Dorothy: “How can you talk if you haven’t got a brain?”
Scarecrow: “I don’t know… But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking… don’t they?”
The Wizard of Oz
Until I moved to Wiltshire ten years ago, I had not come across a Scarecrow Festival or Trail. I had, of course, come across Scarecrows, even in my younger days living in the northeast of England. It wasn’t all Pit Heads and Slag Heaps.
Scarecrow Festivals appear to have started around 30 years ago in Derbyshire, and their popularity has since spread across the UK. There are at least three in and around the small Wiltshire town where I now live.
One of the few community events I visited last year, in between Covid restrictions, was following the scarecrow trail organised by a local primary school. While maintaining all the social distancing requirements of the time, it was good to see families strolling around the area. All, trying to guess what each of the forty-odd homemade scarecrows represented as part of the theme of Literature.
This year, unsurprisingly, the theme was ‘Royalty’ given it’s the Queen’s 70th Jubilee. So, a few weeks back, I strolled between many carefully crafted ‘royal’ scarecrows. The weather was beautiful, so many families were again out looking at the creations of others. While there was an overall theme, the scarecrow makers can interpret that as they wish. And interpret it widely, they did.
I saw only one Queen Elizabeth the Second amongst the forty-seven scarecrows on display. And I have to say (with no disrespect to the lady herself), she did look like an appropriately regal scarecrow.
Some creators had dipped back into the past. One splendid display had Louis XVI suffering his fate at the hands of Madam Guillotine. While beside him stood Marie Antionette holding… yes, you guessed it, a piece of cake.
This year is also the 380th anniversary of the English Civil War. I was, therefore, not surprised to see a Charles I amongst the display. Sadly for him, he, too, had lost his head.
One scarecrow clearly showed that history teaching may have slipped over the years. I assume it was meant to be Harold, given the arrow in his eye. The confusing thing was his attire. It was that of Richard the Lionheart with his chainmail and white tabard with a red cross. Many a parent walked away trying to clarify to their children the confusion.
Of course, England’s most well-known King couldn’t miss out. So yes, Henry VIII was there looking suitably rotund and wielding an axe.
One creator had set a challenging puzzle. Their offering was a large boiled sweet wrapped in black and white striped paper. A humbug, of course. But few realised the full name is mint humbug, and thus the ‘scarecrow’ represented the Royal Mint.
Some creators went off on a surrealist tangent. Such as they who offered a giant guitar that sported an Elvis quiff.
Another showed allegiance to Lady Di, whose model looked very elegant. Whoever had created the head fashioned an excellent likeness.
I confess there was one that puzzled me at the time and still does today. It was the model of a lady dressed in flowing black robes with long flaming-red hair. Behind her was a large cross. On one side flew the Union Flag, and on the other side the Stars and Stripes. Any thoughts, anyone?
Only a crow would know whether any of the models were scary. But they are creatures that are quick to learn, so I suspect it would not take them long to suss out that these scarecrows, while inventive, posed no danger.
But that’s not important. The Trail served its purpose. To raise a little money for the school and offer the community family entertainment.
I wonder what next year’s theme might be.