King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
The David Clarke Collection

What is a Pageant?

Corfe PageantCorfe Pageant, 1991St Albans PageantSt. Albans Pageant, 1907Sherborne PageantFinal Tableau at Sherborne Pageant, 1905 We can learn a lot from pageants specifically about the way that people engaged and learned about their past.

This has been the focus of a growing number of academics in the area, and can be seen in 'The Redress of the Past' pageant database.

There have been many discussions about the utility and point of pageants, including as expressions of local identity and ‘civic purpose’.

David Clarke has described pageants as 'large scale open entertainment', referring to the fact that they usually involved hundreds of participants and took place in an outdoor setting.

Normally set in a site historically relevant to the local area, there was always a great deal of involvement from the local community.

This could include helping to make costumes, filling roles and ultimately ensuring that the show ran smoothly.

Although these productions can be seen as a form of theatre on the greatest of scales, they were also deeply rooted in local history.

Pageants usually consisted of a series of episodes (or acts), each exploring a different historical event.

From a town’s creation to great historical events or visits from royalty, these pageants provided a way for members of a community to understand their past, and British history more generally.

This exhibition featuring the David Clarke Collection, has been researched and compiled by Fraser Simpson, MA student History Department, King’s College London.
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