Pearly Kings & Queens

I love all kinds of vernacular craft / tradition and I particularly like ones that are very associated with place (in this case London). The Pearly Kings and Queens were originally elected from amongst the costermongers (street-sellers / market traders) of different areas to protect and represent them (I guess a kind of proto-union boss). The Pearly Kings make all the costumes and they have a nice line in coded symbolism (a heart symbolises charity, a dove peace, a playing card = life is a gamble etc). These days they are mostly concerned with charitable activities. There is precious little information about them available (no book of photos, nor history of them).

I wrote to the Museum of London with an enquiry for information about them, but they hold no records. It seems a terrible oversight, I wonder if they will be rolled out for the London Olympics (probably not - it's a bit too sophisticated, doubtless they won't get much beyond red-buses, Big Ben and Beefeaters...)

I was all geared up to go and see the Pearlies when they came to visit the Cummings Museum on Walworth Road on Tuesday, but went to the Vivienne Westwood lecture at the RCA instead (frankly a mistake on my part)

Below is my favorite Pearly picture - extraordinarily melancholy, I especially like the King's tie with Charity on it. I am thinking about approaching them to do some future MJW photos.

Good history of them here
Official home here

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