Broughton Tin Can Band, NorthamptonshireThe villagers of Broughton, near Kettering , have managed over the years to maintain one of the oddest folk customs in Britain in spite of (perhaps understandable) complaints and occasional official displeasure.
On the second Sunday in December, starting at midnight, the music of the Broughton Tin Can Band starts up, though calling it music is perhaps stretching things. The band, its numbers variable but with fifty and more to be expected, makes an unholy row with improvised instruments such as dustbin lids, buckets, biscuit tins and rattles made from tin can with stones in them. These percussive elements are combined with whistles and general shrieking to produce Northamptonshire's own version of the wall of sound, the din of tins. As the band is a marching one the whole village gets to enjoy the concert.
The origins of the tradition are unclear, though medieval roots are sometimes claimed for the event. The reason behind it is a little less obscure, but as there are at least two common versions that too is far from plain.
The two reasons generally cited are that the 'music' is either to drive away evil spirits; or that at one time it was used to expel gypsies from the place. That latter reason may seem more than a trifle unpleasant, but in medieval times people were sometimes hanged on just the suspicion of them being gypsies, so the ancient residents of Broughton may have in fact been rather charitable.
The event bears more than a passing comparison with the British tradition of 'rough music', a similar din played outside the houses of men known to be philanderers, wife beaters, cuckolds or poor hen-pecked victims, to serve as a warning to change their ways, or sometimes to drive them from the settlement if their offence was deemed particularly grave.
Broughton's 'music' lasts for about an hour, and given the nature of the performance encores are highly unlikely.
More British Folk Customs?