Remembering the Origins of Standon May Day
By Rachel Pinkney (founder member of Standon May Day, pictured with her husband Fred).

It all started as the Roger de Clare School used to have a Fete in Standon during May but unfortunately it always seemed to clash with the F.A. cup final. When the school moved from Standon to Puckeridge in 1974 the Headmaster decided to hold it at a different time of the year at its new premises on Station Road. I then decided, being a stalwart of the folk traditions of England, it would be a good idea to hold a folk type festival instead in Standon on May Day, which was a bank holiday. My thought was that it was a good way to give something to the people of the area, a 'thank you' for supporting Folk Society events during the year.​

The idea was accepted by people who I asked for support but unfortunately, they were willing to give advice and help but not money. My husband, Fred, said if I was so keen to get it started we would fund it ourselves which was a complete surprise to me as at that time we barely had two halfpennies to rub together. However, we went ahead in 1975 and the money we made was put aside to fund the following year and to this day that is the way it works. As it has grown over the years, any excess money is given to individual charities within our area, for example the local health surgery has benefitted on an occasion. The stalls have also become a way for local community organisations to raise funds. The first programmes were small and were duplicated on the schools Gestetner and priced at 1p each.

Luckily the headmaster, Mr Pritchard, was behind me and as I was the school secretary and a dance instructor on the Hertfordshire County Council pay roll, he allowed me to teach the Maypole Dance and Flamborough Sword Dance to his pupils as well as English Country Dancing. The maypole was made out of a flagpole given by a work mate of Fred’s. The base was made by a lecturer of a college by his student, another friend of Fred’s, whilst he made the crown top and I knitted the ribbons from a silky yarn. As I always had a problem with my back I decided to incorporate craft stalls for something else to look at as I found that standing still for any length of time did not agree with me. We were not allowed to have them on the road so we overcame that by putting them in resident’s front gardens. Corn dollies, brass rubbings etc., were among the first.

The stalls were hired from Bishop’s Stortford and transported by my son-in-law. At a later stage one of the Committee members was able to arrange for stalls of our own to be made which were stored at land owned by Barker, the local milkman. These were well received but proved very time consuming to assemble on Mayday morning. These days we are once more grateful to have a hire company both provide and erect the stalls for us.

I cannot remember what else there was on that first day but maybe the Morris Men as they carried the May queen to the Dias loaned to us by the British Legion. Later on we had Rapper and North West Morris besides Scottish and American dances, Mummers Plays and Step Clog. At this time I ran a folk-dance club, along with Ian Holland, and they also gave a performance. I also remember the local pubs taking part in tug-o-war competitions. One thing for certain - the weather was always very kind to us. The children used to say that as long as Rachel was dancing the sun would shine!

This focus on traditional entertainment continued while I was in at the helm. I still attend and advise the Mayday Committee and my mission is to keep Standon Mayday true to its origins by ensuring it offers our young people a taste of traditional activities, craft stalls and entertainment and doesn’t become just another glorified fete.​