Drawing on pagan Celtic, Germanic, and early Christian rites and beliefs, British folklore is a vibrant aspect of Britain’s cultural heritage that continues to flourish today. Notable for their music, storytelling, and particularly for the terrific display of costumes revelers wear, Britain’s folk festivals are at once great entertainment and a link with the nation’s rich cultural history.
Arcadia Britannica is the product of photographer Henry Bourne’s repeated trips to some of Britain’s greatest folk events: striking color portraits capture an eccentric collection of individuals in inventive outfits, including arboreal costumes, pagan-inspired creations, and historical garb. These were captured at events like the annual Jack in the Green festival held in Hastings in May, for which the town and its people are decked in green to welcome summer, and the Easter Sunday celebration in Bacup, Lancashire, where fiercely proud Britannia Coconut Dancers (or “Nutters”) perform their traditional seven dances. An accompanying text by Simon Costin provides the historical backstory and explains the folklore behind this wacky, inspiring collection of images.