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Pace Egg Plays, Upper Calder Valley

The Pace Egg Plays are traditional village plays, with a rebirth theme, in which St George smites all challengers and the fool, Toss Pot, rejoices. The drama takes the form of a combat between the hero and villain, in which the hero is killed and brought to life, often by a quack doctor.

The plays take place in England during Easter, indeed the word 'Pace' comes from the old English word 'pasch' literally meaning 'Easter'. They are a tradition that was once widespread throughout England, but is now only practiced in a few areas, particularly Lancashire and West Yorkshire. In particularly the plays have enjoyed a remarkable renaissance in the Heptonstall, West Yorkshire in recent decades. The origins are uncertain, but some version of the plays have undoubtedly been performed over many hundreds of years.

Now the Pace Egg Play is confined largely to the Calder Valley where it has become an established Good Friday tradition. In the play St George takes on contenders such as Bold Slasher, the Black Prince of Paradine and Hector.

The costumes — in particular the strange headgear comprising a towering edifice garlanded with flowers, peculiar to the Calder Valley — are as much a part of the fun as the action, where violent sword fights predominate but, as ever, good triumphs over evil.

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Calder High Performance

As well as the senior adult performance, Calder High School itsdelf performs a version of the play. The school performs the Midgley version of the play and it has become a big tradition within the school, and has become highly popular with the Calder Valley public. The school has performed to the Calder Valley now for over 50 years and the tradition still lives on to this present day. The play is rehearsed and choreographed by the students themselves so that they can make the performance their own and so that they can work out the usual boundaries of a school drama lesson.

The Calder High students perform in Hebden Bridge Square, Calder Valley, West Yorshire, and then move up the hill and perform in Heptonstall

Pace Egg Quotes

  • "For pray you remember...tis pace egging time" - The Fool
  • "Mince Pies hot, Mince Pies cold, I'll send thee to Black Sam before thou is nine days old" - St George/Hector
  • "Cursed Christian!" - King of Egypt

Further reading

  • Cass, E. The Pace-Egg Plays of the Calder Valley, London: FLS Books, 2004.
  • Jennings, B. Pennine Valley: History of Upper Calderdale Dalesman Publishing Co Ltd, 1992.

External links

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