Upon Yon Hill The Game Will Commence

Haxey Hood sway 2008

Haxey Hood 2008. Ian Clayton and Martin Oxley getting stuck in to the sway.

Ian Clayton reflects on the long tradition of the Haxey Hood game, a sort of mass scrum of beer drinkers, which ‘stands head and shoulders for me above anything I’ve ever seen to do with pubs’. During the most recent hood, only one of the four pubs usually involved was open.


When I wrote It’s The Beer Talking, I wanted to include a section about pubs and folklore. There was no contest in my mind about what particular folklore I should write about. ‘The Haxey Hood Game’ stands head and shoulders for me above anything I’ve ever seen to do with pubs.

The game takes place on the twelfth day of Christmas (January 6) every year in Haxey and Westwoodside, two villages in the Isle of Axholme in North Lincolnshire. Unless the 6th falls on a Sunday, then it takes place on the day before. The locals will tell you that the game has taken place for going on seven hundred years, and that it celebrates a day when the local landowner’s wife Lady Mowbray had her hood blown off in the breeze while out riding. The hood was returned to her by some local farm labourers. Lady Mowbray, impressed by the act of chivalry, suggested that the event should be re-enacted each year on some fields she donated for the purpose. Since then a whole series of rituals has grown up: the singing of songs like ‘John Barleycorn’ and ‘Farmers Boy’ and the ‘smoking of a fool’ act as a preamble to the main action, all this in colourful folk costumes.

The main action starts on fields between the two villages when a leather cylinder – the hood – is tossed into the air and then ‘the sway’ begins as people of all ages try to move the hood this way and that. These days the point of the game is to sway the hood towards one of four pubs: the Kings Arms, Duke William and The Loco in Haxey and the Carpenters Arms in Westwoodside. The game ends when the landlord or landlady of one of these pubs takes hold of the hood. The hood is kept at that particular pub until the following year.

In some ways the game is an ancient form of rugby, but one without too many rules and with no restriction on player numbers. Anybody can take part and some years hundreds of players join in. It’s truly a community event, with people of all ages and backgrounds taking part. It’s a tough game and, depending on the weather, it can get very muddy. There is no time limit, nobody seems to know what time it starts and it can go on until well after dark. The local pubs take the precaution of removing all breakables from their rooms and lining furniture and carpets with protective sheeting.

I’ve been to it a couple of times. The last time in 2008 when I went with Martin Oxley my old drinking partner. We joined in with the singing and drinking and the laughter as the fool was smoked. The game started late that particular year, I think it was coming dark by the time we got up onto the fields. We were also plaiting our legs with the amount of ale we had supped. We didn’t want to miss anything so we started drinking at noon. For some reason Martin decided we ought to push with the lads and lasses from Westwoodside. For an hour or so there was a concerted effort to get the hood up the hill, from where it would have been an easier shove down the other side to the Carpenters Arms. Try as we might the sway barely budged. In fact it barely budged from the field for at least two hours. Eventually the sway appeared in the village high street at Haxey and after further struggles made its way that year down to the Kings Arms at the other end of the village. Martin and me had retired from it by then and supped some more in the Duke William. To be in that sway is an exhilarating experience. It’s colourful, rough and very sweaty and muddy. The whole thing moves around like something from nature, perhaps like a murmuration of starlings preparing to roost does. People do get hurt occasionally, but you’d expect that on a muddy field when hundreds of people are pushing and shoving, yet it’s all done with great humour and stewarded by experienced men called ‘The Boggins’. These men ensure that when the sway collapses and people are off their feet, the game stops until everybody is up again. You can’t run with the hood, throw it or pass it, it must simply be swayed until it gets to where it’s going. As an example of a community based game, I don’t think Haxey Hood has an equal. And because it is connected to local pubs, it is an important part of social life and friendship and an important reason why pubs are there in the first place.

