Ruth Beale — Pageant of Pageants
Posted on August 30, 2012
Ruth Beale reimagines reenactments of historical events.
This pamphlet shows a series of images of amateur re-enactments of historical events and myths popular in the 1900s-1930s. Some of the performances and processions involved 1000 people at a time in grand spectacles portraying defeats and victories, kings and queens.
I became interested in pageants through researching a play by E.M.Forster, ‘England’s Pleasant Land’, in it’s time (1939) a modern twist on the pageant form. Whilst being a polemic for preservation of the countryside, with admirable asides about the injustice of land ownership, it is troublesome in its reinforcement of a timeless notion of rurality and class hierarchies. I tried to imagine a remake, and these photographs helped set the scene. I’m interested how they encapsulate a tension around historical authenticity — the idea of getting close to something by becoming immersed in it through dressing up, group participation and spectacle, and how this can be both reductive and illuminating.
The pamphlet was produced at ‘The Department of Overlooked Histories’, Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridgeshire. It was risograph printed by City Editions, Bristol.