(Not) the Day of Dance: Adderbury Community Day, 18 September 21

Brilliant sunshine was over Adderbury as the team of both old and familiar faces assembled outside the local library for what was a two and a half year in the making event. The Adderbury Community Day had invited all three sides in the village to participate in what was to be dubbed the (Not) Day of Dance, as the previous two Days’ of Dance had been cancelled for reasons I’m sure anyone reading this can probably guess!

Our day started off with our traditional ceremony in St. Mary’s Church, where we paid our respects to Charlie Coleman, the last surviving Morris Dancer to return from World War One, and whose vital knowledge helped to revive the side back in the 1970s. We sang our “Day of Dance” song written by our musician Donald McCombie, followed by Chris Garrett reciting “Adderbury Sunrise”, a poem consisting of verses written by Janet Blunt and Richard Thompson. These two parts of the ceremony have now been performed for almost ten years, and it was great to be doing them once again! Finally, Chris finished the ceremony by giving Charlie the first drink of the day, remarking that we hoped he wasn’t teetotal, or confused about the fact we were there in September, and not in April.

Our group, composed of both dancers, family and friends, made our way round to Church Lane where we danced our traditional starting dances, Sweet Jenny Jones and Haste to the Wedding. We were soon greeted with an audience of residents coming out to see the dances. We danced two sets for Constant Billy in the already gorgeous sunshine, and then made our way down to the streams running through Adderbury, passing TV’s John Craven’s home, who I can only assume we’d awoken from his Saturday morning lie in. Grateful of the shade, but perhaps not the uneven terrain, we started with Old Woman Tossed up in a Blanket in which we carried out our first call and response recital of the poem, as suggested by Donald. It worked wonderfully and was a great chance to practice before the bigger crowds later in the day. We then followed with Lads a Buncham – which I initially called Constant Billy by mistake as clearly, it was constantly on my mind.

Group photo courtesy of Hannah Ekers

Our first Jockey to the Fair of the day took place with myself, Troy, Raf and, for the first time in public, our Bagman David Snell – who decided to provide me the extra challenge of calling the jig whilst dancing it. It was great to see another member taking up what is one of our harder dances. We finished with the Bluebells of Scotland before making our way up to Rose Cottage – Charlie Coleman’s former residence in the village. The group decided our hobby horse Charlie (no marks for guessing who he’s named after) could serve as traffic warden whilst we danced, as he is currently unable to dance due to an injury at a previous event. Beaux of London City (a.k.a Shooting) and Hail to the Chief were performed before moving on.

We arrived at the newest addition to our dancing route – Colin Butler Green – where there is a tree planted in memory of Bryan Sheppard, the founder of the side and who was responsible for its revival back in the 70s, who sadly passed away last year. In his memory, we danced Postman’s Knock, an eight man Princess Royal, Happy Man and Roast Beef. Before we left, Chris Garrett suggested we also give Bryan a drink on this beautiful sunny day, a tradition I’m sure we will look to keep for many years to come, and one Bryan would definitely have approved of! Making our way back down the village, we enjoyed lunch served by the Coach and Horses before entertaining the crowds with Sweet Jenny Jones, Haste to the Wedding (did I mention we sometimes call that Flasher?) and Shooting once again. We finished our set with Shepherd’s Hey performed first by the side, and then with members of the audience.

Crossing the hazard which was the Oxford Road, we set up outside the Red Lion. After topping up on sunscreen, we performed Black Joke, Bluebells of Scotland (which Troy did an excellent job of calling for the first time), Haste to the Wedding, Postman’s Knock and Stourton Wake. I asked where the name Black Joke came from, and was told it was a bit inappropriate to explain in front of some of our younger dancers so the mystery still remains! Although if it’s as lewd as they say, perhaps I’m better off not knowing…

After walking down the village, and stopping to take some time to admire our stand beautifully put together by our Bagman David, the group arrived at our last stop of the day – The Bell Inn. Adderbury Morris Men had also joined us and we opened the turn and turnabout, with Washing Day. Following on from the other side’s rendition of a rather familiar, yet different, version of Happy Man, my calling was once again put to the test as two of our younger members Theo and Dylan were keen to perform Jockey to the Fair in front of the crowd which had gathered. With Troy guiding Theo and myself guiding Dylan, we displayed the future of both AVMM and the promise of a continuation of our long standing tradition, as the crowd was blown away by the performance – Theo and Dylan danced brilliantly. The day ended with a run of three dances once the other side had retired to The Bell. We concluded with Constant Billy, Old Woman Tossed up in a Blanket and our signature finale – Brighton Camp danced by ten members.

Dylan and Ryan dancing Jockey to the Fair. Photo courtesy of Hannah Ekers

Now for probably the most important part of this report – the thanks to everyone involved. Firstly, a huge thank you to everyone who attended. Without you, this event wouldn’t be possible so my heartfelt thanks to all the members who came along. Thank you to our younger dancers, Alfie, Owen, Dylan and Theo who are the next generation of the side. It’s your participation which will keep the tradition alive for many years to come. Thank you to our new members Chris and Matt. Your dancing looks better every time I see you, and I hope you enjoyed your first of many Days of Dance. To our Musicians, Jim Plester, Donald McCombie and Malcolm Wood as well as Dorset Dave Reed, who not only danced with us but also provided musical accompaniment with his harmonica. Your music is what keeps us going – quite literally! Thank you to our photographers, Hannah Ekers and David Reed and to the Adderbury pubs and landlords for hosting us. Finally, to our Bagman David Snell who was the producer of the day, having put together the schedule, provided the sticks, transported the Hobby Horses, waved the flags, constructed the display stand, arranged lunch and, most importantly, supplied the drinks. The hard work really showed as the day’s events went smoothly. All I did was turn up, shout a bit and dance with people!

Twenty-nine dances didn’t quite beat the numbers in previous years by our absentee Squire John Ekers, but overall the day was fantastic. On that note, to our Squire John, you were sorely missed and I don’t know how you do it! See you all at the next event.

Ryan Jamniuk