Whether it’s a dog agility group, a stunt bike rider, maypole dancers or a sports club like the one in this photo, no village fete is complete without some sort of display to accompany the stalls and games. These gymnasts were taking part in Atherington’s fete in August 1977. One girl is aware of the photographer, but the others are watching the action, waiting their turn to do what looks like a forward roll or perhaps a hand stand. Ravilious has caught the moment perfectly as the display gets underway, showing the movement, but he also captures subtle things, like the expression of the girl in the foreground.
They still hold a village fete on this site, and the view across the Taw Valley towards Codden Hill and Hawkridge Woods is familiar. Surprisingly, it’s the site itself which has changed, says Atherington’s Beaford Arts’ promoter Sarah Cooper.
“It’s our playing field and there’s a football pitch there now. It looks very different because the field has been levelled over a period of time,” she says.
The trees in the background have also grown. There’s a playground slide in Ravilious’ photograph and, although it’s been replaced over the years, there’s still a slide in roughly the same place.
The gymnastics team may have come from the village, or perhaps High Bickington, says Sarah, who also points out that it must have taken quite some effort to get the large mats on to the site. There certainly isn’t a club like this in the village now, although in the early 1990s there was a keep fit club for children. These days, one of the highlights of the annual fete is an egg throwing competition where partners play catch with eggs – the last ones managing to throw them without smashing them winning the prize.
Are village fetes as common today in north Devon as they were in the Seventies? And how many still have displays like this one?