The Sheaf Thrower (Greatham, Michael Disley 1995)

The Sheaf Thrower by Michael Disley last week, which is sometimes referred to as the Greatham Tosser (not my words). It can be found on the corner of The Green and Front Street in the village of Greatham near Hartlepool. According to Paul Usherwood, Jeremy Beach and Catherine Morris’s invaluable Public Sculpture of North East England (or the Pink Bible, as we refer to it), the sculpture is made from Cadeby stone, cost £4000, and was co-ordinated by Cleveland Arts with funding and materials from Cadeby Stone, Northern Arts, Greatham Parish Council, and Teesside Art Awards.

Photo by Grace Redpath

Sheaf-throwing is an event held during the Greatham Feast, which until 2020 had been held yearly since the 1500s. Using a pitchfork, the participants must throw a sheaf of wheat (a bundle of stalks tied together) over a horizontal bar as a test of mighty agricultural strength. I’m going to hazard a guess that cider is involved somehow.

Photos of the Greatham sheaf toss in 2018 or 2019 (courtesy of Beverley Hutchinson)

Most sheaf tosses require everyone to use the same pitchfork, lest they gain an advantage from an unregulated implement (similar to the rules adopted in some conker tournaments to prevent illegal lacquerings). I’m not sure whether the people of Greatham follow this rule or if it’s some sort of wanton free-for-all.

The statue was broken during its installation in June 1995 (one of the birds on the figure’s head came off) but soon repaired.

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