If you’re looking for something quintessentially British, quaint and ever so slightly bonkers to do, you couldn’t do any better than by going to the Elford Scarecrow Festival. Taking place in the village of Elford, Staffordshire on the August Bank Holiday weekend, the festival is now in its 8th year and has grown enormously from its inaugural year, when the residents of the village made simple scarecrows and put them on their drive or front garden for others to see. Over the years the scarecrows have become more complex and clever, with innovations being added in recent years such as animation and sound, and the introduction of entire tableaux of scarecrow characters. The competitive nature of village life is brought to the fore with villagers vying to outdo each other in order to be crowned the “people’s favourite” as voted for by the visitors to the festival. It all rather reminded me of when one person in a cul-de-sac puts up some Christmas lights and figures, and their neighbour then tries to go one better until the whole close is bedecked with enough lights to illuminate a football stadium.
When my friends who live in the village invited me and some other friends to visit for the weekend, and they mentioned that it was the weekend of the Scarecrow Festival, I had simply no idea of the scale and wackiness of the festival. Arriving in the normally quiet and peaceful village, I was slightly amazed to see traffic cones along all the streets. I soon realised that the event was bigger than I had imagined, with around 100 houses taking part and thousands of visitors from across the Midlands arriving in droves to walk around the village and vote for their favourite. In addition to the scarecrows, there are a number of traditional British fete-type activities to take part in, from tombola, games like Splat the Rat, Guess the Weight of the Sheep, and Guess How Many Balloons in the Car, through to cream teas, face painting and an art exhibition in the Village Hall. It was all very League of Gentlemen, in the nicest possible way! And it has its own website and facebook page, with notices by each scarecrow inviting you to take a Scarecrow Selfie and upload it to their facebook page. Despite this, it is far from being ‘corporate’ and has the air of an old-fashioned village fete, and is run by volunteers from the village. Costing only £2 for adults and £1 for children for entry and parking, the event raises thousands – over £20,000 this year – for local charities such as the village church, the village hall and a project supporting victims of domestic abuse.
There is no way that words could adequately describe the bizarre and inventive creations of the Scarecrow Festival, but a picture paints a thousand words, so I’ve grouped photos of some of my favourites from this year’s festival below into different categories. Click on the picture/gallery to enlarge it and see it in all its glory!
Starting with the tableaux: the lengths that some people went to were incredible to make entire tableaux of scarecrows; some also included sound and animation that’s not always obvious from static photos – like the AA photo which had the “Rolling River” music playing on a loop as in the current AA television advert
Then, with some inevitable cross-over with the tableaux section, there were the entries that were based on films, TV programmes or books:
There were some cracking puns:
Animals featured heavily this year, with an entire Elford Goes Wild section:
There were quite a lot of traditional scarecrows as well as the more unusual ones:
In the church there were a number of scarecrows, although apparently not as many as last year when they had an entire scarecrow wedding:
Some were quite strange, weird or frankly bizarre!
And some I just can’t categorise, but merely put in the ‘miscellaneous’ section:
Wandering around the village with my scoresheet tucked in my hand, I found it really difficult to choose my top three to vote for. I would find one that I really liked, and then around the corner would be one that was even better, and with so much variation it was like comparing apples with pears. But in reverse order, I voted for the following as my top three:
3rd: Gone With The Wind, which I liked for sheer invention
2nd – tribute to Bruce Forsyth, including Play Your Cards right playing cards, the Strictly glitter ball and the Generation Game conveyor belt complete with cuddly toy!
And my first place winner was the L.S. Lowry scarecrow, complete with Lowry paintings – I understand this was done by the Elford art group who also had an art exhibition of their own paintings in the village hall.
But none of my top three, however, won the coveted Scarecrow Trophy, which went to the makers of the Gruffalo scarecrow which was, admittedly, very good:
So if you’re looking for something to do next August Bank Holiday weekend, and can get along to Elford (which is just outside Tamworth in the Midlands) I urge you to do so. It’s good, clean, old-fashioned fun, and it’s all for charity so what’s not to like?
Just one final photo – the volunteers helping with the parking and traffic control were, of course, members of the ScareCrew!