Burning the Clocks featured in new stamp

Posted On 11 Jul 2019 at 11:07 am


Caroline Lucas MP and John Varah holding a stamp on Brighton sea front

Brighton’s Burning the Clocks festival has been given the Royal Mail’s stamp of approval.

The festival is one of eight UK annual customs featured in a new series of stamps, from Cornwall to the Shetland Isles.

The festival, organised by local community arts charity Same Sky, has been celebrated since 1993, but despite its brief history has become a firm part of the city’s calendar.

It is held each year on the shortest day of the year, December 21, with the hudreds paper and willow lanterns burnt on the beach to mark the year’s end.

John Varah, Same Sky artistic director, said: “Each year, Burning the Clocks is kept alive through the generosity of local residents, businesses, sponsors and volunteers.

“It is, and continues to be, an event for the community, by the community – and an uplifting antidote to the excesses of a commercial Christmas.

“All of the stamps in the Royal Mail’s latest series serve as a reminder of this community spirit and of the power of bringing people together.

“Burning the Clocks is a relatively modern custom but one that we hope will continue for years to come, so we’re delighted this has been recognised and celebrated within this unique collection.”

The other customs depicted on the stamps are:

  • ‘Obby ‘Oss, Padstow
  • World Gurning Championship, Egremont
  • Up Helly Aa, Lerwick
  • Cheese Rolling, Cooper’s Hill, Brockworth
  • Halloween, Derry/Londonderry
  • Horn Dance, Abbot’s Bromley
  • Bog Snorkelling, Llanwrtyd Wells

Royal Mail worked with award winning folklorist Steve Roud on the stamp issue. Some customs are often geared to natural stages of the year, or seasons, while others are linked to religious festivals and saints’ days, sporting events or specific occupations.

Philip Parker, Royal Mail, said: “Communities throughout the UK have been coming together for centuries to share distinctive traditions and mark key dates of the year. These customs continue to evolve, and our new stamps celebrate their diversity and the communities that maintain them.”

To accompany the stamp issue, Royal Mail commissioned a poem by performance poet, Matt Harvey. Entitled, ‘Customs and Exercise’, the poem celebrates and commemorates the eight UK customs featured on the stamps.

Customs and Exercise by Matt Harvey

No matter what the custom is
We’re accomplices, not customers.
Magnificent participants in quirky endeavour
In curious costumes in inclement weather.

We’re guisers, we’re teasers, we’re chasers of cheeses
Boat-builders, clock burners, we’re vampires, we’re gurners.
We’re match-striking Vikings, we’re antler-lockers
‘Obby ‘Oss swoopers, Elfan safety snook-cockers.
We’re Cheerleaders, chortlers, we’re snorkelers, bog-sodden
We’re Ghouls in cagoules, fools ancient and modern.

It’s a dance with the past, it’s a craic, it’s a laugh.
Connection in every direction, belonging.
We might get a pint and an off-colour song in.

But what can get lost in the mist and missed in the fuss
Is that at the heart of all these customs
Is us.

The stamps and a range of collectible products are available now from www.royalmail.com/curiouscustoms, by phone on 03457 641 641 and from 9 July in 7,000 Post Offices throughout the UK

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