Hickling has an exceptional record for fundraising events and since 2001 one of the centrepieces for these efforts has been our annual Scarecrow Weekend.
The Scarecrow Festival has a dedicated Facebook page; for news and updates, click here.
The village fundraising committee divides money raised between one or two main external charities; usually these will have a link to the village, often because of a sensitive local story – beneficiaries include The Notts Lincs Air Ambulance (an incredible service valued hugely by rural communities) or Dove Cottage, a local hospice. Then, in addition, funds are distributed widely amongst local groups, clubs and good causes (our website is a very grateful beneficiary!).
Each year there is a different theme (in 2019 it was ‘Animation’) and each year dozens of households put out their scarecrows for everyone’s enjoyment – then we add teas and refreshments and entertainments; £1,000s are raised each year in an amazing (& very hard work) community effort.
The Scarecrow weekend was originally begun as a way for the village to reunite after the long closures brought about by a foot and mouth epidemic; it was designed to include and to involve everyone in the community and should simply be for fun. In the event, the first Scarecrows in 2001, was a huge and instant success but more than anything it still brings us all together once a year – organising, making, meeting and chatting; brilliant!
” It happened to be during the year of the foot and mouth crisis. We stopped all events to try and stop the spread of it to the village farms. Hundreds of people tramping through was not considered appropriate. At the time they had the age old problem of getting people to commit, volunteer etc – and the general view was ‘that’s it – events are finished for the village’. So Mum put this forward as something everyone could get involved in for free, just to get the village up and running again. It was something even the farmers could join in with – often the events were inconvenient for them – too late at night, held at times they were working and so on. Nobody thought trying to reactivate previous events would work anymore so they came up with Scarecrows. It was supposed to be by the village people and for the village – maximum involvement. It didn’t look at all promising, though … Beforehand, Mum was trying to put together a programme listing the scarecrows that people would be showing but come the day and I think she had about six ‘official’ scarecrows. Yet many many houses were outside putting theirs up, anyway! I can’t remember who had the idea, but some bright spark printed off the programme completely blank and invented the ‘Guess the Scarecrow Competition’ charging £1 per entry which became one of the key aspects to the event and actually the only way we could run it, because Hickling being Hickling doesn’t like to give us the comfort of being able to plan ahead. It was immensely popular – people came from other villages which was a nice surprise. Lots of money was raised which was an incredible surprise. It became an instant tradition with people talking about next year’s event even before the first had finished.”(Lynn Irving 2020)
It is very possible that Postman Pat has appeared at every Scarecrow Weekend, so far; it would be great to have photographic evidence to prove it one way or the other – please contact us, if you can help.
The origins of the Scarecrow weekend were explained in the newsletter in 2008:
“Eight years ago at the turn of the Millennium, Hickling held its first Scarecrow event, however its purpose wasn’t to mark the start of the 21st century but to celebrate the passing of the foot & mouth crisis. Restrictions on movement of cattle and also on access to the countryside left the village, which still has a large farming community, feeling that all events should be cancelled so as not to encourage people with their cars, dogs, contaminated shoes etc from entering the village. Nobody wanted the events to be responsible for bringing foot & mouth to our farmers’ cattle. Once restrictions were lifted momentum for things like the Country Fair had been lost and it was difficult to see how people would regain the enthusiasm for village events – yet something was needed.
“There is not much in the village; at the time there was nothing in the village hall, though much more has since been introduced. The pub which is brewery owned cannot be considered to be a reliable institution due to the constant bankrupting of landlords by excessive rents and restrictive purchasing rules imposed by the brewery. The church holds services but very few go and the shop had just closed due to retirement. This meant that the only way many people saw each other was at the annual social events held by the whole village.
“It was Margaret Woolley (former post mistress and event organising maniac) who came up with the idea of Scarecrows – it had a rural feel, it was a whole new event so there was no need to try and pick up where they had been before, but most importantly everyone had to be involved – it would fail if there were not enough scarecrows or the standard was low, and as it took place through the whole village there would be. There were also many jobs for people to like selling raffle tickets, making cakes, running stalls, car parking….
“Though no money was expected to be raised it was decided that if any was it would go the charities nominated for that year (this year for example it is Prostate Cancer and Alzheimers and village charities).
“As it turned out the effort was magnificent and it became an instant tradition. Everyone was asking what they were going to do for it next year rather than would it ever happen again. Over £2000 was raised and it was so much of a success that Rushcliffe Borough Council asked to sponsor it and have since then provided the street theatre and other services such as lighting and some printing. The Mayor also award the best Scarecrow prize to the Collishaws – yes every year the only question is which Collishaw it will be but it gives everyone else a standard to aim for. Last years winner was the hugely impressive Battle of Britain display by the Collishaws and McEwens (see below).
“It also happens that last year saw the total that has been given to charities since Scarecrows began hit £100 000.
“This year the theme is Famous Books and everyone who thinks they are a wit is threatening to do the Karma Sutra. None of the Scarecrows so far promised have included this tome though, so organisers are confident of it being the wholesome family event it usually is. As well as Guess the Scarecrow competition there will also be inflatables, craft and market stalls, an art exhibition/workshop with Jan Osbond, street theatre on Sunday (7th September), refreshments all day and free parking. All for just £1per adult. On Saturday (6th Sept) night, for anyone who can’t get enough of us there is Elvis Night – a fancy dress competition (optional) with a hog roast, live music and a disco. Should be a great weekend to start sizzling September.”(L Irving 2008)
Mr & Mrs Straw – the Original Corn Dollies
Mr and Mrs Straw made their first appearance on Hickling Pastures in October 1996; they were the creation of the Walker family of Fox and Hounds Farm and, for no other reason than to cheer everyone up.
This page is part of our Tomorrow’s History project; as we record events that are ‘today’ they will, in time and in turn, become history for readers of the future. We will add to these pages as much as we can and we welcome contributions at any time – please do get in touch with your memories, anecdotes and photographs of these brilliant village weekends.
- Scarecrows: 2001 – Nursery Rhymes
- Scarecrows: 2002 – Royalty
- Scarecrows: 2003 – Country Life
- Scarecrows: 2004 – Songs and Films before the 1960s
- Scarecrows: 2005 – Children’s Stories
- Scarecrows: 2006 – Television Programmes
- Scarecrows: 2007 – Famous People
- Scarecrows: 2008 – Famous Books
- Scarecrows: 2009 – Countries
- Scarecrows: 2010 – Heroes & Villains
- Scarecrows: 2011 – Tom, Dick or Harry
- Scarecrows: 2012 – Best of British
- Scarecrows: 2013 – All Creatures Great & Small
- Scarecrows: 2014 – Children’s Rhymes & Story Times
- Scarecrows: 2015 – Horrible Histories
- Scarecrows: 2016 – Comedy Classics
- Scarecrows: 2017 – Fairy Tales & Nursery Rhymes
- Scarecrows: 2018 – Space
- Scarecrows: 2019 – Animation
- Scarecrows: 2020 – Strange Times – the Covid year
- Scarecrows: 2021 – Eat, Drink & Be Merry
- Scarecrows: 2022 – Lords & Ladies
- Scarecrows: 2023 – Occupations
- Scarecrows: 2024 – to be confirmed