Cullompton. Report from the Music Section

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Author(s): Wilson. Paul; Year published: 2016; Origin: Section Conference Reports; Pages: 
Topic(s): music; Location(s): Cullompton

Cullompton has both a living tradition of musical ceremony which is special to Devon and enjoys modern music making through local performers and organisations.

Wassailing, an ancient winter custom of honouring the apple trees or visiting houses to wish the occupants health in the winter seasons, is a living tradition in certain communities across the Southwest. It has been a particular feature of music making in Cullompton and the area for many decades. Wassail is currently enjoying a revival as part of a ceremony held at Hemyock Castle. Records of ceremonies, songs, music and bell-ringing stretch back almost a century.

An early pictorial record of this is a photograph of the Wassailing at Mr Henry Blackmore’s Batts Farm, near Cullompton, printed on 25th February 1923. Fuller accounts of the visiting Wassailing tradition were collected by Paul Wilson in the 1970s. This included a ceremony performed on New Year’s Eve, to the accompaniment of the ringing of church bells. The tradition continues strongly in the area and has evolved through the generations. At the Wassail ceremony held in 2016 in very heavy rain on January 6th at Hemyock Castle the music performed was mainly repertoire arranged or written by Paul Wilson and Marilyn Tucker of Wren Music, performed independently by local people.

Cullompton also has a historic connection with experimental composers from the 1960s and 70s. The substantial catalogue of a touring exhibition FLUXUS 1972/73 coordinated by Exeter based artist David Mayor was printed by the Beau Geste Press. Founded by Felipe Ehrenberg in 1971, and located in a farmhouse near Cullompton in Devon, Beau Geste went on to be one of the most influential small presses of the 1970s.

The current Music Scene in Cullompton includes:

  • Under 5s Music – Moo Music provide music sessions in the Community House, High Street, Cullompton.
  • The youth club at the John Tallack Youth Centre includes disco and music mixing in its offer.
  • Cullompton has hosted occasional Music Education training days for musicians working with children and young people in challenging circumstances for example at The Community Centre, Pye Corner.
  • Wren Music have undertaken schools song-writing projects and performances in Cullompton.
  • Pub entertainment – for example The Weary Traveller, Station Road, Cullompton features occasional performances by bands for example (during 2016) Usual Suspects, Audius Maximus, Carnaby Street, Reckless.
  • The Primary and Secondary Schools in Cullompton provide opportunity for young people to perform music regularly in a variety of idioms and contexts.

Paul Wilson

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