I highly recommend listening to this audio essay from the writer Naomi Booth, author of the astounding novel Sealed (Dead Ink, 2017). It’s part of the ‘Weird England’ series of audio essays, essential listening for anyone interested in the weirder aspects of British folklore and local customs.
Here’s the description on the BBC website:
On New Year’s Eve in Allendale, Northumberland a group of men heave barrels of burning tar, kindling and paraffin onto their heads and process through the town. This is a programme devoted to the appeal of fire and flame. This is the Tar Barl Festival, Allendale’s way of marking the New Year for over 160 years. Groups of ‘guisers’ dress in costumes (‘guises’) and carry the fiery barrels on their heads. Novelist Naomi Booth presents. Naomi lives in Yorkshire, but remembers the icy cold of childhood Northumberland holidays. She finds herself strangely drawn to the fiery energy at the heart of Allendale’s New Year’s Eve festivities.