The Merrie England and London May Queen Festival is now in its 104th year having been started in 1913 by Mr Joseph Deedy, a Dulwich School Master who was interested in English folklore and had a love of poetry and the countryside.
Every year since 1913 a London May Queen has been crowned on Hayes Common with the exception of the Second World War years, when a hall was used.
Mr Deedy wrote all the verses and speeches which are still spoken today and he devised the crowning ceremony still used at Hayes, these being chosen to perpetuate tradition and English heritage.
The Festival has a High Queen, the London May Queen who has attained her position of seniority from taking the year of joining the festival, along with a retinue of attendants, flower girls and characters, all depicting the May Day ritual.
Before joining the London Group a girl must have been a local May Queen. In the past there were as many as 120 Realm May Queens with over 1000 children taking part, all wearing a different colour and carrying the chosen flowers of their realm, as decided by Mr Deedy in 1913.
Today there are only about 25 realms left in existence with about 300 children taking part.
Anyone can join the Festival at any age after 3 years old but their year of joining becomes their date for seniority in the realm, and accordingly they take the following parts from fairies to attendants, then Banner Bearer, Crown Bearer, Prince and Realm Queen at any age before 16. The London May Queen must be 18 or younger.
All the realm Queens are crowned before the 2nd Saturday in May, this usually involves a parade through their local area followed by a tea party.
The London May Queen is crowned on the 2nd Saturday in May after a parade of all the realms through Hayes Village before returning to Hayes Common to be crowned.
The May Queens usually take part in a variety of activities during their realm year including attending fetes, visiting local elderly people and flower services.
For more information contact Lesley Vistuer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07979 817494