News from Played in Britain

Folklore Society honour Played at the Pub

November 16, 2010

Arthur Taylor at London's last pub skittle alley

Arthur Taylor at London's last pub skittle alley, the Freemasons Arms in Downshire Hill, Hampstead.

Played in Britain and English Heritage are celebrating the second prize to be awarded to Arthur Taylor for his book Played at the Pub. Following on from his award last December as Coors Brewers' National Journalist of the Year, Arthur has this month won the prestigious 2010 Katherine Briggs Award, presented by the Folklore Society.

The award, which commemorates the life and work of the distinguished scholar Katharine Mary Briggs (1898-1980), was presented to Arthur at the Warburg Institute in London last night.

Played at the Pub, announced Professor Will Ryan, Vice President of the Folklore Society, was one of 42 entries submitted for the 2010 prize, and was 'a very worthy winner'.

The judges particularly valued the way the book captured for posterity those games which must now be considered as threatened activities, such as London skittles, now played in only one pub in Hampstead by a diminishing number of players, but also celebrated those with which Professor Ryan was personally familiar as a player, such as bat and trap, still popular in Kent.

For Arthur, who is based in Lancashire and is also an expert on brass bands, the award was particularly prized because he had studied at University College, around the corner from the Warburg Institute, and had admired the work of several previous winners of the Katherine Briggs Award, such as lona and Peter Opie, winners in 1986, Paul Oliver (1990) and EP Thompson (1992).

A full list of past winners appears here.

'The glass goblet will take pride of place on my mantlepiece,' Arthur assured everyone present, and would be of great encouragement as he continues his researches into the history of skittles both in Britain and Europe.

The award is significant because it is the first time that a sports or games-related title has won, and also the first time an English Heritage publication has been honoured by the Folklore Society.

It was, however, mere coincidence that preceding the award was a lecture by Professor Ronald Hutton of the University of Bristol, who is currently a commissioner for English Heritage. His lecture posed the question, 'How Pagan were Medieval English Peasants?'

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