Norfolk rural life celebrated in season of events
PUBLISHED: 14:14 16 January 2019 | UPDATED: 14:41 16 January 2019
From the tools that generations have worked the land with to the story of rural poverty and hardship, the agricultural past of South Norfolk is being explored in a series of events and exhibitions.
Throughout January and February, Diss Corn Hall is hosting a special season that ranges from historical exhibition to art and film all on the theme of ‘Rural Life’.
Norfolk’s rural nature and the prominent role that agriculture has played down the centuries — where once tens of thousands earned a living off the land, now after mechanisation few do — will be explored in the central exhibition, Working the Land by Hand.
Being staged in conjunction with Diss Museum the free exhibition, which runs until February 23, showcases many handcrafted tools the role of some of which are now a mystery with information having been lost over the years. Visitors are being asked to help identify the role for which they were used.
Diss Museum manager Basil Abbott said: “Agriculture has long been a mainstay of Diss and the local area, with a rich tradition of handcrafted tools. Diss Museum has a small but important collection of implements used to work the land by hand; before machines were developed to do the work more quickly and efficiently.
“On display are a wide range of hand tools along with items relating to agricultural workers unions, rural poverty and hardship, the role of the Corn Hall, a local agricultural engineering firm and how working the land was part of the school curriculum.”
Some of the characters associated with rural life will also be featured in the season including Frederick Rolfe, known as the ‘King of the Norfolk Poachers’, who will be subject of a talk by local historian and writer Charlotte Paton on February 1.
She will tells the story of how when an elderly mole catcher presented a farmer’s wife with a notebook filled with stories of his life as a poacher, it went on to becoming one of East Anglia’s best loved tales of country life – I Walked by Night – published in 1935.
There will also be a screening of Bafta-winning director Paul Wright’s film Arcadia on January 23 in which he uses 100 years of archive film to tell the story of British people’s shifting — and contradictory — relationship to the land, taking in folk carnivals and fetes, masked parades, water divining and harvesting.
As well as those who worked the land the agricultural environment in Norfolk has also inspired many artists and an exhibition The Art of Rural Life, which runs until March 9, includes works by a diverse range of works influenced by rural life.
There is also a chance for visitors to get hands-on with a workshop to create a traditional corn dolly on February 18 (10am, £19 including materials). The ancient corn dolly is a pagan rural symbol for good luck and fertility and local artist Diane Griffiths will walk those taking part through the heritage of the craft.
For more details on the Rural Life season visit Diss Corn Hall