The following article was first posted on this website in January 2016. Worthy of an updated re-post with the 2017 Plough Play imminent. Enjoy.
Sankey’s costume meets its maker …
Technophobes beware! It’s official. Social media can actually be truly wonderful, even when it relates to things as old and traditional as plough plays. If you wade through the tidal wave of photos of cats belonging to people you’ve never met, and pointless quizzes asking ‘which brand of cheese are you?’ (or similar), you’ll find that Facebook also has a place for people who share information and snaps about things of a folky persuasion.
Ross Parish’s Traditional Calendar Customs and Ceremonies Facebook group, for example, is absolutely folking brilliant. Set up two years ago, its total membership numbers more than 2,000. And without us being in the group, we would never have heard from Andrea Robertson (spouse of former CRAPPPS member Ian Robertson) and never rediscovered a lovely little piece of Calvertonian folk history.
There was the webmaster, innocently posting our Plough Play tour dates on Ross’ Facebook group, when in came a query from Andrea about the CRAPPPS Hopper Joe / Sankey Benny costume (modelled here by the divine Mister Jon Throup).
‘Is the costume still intact?’ asked Andrea. ‘I made it for the 1982 performance.’
Now. It isn’t that we’d call the CRAPPPS Hopper Joe costume ‘iconic’ or anything, but after more than thirty years of active service we’d argue it’s a pretty special and durable part of our history. It’s hard to imagine the character turning out in anything else.
So, after verifying from the photo of Jon that this was in fact the costume she’d made, Andrea explained the rather fab story behind it:
‘It was made in a hurry. (Ian) had previously been the Farmer’s Man and wore a warehouse coat for that. For Hopper Joe I just grabbed some sacking, some wool and a bloody big needle. We emigrated to South Africa for a couple of years, but when we got back (Ian) rejoined. He made a grand entrance into the Four Bells in 1986, as he’d acquired a pair of industrial clogs with irons, and fell flat on his backside the minute ‘In comes I’ was out of his mouth!’
We’re happy to confirm that some of us fall flat on our backsides even now, Andrea, so perhaps things haven’t changed so much! Andrea described the costume as ‘a tad worn but serviceable’ when she last saw it. That’s a pretty apt description for members of the cast come the Saturday night of the run, too …
Huge thanks to Andrea for getting in touch with us and for sharing her story. Thirty-five years on, the costume she made will be attached to current Hopper Joe (Richard Throup) for the upcoming Plough Play run 12-14 January. Click here for a full list of tour dates.
- Psst! Are you a former cast member of the CRAPPPS Plough Play, or been otherwise involved with the group in the past? Guess what? Our play is turning 40! We’re planning to celebrate in 2018 and would love to hear from you. Please send a message to us via the form on the website’s ‘Contact’ page.