I’ve heard that the age old folklore and pub culture of this year’s Haxey Hood was disturbed by modern issues. From what I can gather, the Kings Arms is currently closed down, as is The Loco. The Landlord at the Duke William decided not to open on the day of this year’s event, leaving just the Carpenters Arms to sway the hood to. Apparently the landlord at the Duke William has had some sort of falling out with the local community after a failed planning application to turn the pub into houses. In these times of pub closures and attempts and campaigns to keep them open, it seems to me that the good folk of Haxey have an inarguable right to retain their public houses. There won’t be many places you can go to that has a pub connected to a tradition that goes back seven centuries.

Here’s footage of the Haxey Hood in 2008. You can clearly see me and Martin Oxley getting stuck in at 5.35. I’m in my tweed overcoat and beret, Martin has his black captain’s hat on and a blue cagoule.

More on It’s The Beer Talking

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What’s The Beer Book About?

A blog post by Ian Clayton on his new book It’s The Beer Talking: Adventures in Public Houses.

I’ve always written close to home. When I first started writing, everybody I asked said that I should write about what I know about. I’ve stuck to that ever since, so all of what I write takes place were I’m from. Wherever I have lived, I have never been more than a stone’s throw from a local pub. My new book It’s The Beer Talking: Adventures in Public Houses comes out at the end of October. I suppose the title tells you most of what you need to know about what is inside its covers. Yes it’s about beer and pubs and because it’s a memoir, it’s about what I’ve got up to in ale houses over the years. I hope it’s funny. I wanted to write a comedy, so it would be a bit of a bugger if it didn’t make folk laugh. There’s one or two sad bits in it as well, because even in pubs, life isn’t always funny ha ha. Like my other writing, it is based on memories and emotions and characters I have known. Most of it is true, some bits are made up and the rest, well, if it isn’t true, it ought to be!

I’ve written a lot of books, but I’m not always sure what to say when people ask me what my books are about. Perhaps my best known book is Bringing it all Back Home. It’s about music. All sorts of music, from music hall to the blues and pop. Then again it’s not really about music at all, it’s about where music has taken me and how it shapes me. Another more recent book is Song for My Father. I generally say that one is a book about my dad. Yet I didn’t know my dad for most of my life, so it’s a book about looking for him, what happened in the few months after we were reunited and mostly about what happened when we weren’t in each others lives. It’s The Beer Talking follows a similar template. There’s plenty of beer in it, a lot of laughter, one or two tears and now and again a bit of bawdy banter. It’s just a book of stories that take place against a backdrop of the public house. These stories are about the joy of joining in, celebrating who we are and the quest to find the perfect pint. There are journeys here and discovery, but because our favourite pubs are usually in our own back yard, it’s a book that takes place near home. In many ways it’s a book that takes delight in localness, the simple pleasure of where we are from, wherever that might be.

The book starts with my first taste of beer, in a smoke-filled working men’s club, then rattles like a boxful of dominoes through more than half a century of backstreet boozing all over the world in that rare old haunt we call the public house. In a time when local pubs are closing down at an alarming rate, the book is a bit of a call to treasure them. I say this because I believe that pubs are like libraries. More than any other buildings near where we live, they are storehouses of our communal knowledge. At times snapshots of our neighbourhood, at other times a refuge from what’s going on outside, but always somewhere familiar and welcoming. I love the pub most of all because that is where over the years I have found a lot of friendship. Come to think of it, It’s The Beer Talking is a book about friendship. As a matter of fact, all of my books are about friendship.

Be amongst the first to read It’s The Beer Talking. Advance copies can be ordered now. Click here.

A launch event will take place on Thursday 25th October, 7:30pm at The Junction, 109 Carlton Street, Castleford. All welcome. Details here.

