In this months Ottery St Mary blog post, I had planned to write about this family fun day after finding a mention about it on twitter earlier today. It looks like fun, there is a classic car show, BBQ and music and according to http://www.tarbarrels.co.uk/fundraising-and-events the ‘highly anticipated rodeo sheep’.
Unfortunately, this was pretty much all the information I could find about the event, which I’m sure you’ll agree isn’t a very long post. It did lead me to one question though, which I postulated to my office – being you must understand from the barren North and only recently a resident of the South West.
‘Why’, I asked ‘do they burn barrels in Ottery St Mary?’. Immediately the entire office launched into discussions about the possible origins of the tradition, history, controversy (that time someone threw an aerosol in) and told me in no uncertain terms to attend the next one. Naturally, I couldn’t resist reading up on this tradition. The Tar Barels of Ottery St Mary suggest that the tradition probably comes from the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 – which of course we all remember remember every 5th of November. Wikipedia goes on to say that “The festivities begin in the early evening with children's, youths' and women's events” – my colleagues inform me this is the family friendly part of the evening, safe to bring along my toddler. By all accounts by the time we reach ‘men's event when a total of seventeen barrels … increasing in size up to 30 kg, are carried through the town centre, often packed with onlookers, in an exhilarating and risky spectacle” she should be tucked up in bed.
Although firmly rooted in medieval tradition, the festival has had to move with the times. Health and safety and public liability now need to be considered (it’s political correctness gone mad, I should be able to run around with a barrel on fire if I want!) and the weather has also caused problems famously in 2008 which left fairground staff ‘lucky to be alive’. But despite this jeopardy the event attracts a good 3000 people, and this year hopefully me.
So go along to the Family Fun Day and car show on the 27th August, and help raise money to keep this exhilarating and risky spectacle going. Because life is too short not to delve into the exhilarating and risky from time to time.
Oh, and I didn’t find out about the rodeo sheep but it sounds absolutely brilliant.