June 27, 2012

The Art of the Tidza Parade


My cousin just provided the link so I could see the 2010 parade in Tideswell, the small town in Derbyshire, England, where my father was born.  He left to join the navy when he was 17 and returned only for the rare visit.  My mother kept up the communication with his family, and so I knew about Wakes Week and the annual dressing of the well, a holiday celebrated on June 24 each year, which is St. John the Baptist Day and my friend Mary Flowers' birthday.

I just learned here that the custom of well-dressing is peculiar to Derbyshire.  Here's a bit of information:  
"This ancient custom is only found in Derbyshire and is the art of decorating springs and wells with pictures made from natural materials. Four wells are dressed in the centre of Tideswell.  Wells have been dressed at Tideswell since 1946. Refreshments are available around the village.
"Well locations: Fountain Square – main Well; Church Yard – Three wells dressed by Scouts, Guides and Tideswell School."

One participant posits that the custom of well dressing is a "Christianised vestige of early ritual celebrating the healing miracle of clean water" -- and it's not hard to imagine the custom having developed while the area was still pagan.  Bless the water, which, as we in America are becoming more and more aware, is life.

I met Betty Friedan at Forum '85, a session held in  Nairobi, Kenya, concurrent with the United Nations End of the Decade for Women Conference in 1985.  I happened upon a tree with a note attached informing anyone who cared that Betty Friedan would be there every day at a given time for an hour or so, and everybody was welcome to join the conversation.  One of the days I attended, some Kenyan officials (male, in suits) came to ask Betty what women wanted.  She deferred to their countrywoman, whose name was Sarah.  Sarah stood and replied that what women want is schools, firewood, and water.

Clean water.  Potable water.  Water close by.  Water not contaminated by coal ash or pesticides.

Women still want clean water, which takes us back to the well dressings in Derbyshire. Here are a few photos:
The 2011 Tideswell well dressing

England faces the same crisis with small post offices that we are in the U. S.

The point of all of this is to say that I've always wanted to go to a Tideswell well dressing.  When I told my cousin Danny, he posted the youtube link for my viewing pleasure.  I am filled with questions after seeing it, mostly things like what the money being collected was to be used for and how exactly did one find one's way into such a parade.  Then I dwindled off into thinking that by rights we ought to take part in that parade ourownselves, if we could settle on a theme.  (Actually, a pseudo-theme looks to be sufficient.)  Which leaves only one more thing to be resolved:  whom do we know in Derbyshire who owns a tractor and what would it take for them to let us use it on parade day?


Debbie Clandening said...

The well dressings are lovely

Mary Cartledgehayes said...

I remember my grandmother sending photos from the time I was a child. An amazement every year.