Morris and Covid-19; Part 2 Morris Dancing for the Socially Isolated

Two weeks ago, on the 16th March, when I wrote the first article, in what now is becoming a series, no-one expected that almost immediately all Morris practices, pub nights, day's of dance and festivals would be cancelled until further notice but that is what has happened.  Even more astonishingly most of us are now required to remain in our own homes as part of the social (physical) distancing strategy.  For those of us who are feeling an urge to get back to dancing here is a way of performing the Upton on Seven Stick Dance completely in compliance with social distancing; kindly provided by Keith Graham of Colchester Morris Men.

Following the Government announcement on 16th March the Joint Morris Organisations issued a statement which confirmed that the JMO National Day of Dance planned for 18th April 2020 in Liverpool has been postponed until April 2021 on a date to be decided.

Similarly, Daniel Fox, Squire of Thaxted Morris Men announced  "the not-unexpected decision to cancel this year's Thaxted Morris Weekend due to be held on May 29 to 31.  It is the first cancellation since 1939".

Morris On!

Dave Evans

29th March 2020

“Is practice still on tonight – are you going?” - Morris and Covid-19

 I would normally be at Morris practice tonight, Monday 16th March, but instead I’m sitting at home (home working?) writing this.  As you may be aware today was the day that the Government asked us all to practise “social distancing”.  A question; “Is practice still on tonight – are you going?” was raised tonight at 6.05pm and the response to a quick email poll was rapid, which was just as well as a decision was needed well before 8pm, especially as some members cycle 10 miles or more to our practice venue.  The result of the email poll was pretty unanimous and led to some interesting comments and discoveries.

Surprised Morris Man 3

Hey, Guys, Is practice on tonight?

Read more: “Is practice still on tonight – are you going?” - Morris and Covid-19

Morris Clubs; Morris and Molly Teams in East Anglia

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 CLUBS IN SUFFOLK, NORFOLK, ESSEX and CAMBRIDGESHIRE

Now including news items and appeals for dancers and musicians

 

Just received this appeal by Anniemation (17/1/2020)

Musicians wanted by Anniemation
Any or all of: Melodeon player, accordion player, violinist wanted by AnnieMation - a North West Morris side based in Colchester, Essex.  We practise on a Sunday - 11-00am until 1-00pm and have regular dance outs and dance weekends away.  Anyone interested please contact Ian on 07719846968  or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Read more: Morris Clubs; Morris and Molly Teams in East Anglia

Not Morris but ...

John Clare's Scraping

You know how it is, you're doing the ironing or cooking and you have the radio on in the background and suddenly your ears prick-up as you become aware of something familiar or interesting.  Well, there I was preparing an early supper when I heard Jon Boden's voice talking to me from the radio.  He'd put together a great little programme about the poet John Clare, the "Northamptonshire peasant poet".  He's one of my favourite poets and I even have an 1820 copy of his first book "Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery" which I inherited from my Mum.  So, Jon Boden immediately got my full attention, especially as the programme was celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of that book.

John Clare poet

John Clare, the Northamptonshire Peasant Poet

The programme was on Radio 4 on Sunday 12th January at 4.30pm and can still be found on BBC Sounds but only until 10th February 2020.  Sadly, it doesn't seem possible to download the programme.  Boden celebrates John Clare's tune and song collecting, some of which Clare learned from the gypsy, Wisdom Smith, who he met around the Cambridgeshire village of Helpston, near Peterborough.  Clare was described as a "decent scraper" and learned to play his fiddle tunes from visiting gypsy camps.  He was one of the earliest folk song collectors and amassed a collection of 263 tunes and songs, some from the gypsys and others from his father's collection of over 100 ballads which he sang at local pubs. 

The reason for including all this in a piece in Mardles Morris On! is that Morris does get a mention.  One of the contributors to the programme says that Helpston had its own "Morris dance, as Clare calls it", but then says "which we would now call a Mummer's Play".  Disappointingly, from my perspective, no more detail is provided in the programme after this tempting mention but it's further evidence of an East Anglian Morris tradition of some kind and an interesting glimpse into England at the time of the enclosures.

Have a listen to the programme yourself if you get the chance, and you'll also hear Jon Boden singing the John Clare version of Bushes and Briars.

Dave Evans

20th January 2020

 

 

 

Old Glory Molly trip to Kent on video

Old Glory's recent trip to Kent was captured on film by a Brighton based young film maker, Conan Roberts of Unfolding Films.   Filmed on a very cold day at the end of November in the harbour and on the beach at Whitstable, Kent.  The film conveys, in a few quick frames, some of the essential magic, mystery, energy and power of the Molly and is enhanced with a voice-over by one of the dancers.

If you like this one another film by the company with a flavour of the Morris called "Modern Nature - Nature" may also interest you.  If you can identify any of the sides involved please let me know so that I can give them a credit.  I suspect that some of the sides may be from the Brighton area where Unfolding Films are based. 

The film maker, Conan Roberts, has expressed an interest in filming a wide variety of Morris traditions, events and performances, so it may be worth contacting him through their website (see above) if you have something which may be of interest.  I've already suggested that he might like to visit Thaxted in June.

Dave Evans, Mardles Morris Correspondent

8th January 2020

 

Hopping Down in Kent - Old Glory visit the Kent Treacle Mines

Perhaps not as much “hopping” as a Cotswold Morris side might have done but there was certainly plenty of stamping and on this occasion, it was “Stamping the Old Ground”, "Nelson’s Revenge" and "The Buck" which Old Glory Molly Dancers and Musicians had brought down to Kent.  They were the guests of Seven Champions Molly Dancers, famous inhabitants of the Kent Treacle Mines.  A strong side of dancers and musicians made the journey although some felt it was a bit too radical to stray outside the natural territories of East Anglia.

Old Glory Seven Champs

Old Glory and their hosts Seven Champions by the sea in Whitstable

Seven Champions had been to Suffolk in December 2018 and a return trip had been eagerly awaited.  It turned out that the Treacle Mines are located in the Whitstable – Faversham area and the first dancing spots were around the harbour in Whitstable.  The day was dry and sunny but a cold wind whistled through the docks.  A good crowd gathered for the first spot at the so-called Dead Man’s Stage and came with us to the Lifeboat Station but later thinned out as dusk approached.

Seven Champs led the way with their strange tales and precise dancing, weaving complex and precise patterns in twos and fours, sixes and eights and sometimes more. 

Read more: Hopping Down in Kent - Old Glory visit the Kent Treacle Mines

New Old Glory event at the Locks

Old Glory Solstice Dec 2018

Having previously reported that the traditional Old Glory Winter Solstice event at the Locks, Geldeston scheduled for 22nd December had been cancelled due to local flooding, I am now pleased to let you all know that a replacement event will take place at the Locks on Saturday 11th January at 8pm.  So this Winter you will still be able to witness the eerie sight of Old Glory emerging with flaming torches from the marshes into the pub yard. 

Other opportunities to see the Molly dancers and musicians will be tonight 4th January at the Oddfellows, Nightingale Road, Pakefield, Lowestoft NR33 7AU, 18th January at Whittlesea Straw Bear festival and finally for this season on 25th January at the Mark Jones Day of Dance starting at 10.30am at the Cutter, Ely.

Dave Evans

Mardles Morris (and Molly) correspondent

 

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