Iconic legend of Black Shuck celebrated with new festival

The fire dancers who danced

The fire dancers who danced around the burning shuck in a performance to the audience. - Credit: Brittany Woodman

A local team of artists and councillors hosted a festival in Bungay town centre to celebrate the famous tale of the Bungay Black Shuck.

The Black Shuck Festival is a celebration of the historical legend that has lent itself to centuries of artistic imaginings and the unique character of Bungay.

The East Anglian legend recounts how, during a dry lightning storm on the evening of August 4, 1577, a wild black dog entered Bungay's St Mary's Church, attacking and killing four worshippers, and then vanished.

The animal on the same evening is said to then have reappeared in Blythburgh, mauling more innocents at the Holy Trinity Church where the beast was trapped and what are said to be Black Shuck's claw marks can still be seen, burned into the surface of the front door. 

Brittany Woodman

Event organiser, internationally acclaimed portrait artist Stuart Pearson Wright, delivering a speech to the crowds gathered outside Bungay Bigod Castle. - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Event organiser, internationally acclaimed portrait artist Stuart Pearson Wright, said: "I wanted to start an annual festival and create a massive bronze sculpture of the black shuck and mount it in the centre of town.

"We organised the event on a budget of just £700 and the celebration of Bungay's history was at the heart of the event, we wanted to claim the black shuck as Bungay's own, the shuck is an iconic name.

The date for people to remember, 4th August 1577... 

The date for people to remember, 4th August 1577... - Credit: Brittany Woodman

"After Covid we have all had a few bad years, I just thought we could either all sit around and mope about it, or be positive and come together by creating a festival which celebrates a local folklore story about a form of werewolf. 

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"How many towns have such a unique story to tell, that's why I think we need a huge bronze sculpture here and we need to tell this story every year.

"I have huge plans for this festival in the coming years of running a weekend festival, and believe the potential of telling this tale to be boundless and great for the town."

Artist and illustrator James Mayhew said: "This is a hugely significant event for Bungay.

"We know the date, we know the year, we know what happened, we know the legend.

"The potential has been sitting there for decades. Whitby has Dracula, Bungay has the Black Shuck.

"The beauty of tales and folklore is that it unites generations, and from this marvellous turn out, we see that everyone loves a story - you're never too old to listen to a story.

"It is a great unifying thing."

James Mayhew

Artist and illustrator James Mayhew painting while also simultaneously telling the wonderful story of the black shuck, in his own words. - Credit: Paul Farrow

Some people in attendance claim to even have seen the famous black shuck.

Shuck

The black shuck being paraded around town, in the image they walk through St Mary's Church yard. - Credit: Paul Farrow

Artist and member of the organising committee Spag Hopkins described his "encounter" with the beast.

He said: "Aye in very truth I have seen the Black Shuck, albeit in North Essex.

"I hit the beast in my cart one evening, it rolled down the road in a steaming heap. This woman got out of the cottage to talk to the beast and it stood, then disappeared into the night.

"I returned the following day to find the cottage and remonstrate with the woman but I couldn't find it.

"It was a massive, big, big, beast, like a huge fat black Labrador, very very overweight and hugely powerful."

Due to the fire service prohibiting a real burning of the hound

Due to the fire service prohibiting a real burning of the hound, organisers performed a staging of the symbolic burning of the beast. - Credit: Paul Farrow

Bungay Town Reeve Olly Barnes said: "I was absolutely pleased to welcome Stuart's idea of the Shuck festival and delighted to help out, the local folklores and history of the town is something we need to celebrate and take pride in.

"It is great getting so many people out in the centre of Bungay, and I am sure it will get bigger every year."

Due to the fire service prohibiting a real burning of the hound

Due to the fire service prohibiting a real burning of the hound, organisers performed a staging of the symbolic burning of the beast. - Credit: Paul Farrow

Stuart Pearson Wright

Spag Hopkins and James Mayhew posing with the shuck which was curated by organiser Stuart Pearson Wright. - Credit: Brittany Woodman