The Brightest of Entertainers – some good news and some sad news

In September 2019, EATMT were contacted by the Folklore Society to advise us that co authors of the Brightest of Entertainers book, Pat Pickles and Katie Howson had been shortlisted for the Society’s annual Katharine Briggs Award.  Just before the awards ceremony, we learned that Pat had sadly passed away and so the shortlisting was a fitting way to celebrate Pat’s passion and knowledge of these delightful entertainers.

Katie and Trustee Eammon Andrews headed to the Warburg Institute, University College London on 29th October for the awards ceremony. 

Eammon writes:

The Katharine Briggs award is an annual book prize offered by The Folklore Society to commemorate the life and work of the distinguished scholar Katharine Mary Briggs (1898-1980; Society president 1969—1972).  The Folklore Society was founded in London in 1878 and is devoted to the study of traditional culture in all its forms. It was one of the first organisations established in the world for the study of folklore. The Folklore Society’s interest and expertise covers such topics as traditional music, song, dance and drama, narrative, arts and crafts, customs and belief.

EATMT put forward Pat Pickles’ and Katie Howson’s book The Brightest of Entertainers for this year’s award. Jig dolls, the subject of the book, are well liked and represented in East Anglia and have a long and fascinating history as well as enjoying international popularity. The book, which includes extensive colour photographs, was in the making for some time, and ultimately published by EATMT in 2018 with generous funding from a legacy left by long term Friend and Supporter, Gordon Ruddock. EATMT is delighted that The Brightest of Entertainers was chosen for the shortlist of 8 books, from a field of 47 in total.

The ceremony traditionally starts with a lecture and this year’s was given by Prof. Dr Ulrika Wolf-Knuts (Åbo Akademi University, Finland): titled “What Can We Do With Old Records of Folk Belief? On the Example of Devil Lore”.

After the lecture each of the shortlisted books was highlighted and summarised, followed by a buffet and wine reception at which the winner and runners up were announced. Although The Brightest of Entertainers did not win the award, the calibre of the entries was very high, and the authors and everybody involved in the writing and production of the book are to be congratulated.

Congratulations also to friend of EATMT Jan Alton who co-edited one of the joint runner-up books, “Games, Rhymes and Wordplay of London Children”.  A second East Anglian book featured on the shortlist, “Suffolk Fairylore”, written by Francis Young. The winning book was “Social Forgetting and Vernacular Historiography in Ulster” by Guy Beiner.

Eammon Andrews (report and photos)

Photographs above of the original Jig Dolls book by Rennie and Pat Pickles and of Pat with John Barber at the Trust’s “Big Jig Exhibition” in September 2004.

Pat and Katie had worked for over 10 years on the re edited version of this book which Pat and her late husband Rennie had first published in 1987 but they found that once it was published, they were inundated with new material. After Rennie’s death, Pat set herself a task to write an updated and edited version of the first book and invited Katie and EATMT to get involved. Time and finances delayed the completion of the book, but soon after Katie’s retirement from EATMT as Co Director, the Trust received a legacy from long term Friend and Supporter Gordon Ruddock and it seemed fitting to use some of that legacy to ensure the completion of the Jig Doll book by funding its publication. Friend, volunteer and Jig Doll enthusiast Judy Smith helped Katie with the final pulling together of the book and it reached the printers in the Summer of 2018. Katie was able to visit and present a copy for Pat not long after publication.

You can buy a copy of The Brightest of Entertainers from our online shop for £13 including P&P.