The British Film Institute presents the best global cinema on-demand:
From classic and contemporary films to the best of the BFI National Archive.

Allendale Celebrates New Year
Allendale Celebrates New Year

Allendale Celebrates New Year 1979


This film is certified

Please confirm that you accept our terms of use.


Allendale Celebrates New Year 1979

9 mins United Kingdom

The thrilling, fiery Tar Bar’l festival lights up the night in sleepy Allendale, cut off from the world by heavy snow in 1978. Serenaded by a silver band, the remote Northumbrian village burns in the New Year with a procession of flaming tar barrels, carried aloft to a bonfire in the Market Square by fearless local men in bizarre costumes, known as ‘guisers’. When the fire dies down, folk go first-footing, then gather in the pub for dance and ale.

The amateur filmmaker, Lilian Wincote MBE, a retired headmistress and founder member of South Shields Cine Club, describes the Allendale ritual as ancient and of pagan origin. But a 1933 edition of the Hexham Courant dates the ceremony to around 1858, when a burning tar barrel was used to light a Methodist band’s New Year’s Eve concert at the old Wesleyan Chapel. The original guisers wore top hats and tail coats, which evolved into the eccentric garb still worn today. In the 1940s, a village shopkeeper, Vesta Peart, started to make many of the guisers’ costumes. As a token of their appreciation, in 1949, she became the only woman ever to carry a tar barrel in the procession, traditionally a male preserve.

North East Film Archive is one of a network of regional film archives established to collect, preserve and show film made in, or about the North East of England. Our collections are non-fiction, and date from the early 1900s to the present day, providing a rich record of life in the region over the 20th century. Many of our films are available to watch, free of charge, on our website.


Amateur film


Bonfires Local customs New Years Snow Festivals


Christmas Crackers




United Kingdom

Read lessRead more
Part of

1,000s of beautifully preserved films, capturing 120 years of Britain on Film

The map


View All

Welcome to a new subscription service like no other.

>100s of hand-picked classics and critically-acclaimed films

>Critic Mark Kermode picks a must-see film every week

>No contract, cancel anytime

Cookies Policy

This website uses cookies, as explained in our Cookies Policy.

To accept the terms and hide this message please click 'I accept'.

I accept

Passionate about film? So are we…

Don't miss the email made for the in-the-know film fan:

New releases — on the same day as in cinemas Special collections & unheralded classics Exclusive news on discounts

Never ask | Ask me later