Clogs can be used in a surprising number of ways. The town of Pudsey has long been associated with the manufacture of clogs and it seems appropriate it is the host of the world famous Clog Festival. This festival has been in existence since 1613 and takes place on the fifth Saturday after the third full moon after Shrove Tuesday in odd-numbered years and on June 5th in even-numbered years. Festivals on even-numbered years are better attended for some unknown reason.
There are a huge variety of competitions. There is the clog-painting contest where prizes are awarded for using the most colours on one clog, the record for which is 274 by Mr Edward Goodge in 1871. Building a pyramid is the most onerous event requiring a vast amount of clogs, so each team is limited to half-an-hour’s building and at the end of the time the judges have to be able to discern a distinct pyramid. Towers and walls don’t count. The highest pyramid ever was eight feet high built by the Brighouse Working Women’s Club in 1923 – they were said to have been inspired by the suffragette movement.
The most popular events are the athletics. ‘Fetch thy Clog’ is popular with whippet owners who train their dogs all year to run after a clog and return it. The clogs are placed 100 yards from the start line. When the starting judge shouts ‘Dogs to the Clogs’ the whippets are released and race to their clogs; the first dog back gripping the right clog in its mouth wins the prize. However, the clogs are uniquely identifiable and if the winning dog brings back the wrong clog then it is disqualified. In this instance, the race is re-run. This might explain why the 1956 race took eight hours and was eventually won by a dachshund called Molly who was the only dog left from the original 223 competitors.
Other clog events include the 100-yard dash, the high-jump, and the long jump. Competitors in the long jump must land in the sand still wearing their clogs otherwise a no-jump is declared. Then there’s the throwing events including ‘Lob the Clog’ where the contestant stands in a shot putt circle and hops up and down on one foot three times before hurling the clog from his or her other foot. There’s ‘Welly the Clog’ when people take a run up and then kick the clog furiously from their foot – on odd numbered years the event changes slightly in that the clog must knock over a cutout shaped like a Lancastrian archer, a throwback to the Battle of Towton when the Yorkist archers had to improvise after running out of arrows.
On the arts side, Pudsey’s festival is also famous for the clog carving that takes place. The contests here include creating a matching pair of clogs for twins and a set of clogs for a greyhound so that it won’t get foot rot during the winter months. These must be produced within the day using only traditional tools. Competitors are presented with blocks of wood at 9 a.m. and must have produced the clogs by 6 p.m.
Other artistic competitions include Flower Arranging using clogs, growing bonsai trees in clogs, and creating a wind chime for use in hurricane zones. There’s also the painting competition entitled ‘Improve a famous painting by including a clog,’ which has proved controversial over the years, particularly when Albert Stuckle painted Munch’s The Scream with a clog inserted in the mouth. Liberty has led the people wearing clogs, the Mona Lisa has worn a clog-shaped hat, and Monet’s water lilies have become clogs floating on a pond. Mathilda Stevens was banned for life in 1936 for improving The Naked Maja in a rather painful manner.
This is an extract from the book 40 Humourous British Traditions by Julian Worker