Posts Tagged ‘pancakes’

Pancakes

Sunday, February 21st, 2021

Pancake Race winners in Spitalfields, 2007

I’m not a pancake lover, and didn’t celebrate last Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday. For once there was not a pancake in sight in our household as I think I’ve finally made my views on the subject clear. It isn’t that I would refuse to eat them but more that I find their taste and texture mildly offensive and feel that whatever filling or topping is applied to them would go much better with something else such as potato or bread.

Guildhall Yard, 2012

That hasn’t stopped me going out to photograph some of the many “tossers” who take part in the many pancake races which have mushroomed in our cities in recent years. I think back when I was young, pancake races were confined to a few places around Milton Keynes. The tradition is said to have begun in Olney in 1445, but had died at the start of the Second World War and was revivied in 1948 by the Vicar of Olney the Reverend Canon Ronald Collins, going international when Liberal, a town in Kansas, USA, sent Olney a challenge to a timed race in 1950.

What had once been purely a local tradition was spread through film and TV coverage, but it was only relatively recently that we began to see pancake races in London. I’ve photographed them in half a dozen places, the most interesting of which, a highly competitive event between the City of London’s Livery Companies, takes place in Guildhall Yard, and was begun by the Worshipful Company of Poulters in 2004, though I only photographed it for the first time in 2007. All except the top picture on this post are from Tues 21 Feb 2012.

Back in 2007 I think I was one of very few photographers present, though a few of my friends came along too, at least in the following years, and by the time I last went in 2020 there was a whole crowd of photographers and things had become rather more organised and less interesting. There wasn’t a race this year, but even had things been normal I wouldn’t have bothered to go again.

Leadenhall Market, 2012

These races take place across lunchtime, and in some years there was another race by myself and my friends leaving the Guildhall before the final races to rush and cover one of the other events taking place, at Leadenhall Market (750 metres away) or Spitalfields, just outside the City, and 1.18km distant before these finished. Other pancake races take place south of the river in Southwark, though I’ve found them less interesting to photograph – and I’m not sure I’ve ever published any pictures.

I think all of the London pancake races are raising money for charities and are team events. The Guildhall race is an opportunity for many in City businesses of all ages to let their hair down a little, with separate classes for the Masters of the guilds and women as well as other team members, and a separate fancy dress class; they have clear rules about gloves hats and more which are strictly applied, as well as timekeepers and a starting cannon. The other races are rather less organised, with teams from local businesses or pubs some in fancy dressthough others in their normal work clothes and generally rather younger.

Pancakes in the City – Leadenhall Market
Pancakes in the City – Guildhall


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