Bernard Moffatt, Outside Left: Pantomime on hill has no place in our culture

Bernard Moffatt

Bernard Moffatt

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You know the old adage you wait for a bus and then three come along.

First we had the military festival of fun on Douglas promenade in May during which Marian (Kenny) and her merry men at Manx Radio news kept regaling us about the virtues of life in the military reserves for...ever!

That eventually moved swiftly on to accommodate the real TT Fun fair in June.

However, the high point of the year for all Manx people as far as staged pantomimes go is coming shortly in July – the annual Tynwald Day Fun Fair at St John’s.

I don’t mean the one behind the hill. I mean the one on the hill. It is, we are told, part of our proud and ancient tradition.

PAUSE FOR A COMPETITION: Name five non-royal visiting dignitaries to Tynwald over the past three years. Answer by the time you reach the end of this article.

Anyway, we are told it is ‘part of our Manx heritage and tradition’. But actually, it’s not!

It is actually something of a made-up Victorian pantomime. You only have to look at some of the ludicrous costumes on display to realise that.

I mean I know the Vikings, a millennium ago, were supposed to have turned up in those stupid horned helmets (which they didn’t) the standard accoutrement it seems for stag nights. But, I ask you – wigs and men with frocks in July 2015!

No pantomime is complete without a villain, and that role has got to be occupied by the incumbent Lieutenant Governor. I mean what else is he for?

He does nothing (or very little) for the rest of the year except ‘trouser’ loads of cash from us and live in that big house we give him.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a fun day out but these people (them on the hill) take it all so seriously, and some of the MHKs think they look good in their top hats.

Tynwald was originally about making the governance of the island relevant to those governed. These people do not want to make this ceremony relevant to you, they just want you to look up to them – literally!

The social event of the day – the fair – which was once the main imperative of the day, has been for many years now bundled on to the back of the hill.

Shamefully it is now sited in the memorial field, an area originally designated after the WWI memorial was built as an area for quiet contemplation to remember those who died.

This was OK for decades, but then, about 25 years ago, ‘them on the hill’ noticed that the people wandering round the stalls at the front of the hill were enjoying themselves to much.

‘We can’t have that’ they said. ‘We can’t have them enjoying themselves in front of us while we are taking ourselves seriously up here on the hill.

‘So forget the memorial field, we’ll bundle them round the back’.

Move over remembrance, the burger vans are coming!

They said: ‘We need to keep the front of the hill for people who enjoy taking us seriously and keeping an eye on the pantomime villain.’

Some years ago I was interviewed by a journalist from the Observer, John Sweeney, (yes he of the amazing Youtube scientology rant). He had come to the island the day before Tynwald fair day. We did the interview and I suggested he stay on.

The following day we went to St John’s and I started ‘peddling’ nationalist newspapers around the field and he went off to watch events on the hill.

After a good while he returned, saying ‘I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s like something out of an Ealing Comedy’, before almost collapsing in a fit of hysterics.

At the time I was mildly offended but, you know, in hindsight he was spot on!

COMPETITION ANSWERS – Didn’t think you would remember any. I don’t.

What are visiting dignitaries anyway?

Oh yes, something else for us to pay for. After all THEY cannot have a serious day if YOU don’t spend serious money!

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