If you head down a flight of stairs into a dark crypt under a church you will find an exhibition of folklore art keeping the ancient pagan traditions alive.
A mix of artwork by Ben Edge, and displays from the Museum of British Folklore fill the crypt, with empty coffin chambers now filled with modern paintings of ancient rites.
Although most of the folklore events happen in the countryside, a decent number still happen in London, and many of the paintings are of London events, the druids in the City of London, Bankside’s Twelfth Night, and modern traditions such as the clown’s service.
It’s a very atmospheric display as only an old church crypt can be.
The Mari Lwyd in the darkness with the horse’s skull head glowing in front of the old Welsh castle is perfectly suited to be found down a side corridor in this brick undercroft.
At the ends of the corridors are straw crosses, by Victoria Musson, and if they look nominally Christian, take a closer look to see the pagan symbolism they’re decorated with.
The style of the artwork is slightly surreal, with a flat composition and collage backgrounds that seem as surreal as the event they are portraying. It’s Britain at its bafflingly best. In a way, the style reminded me slightly of Kit William’s Masquerade, which is also a sort of folklorish representation of an unusual England.
Dotted around are also items brought here from the Museum of British Folklore, the Punch and Judy set, the Hobby Horse peeking out from around a corner, a number of short films about some of the customs that still linger on.
It’s the sort of exhibition that will appeal to anyone fond of the old traditions, art in general, or who wants to wander around a dark crypt with the Mari Lwyd and Obby Oss lurking in corners.
The exhibtion, Ben Edge and the Museum of British Folklore: Ritual Britain is at the Crypt Gallery, underneath St Pancras Church until 4th July.
It’s open Thur-Sun noon to 6pm. Entry is free. Posters, postcards and a book are also for sale.