It’s The Beer Talking: Adventures In Public Houses

It’s The Beer Talking: Adventures In Public Houses
Ian Clayton
Published by Route
Pre-order here

Ian’s book is brimming with laughter, tall stories, great memories and endless rounds of wonderful beer. It’s also a call to arms to save this unique institution. Roger Protz, Editor Good Beer Guide 2000-2018

Where do we go to meet old friends? What is our first port of call when we want to show new mates something that speaks about our identity? The pub of course, or better still our local.

Author Ian Clayton embarked on a lifelong love affair with local pubs in the middle of the 1970s. He has raised a glass in neighbourhood bars around the world for more than forty years. His stories are intertwined with quests to find perfect pints and peoples’ palaces and about joining in with the joy he finds in the unique gathering place we call the public house.

He moves across the generations and boundaries to take a glimpse at what makes the pub tick. Humorous and poignant by turns, It’s The Beer Talking tells of the laughter, the tears, the cheers, the remembering and forgetting, but most of all the camaraderie we all crave. This book will resonate with anyone who as ever uttered that immortal phrase, ‘Do you fancy a pint?’

Ian Clayton was four when he first tasted beer. That stolen mouthful from his grandad’s pint was important, it helped mark Ian’s path through life.  Here he develops this well-established theme and goes further by proving that every pub has a story to tell.  This book is filled with amazing characters who, along with Ian, have kept the pub alive and let the beer continue to do the talking. Barrie Pepper, former Chair of the British Guild of Beer Writers

Ian’s love and appreciation of beer, pubs and the people that frequent them is obvious. His adventures in various locals around the world are both entertaining and poignant. Mark Seaman, Revolutions Brewery

Fermented magic. A heartfelt adventure of beer, tears and laughter. In my pub I often hear the line ‘You couldn’t write it’. Ian just has. Samantha Smith, Award Winning Landlady, Mallinson’s Brewery Taphouse

 

Ian Clayton is an author, broadcaster and storyteller from Featherstone, West Yorkshire. His stories are about making sense of where we come from. His books include Bringing It All Back Home, a bestselling book about music; Song For My Father about his lifelong search for a father figure; Our Billie about loss.


Order Details

In keeping with the tradition of Ian Clayton books, there will be a local release in advance of a general release. As Ian points out in his book, local doesn’t just mean near to where you live. We will be releasing advance copies of the book on 25th October 2018. The book wont be available on Amazon or other bookshops until its trade release in 2019.

Be amongst the first to read it. Click here to order an advance copy.

It’s The Beer Talking will be launched on Thursday 25th October, 7:30pm at The Junction, 109 Carlton Street, Castleford. All welcome. Details here.

Thro My Eyes: A Memoir by Iain Matthews

Thro My Eyes Deluxe Iain Matthews

Thro’ My Eyes – A Memoir
Iain Matthews
with Ian Clayton
Published by Route
Pre-order here

It’s the swinging sixties and a young man leaves behind a humdrum Northern life and heads for London. He lands smack dab in the middle of Carnaby Street. Within months he is in a band and a year later he’s invited to audition for Fairport Convention. He shares lead vocal duties first with Judy Dyble and then with Sandy Denny in perhaps the greatest line-up of that much loved band of folk-rock pioneers.

In 1970, he forms Matthews Southern Comfort and has an international hit with an arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s counter-culture classic ‘Woodstock’. With the ultimate earworm still high in the charts, Iain walks out on the band and after just a few months of reflection, releases the classic album If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes. Then with Andy Roberts, he puts together the highly revered Plainsong. They make just one LP, the critically acclaimed In Search of Amelia Earhart. Iain then takes the opportunity to move to California to pursue an interest in the emerging West Coast singer-songwriter movement. He criss-crosses the States for the next thirty years, first as a major label artist, initially with Elektra and then Columbia, and eventually as a latter day troubadour with a guitar and a pickup truck.

