bonfire’ are ignited. Flaming tar barrels are also dragged through the streets, later thrown blazing into the River Ouse. A photograph of the procession to commemorate the Sussex Protestant Martyrs burnt at the stake in the town in the 1550s gives prominence to a pair of seemingly disembodied hands capturing an image – a photograph that encapsulates the past, present and future.