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Pace Egg Plays / Souling Plays

In Yorkshire the folk play is at Easter time. Though essentially the same as the Christmas plays elsewhere, here they are called ‘Pace Egg’ plays and performed by children, at least until recently. A famous version was performed by young pupils of the village primary school in Heptonstall, above Hebden Bridge in the Calder Valley, until the late 1960s when the teacher who organised it retired. It was revived in 1979 by former pupils – and most of the same grown ups are still doing it today, in a break from local tradition. Also in the Calder valley, the Midgley Play has been performed on Good Fridays since the mid-1950s by senior boys of Calder High School. Brighouse had an unusual version performed, with unauthentic histrionic gusto, by boys of the Brighouse Children’s Theatre from 1949, but the theatre, and consequently the pace egg play, died in the late eighties. The play pops up around All Souls (2 November) in Cheshire as ‘Souling Plays’ or ‘Soul cakers’. We have two longstanding examples from Antrobus and Comberbach. In common with the Christmas and Easter folk plays, and the Plough Plays of the east midlands, around Plough Monday, these plays have been proliferating for the last 25 years or so performed by ‘revival’ groups; Collections has nothing against this phenomenon, but none of us has ever photographed any of them!