Back in Europe since the turn of the millennium, Iain finally settles down with a wife and family but continues to pursue the muse. Still possessed of one of the greatest male singing voices Britain ever produced, Matthews is now in his sixth decade as a professional musician. He has written a compelling memoir of a life on the road, in the studio and at home. It’s a story of music, journeys, life and what it does to us, through the eyes of one of our most enduring singer-songwriters.

I value the times Iain has been my fellow traveller in music. He is one of the great folk/rock/pop singers and writers, and his life and music trajectory have both been extraordinary … and he keeps getting better. Richard Thompson. OBE – Recording artist, Fairport Convention founding member

They say if you remember the sixties, you probably weren’t there. Iain Matthews was there and he remembers most of it. It’s wonderful to hear about it through his eyes. Better yet, he’s still around, writing and singing as well as he ever did. Cerys Matthews – Broadcaster and recording artist

Iain Matthews’s career has been a remarkable adventure, from Scunthorpe to Muswell Hill to ‘Woodstock’ to Texas to the Netherlands, making wonderful music at every stop. Joe Boyd – Author and record producer

Iain Matthews has been many things during his long and distinguished career; folk-rock pioneer, hitmaker, folk artist and songwriter among them. It has been my pleasure to have known and worked with him for half a century, and he’s still going strong. Long may he continue! Al Stewart – Songwriter and recording artist

 

Iain Matthews first gained public attention in 1967 as a founding member and vocalist for the innovative music group Fairport Convention. In 1970 he created his own band Matthews Southern Comfort and had a worldwide hit with Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’. During the 1980s Matthews turned his attention to the business of music as an A&R person for both Island and Windham Hill Records, but was encouraged by Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin to rekindle his creative flame. In 2000, Matthews moved to the Netherlands where he currently lives and works.

Ian Clayton is an author, broadcaster and storyteller from Featherstone, West Yorkshire. His stories are about making sense of where we come from. His books include Bringing It All Back Home, a bestselling book about music; Song For My Father about his lifelong search for a father figure; Our Billie about loss; and most recently It’s The Beer Talking about a life in public houses and ale.

 

Order Details

Thro’ My Eyes: A Memoir by Iain Matthews with Ian Clayton will be unveiled at Cropredy Festival in August this year. The book will be for sale at the Fairport Merchandise Tent on site and there is a series of organised signings with Iain. If you are at Cropredy, this is the place to get the book. If not, you can pre-order direct from Route. We will begin despatch after the Cropredy Festival.

First Edition Hardback: £20
Deluxe Edition: First Edition Hardback + Accompanying Double CD £30

Click here to pre-order

CD Track Listing

Route Acquires Iain Matthews Memoir Thro’ My Eyes

Ian Clayton and Iain Matthews

Thro’ My Eyes: A Memoir by Iain Matthews with Ian Clayton

Route is delighted to announce the acquisition of the memoir of legendary singer-songwriter Iain Matthews. Thro’ My Eyes: A Memoir tells the story of over fifty years of making music.

It’s the swinging sixties and a young man leaves behind a humdrum Northern life and heads for Swinging London. He lands smack dab in the middle of Carnaby Street. Within months he is in a band and a year later he’s invited to audition for Fairport Convention. He shares lead vocal duties first with Judy Dyble and then with Sandy Denny in perhaps the greatest line-up of that much loved band of folk-rock pioneers.

In 1970, he forms Matthews Southern Comfort and has an international hit with an arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s counter-culture classic ‘Woodstock’. With the ultimate earworm still high in the charts, Iain walks out on the band and after just a few months of reflection, releases the classic album If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes. Then with Andy Roberts, he puts together the highly revered Plainsong. They make just one LP, the critically acclaimed In Search of Amelia Earhart.  Iain then takes the opportunity to move to California to pursue an interest in the emerging West Coast singer-songwriter movement. He criss-crosses the States for the next thirty years, first as a major label artist, initially with Elektra and then Columbia, and eventually as a latter day troubadour with a guitar and a pickup truck.

