For most of us, ancient folklore seems to be a thing of the past, but in Great Britain old customs are more alive than ever, thanks to festivals held throughout the country. Many of the faces and costumes from Britain’s flourishing folklore have been captured in photographer Henry Bourne’s book “Arcadia Britannica.”
Why did you decide to make a book about the folk traditions of Britain at this moment, right in the 21st century?
As a photographer, I felt that British folklore needed documenting in pictures as it is today, in a modern way. These customs and rituals are ever evolving and becoming increasingly popular today. I decided that the best way to record British folklore was to concentrate on the individuals rather than the events that they take part in.
What makes British folklore so interesting?
It is a fascinating world of bizarre tales and characters, brimming with idiosyncrasies and eccentricities, together with a renewed modern 21st century populism and enthusiasm, coupled with British history and myth.
How was the experience to be at those festivals? Did you enjoy it?
Yes, it was great fun and wonderful to photograph at all the different events around the country.
Which costume surprised you the most?
The Burry Man of Queensferry, who is covered from head to foot with the needle sharp burrs of the local Burdock Thistle. Around ten thousand thistle burrs cover his body. My photograph reveals that he has tiny, barely visible openings for his eyes and mouth.
Can you say that it’s from these ancient traditions that the British people developed their characteristic dose of eccentricity?
I don’t know what you mean ... Are the British eccentric? [Laughs]