~ Poet: Marc Woodward ~

Ottery Dragons by Marc Woodward

“This is the dark grieving of the year.”

A film by Danny Cooke with poem and narration by Marc Woodward. The YouTube description reads: “Heat, sweat, danger and ritual. A glimpse into an ancient Devon tradition.” I found an article about that tradition on Atlas Obscura:

In England, the tradition of lighting up bonfires and setting off fireworks on Guy Fawkes Day dates back over 400 years. In the East Devon village of Ottery St. Mary, on November 5th—also known as Bonfire Night—hundreds of people crowd the narrow streets for some particularly perilous revelry.

When Bonfire Night falls in Ottery, runners grab blazing barrels of tar, hoist them on their shoulders, and race them through the village streets. It’s no joke here—the flames are real, and chaos seems to be in charge. But they’ve been at it for hundreds of years, and only village veterans are given the honor of running the barrels.

The custom of using tar barrels to kick off Bonfire Night isn’t unique to Ottery. Other towns and villages light them up too, but typically roll them through the streets. It’s not clear exactly when, but at some point (villagers say it was at least a couple hundred years ago) someone thought rolling barrels of flaming tar was kind of a bore, and carrying them on your back was the way to go. It’s been an Ottery tradition, far outliving health and safety regulations, ever since.

This was the second of two poetry films made with the same footage. Cooke posted a call for poems last year, apparently. But I don’t think the poem he chose as winner is as interesting as this one. I’m glad he decided to make a remix with the runner-up.