Back in Europe since the turn of the millennium, Iain finally settles down with a wife and family but continues to pursue the muse.  Still possessed of one of the greatest male singing voices Britain ever produced, Matthews is now in his sixth decade as a professional musician. He has written a compelling memoir of a life on the road, in the studio and at home. It’s a story of music, journeys, life and what it does to us, through the eyes of one of our most enduring singer-songwriters.

Route editor Ian Daley said of the acquisition, ‘We touched on Iain’s early career in Clinton Heylin’s biography of the Fairport Convention diaspora What We Did Instead of Holidays, so it’s a real privilege to work with the man himself on this great book. His dedication to music and his determination to keep learning and moving forward is an inspiration.  It’s been an enlightening experience, and a joy to immerse ourselves in his tremendous body of work.’

Iain Matthews: ‘Through a series of false starts this book has taken me more than ten years to write. I was finally able to bring it home with the invaluable help of my dear friend Ian Clayton. I simply could not have done it without him. Writing a song is something I’ve become quite adept at, but a book is a whole other matter. There were times when I felt I could not summon forth the memories and it was not going to happen, but miraculously it did. Now that it has I feel both exhilarated and proud that my life lesson has been captured in print. It’s an amazing feeling to know.’

Ian Clayton: ‘Iain’s book tells a very real story of a young man from humble beginnings who pursued a dream through music, went through plenty of ups and downs and finally found his peace. I have read a lot of books by musicians, most of ‘em are flimsy, this one has depth and authenticity, it will stand on its own feet for a long time to come.’

***

Iain Matthews first gained public attention in 1967 as a founding member and vocalist for the innovative music group Fairport Convention. In 1970 he created his own band Matthews Southern Comfort and had a worldwide hit with Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’.  During the 1980s Matthews turned his attention to the business of music as an A&R person for both Island and Windham Hill Records, but was encouraged by Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin to rekindle his creative flame. In 2000, Matthews moved to the Netherlands where he currently lives and works.

Ian Clayton is an author, broadcaster and storyteller from Featherstone, West Yorkshire. His stories are about making sense of where we come from. His books include Bringing It All Back Home, a bestselling book about music; Song For My Father about his lifelong search for a father figure; Our Billie about loss; and most recently It’s The Beer Talking about a life in public houses and ale.

***

Thro’ My Eyes: A Memoir by Iain Matthews with Ian Clayton will be unveiled at Cropredy Festival in August this year, with advance editions made available from www.route-online.com thereafter, including a Deluxe edition which comes complete with a double CD of Iain’s songs. The book will have a trade release in Autumn 2018.

Stay in touch with Route for further updates.
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Visit Thro’ My Eyes website: www.iainmatthewsmemoir.wordpress.com
Keep up to date with Iain Matthews work at www.iainmatthews.nl
Ian Clayton website: www.ianclaytoninfo.wordpress.com

 

John Wood In Conversation With Clinton Heylin

Record producer John Wood in conversation with Clinton Heylin, recorded at a CAT Club event, at the Tap & Barrel, Pontefract. Clinton talks with John about some of the seminal albums he made and the artists he worked with including Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, John Martyn, Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny and Squeeze.

The Q&A at the end includes questions from Iain Matthews and Ian Clayton.

Click here for more on Clinton Heylin’s book ‘What We Did Instead of Holidays: Fairport Convention and its Extended Folk-Rock Family.

JUDAS Launch Video

Clinton Heylin talks with Ian Clayton at the book launch for JUDAS!.

The launch was held in conjunction with Classic Album Thursdays. After the Q&A, Clinton introduces the original ‘Royal Albert Hall’ bootleg recording of the Bob Dylan and the Hawks gig at Free Trade Hall, Manchester in May 1966 and tells the story of how came to own the original tapes.

The event took place at Tap & Barrel, Pontefract, on the day that Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Ian Clayton is the author of ‘Bringing It All Back Home’
www.ianclaytoninfo.wordpress.com

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