An event we had been waiting two years for had finally come around! A Day of Dance throughout the village of Adderbury with the other two sides was about to commence and all the months of planning and practice were about to come to fruition…
After assembling at the library our team made our way over to conduct our opening ceremony at Charlie Coleman’s grave at St. Mary’s Church in Adderbury. An event which takes place every year to start the day, we take the time to welcome all of those who travelled to take part, and pay our respects to Charlie. This year, the ceremony began with the poem “Adderbury Sunrise” read by Jim Plester (filling in for Chris Garrett), followed by the Day of Dance song performed by Donald with the team, family and friends present accompanying during the chorus. Finally, we had Charlie’s son Mike, who had travelled all the way from Canterbury, pour the first beer of the day over his father’s grave, which he’d only just tidied the day before!
With spirits high and everyone itching to get dancing, we made our way round to Church Lane where many of the street’s inhabitants – including Countryfile presenter John Craven – had come out to watch us in the street (or to see what all the noise was about first thing on a Saturday morning). Dancing our two signature dances Sweet Jenny Jones and Haste to Wedding (Flasher) with two sets, we then had our first triple set of the day, as eighteen dancers stepped up to perform Constant Billy. Our hard work was well rewarded, as snacks were provided by the residents to help keep our strength up. Finishing with Stourton Wake and Washing Day, the weather was starting to clear as we made our way down to the streams.
Our numbers continued to grow, as we made our way down through the churchyard, and arrived to dance and interrupt the peaceful tranquillity of the bridge crossing the Sor Brook. Another three sets danced Shepherds’ Hey (despite my set being somewhat misled by my bad calling) followed by the Beaux of London City. It was so brilliant to see such a varied group of people, from all different ages and walks of life, coming together for a fantastic day. The Day of Dance is a huge highlight in our year of events, and the team coming together in such strong numbers really made it an exceptional occasion.
Moving up to Rose Cottage, we couldn’t help but make the most of our numbers and dance a five set Princess Royal – that’s twenty dancers! Whilst the direction of our foot up was throwing even some of our most seasoned dancers off, we were undeterred and danced up and down the road. After this, three sets danced the Roast Beef of Old England before making our way up the village.
On Colin Butler Green at the top of Adderbury Village is a tree which was planted in memory of one of the side’s founding members Bryan Sheppard. Being part of the team, which revived Morris Dancing in Adderbury in 1975, without Bryan we wouldn’t be enjoying this long-standing tradition. His influence still carries forward to this day, and he’s always being thought of as we spread the joy of dancing. Gail Sheppard (Brian’s Wife), had decorated the tree with heart-warming messages and paintings of his outfits worn throughout the years as the fool, including a large chicken, a priest and a gorilla. Once we’d danced Happy Man, we invited Gail to pour a pint of Hooky over the tree, much like with Charlie Coleman in the churchyard, which we will continue to do at Days of Dance to come. I hope that both Charlie and Bryan are always watching our dances and enjoying the continuation of the long-standing tradition they both played their part in preserving. Hail to the Chief, followed by Postman’s Knock (in tribute to Colin Butler who was the former postman which the green was named after), and Buffoon concluded our dancing, as we made our way down towards the Bell.
After assembling with the Adderbury Morris Men (AMM), we gathered for a minute’s applause to remember not only Bryan, but all the dancers we had lost during the pandemic. Tim Radford who was part of the group responsible for the folk revival in Adderbury during the 1970s gave a speech remembering all those lost, and following this, the AMM then danced their version of Happy Man and everyone present sang along to the tune which both sides know all too well. Before moving onto the Coach and Horses for a well-deserved lunch, we danced Lads a’Buncham, a four pair (eight person) Jockey to the Fair with all different ages, and the Bluebells of Scotland. I remember when Jockey could only be danced by a handful of members, but after practising throughout the early year, having eight performing for the crowds was a fantastic moment.
The crowds had begun to gather outside the Coach and Horses even before we arrived for lunch, and by the time we’d eaten I was told they weren’t content with just Black Joke and Brighton Camp, and were screaming for more! More dancing or more beer, I can’t totally be sure, but we were happy to oblige. We weren’t alone for long, as Sharp and Blunt had arrived to dance and support us in entertaining these raucous crowds. Alternating dances, we managed to fit in Roast Beef and Old Woman Tossed Up in a Blanket before hopping over to the Red Lion. To make sure the patrons of the Red Lion weren’t missing out on the day’s events, we danced Washing Day, Flasher, Postman’s Knock, Stourton Wake, and Sweet Jenny Jones – all with two sets!! At this point, if you’ve made it this far through the article, thank you for reading! But you may also be wondering “Ryan, how do you manage a side of twenty people and keep a track of what you’re doing and what you’ve done?” so I’m going to briefly give a behind the scenes detail. This is my first year as Squire during the Day of Dance, so I used some of my IT skills to create the tracker in the image below:
As some of the members of the team would tell you, I do like a good spreadsheet to keep track of things, and in order to write the report as accurately as possible this truly seemed like the best option!! Anyway, analytics aside, we were back to the Coach and Horses to make use of the crowd who had been attentively watching us and Sharp and Blunt perform.
After giving a performance of Shepherds’ Hey, we invited members of the crowd to join in, performing two sets as a jig which encompassed more than we had time to count! We love getting everyone involved and showing them just how much fun Morris Dancing can be for anyone interested. Hopefully we can use this opportunity to attract some new recruits – our email is on this website under the “Contact Us” section if you’re interested! We finished with Constant Billy, before moving onto the Bell and the much-anticipated drinking jig!!
As we watched Sharp and Blunt performing, orders of what everyone wanted were being noted down. We had both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options, but this year we were joined by the members of Sharp and Blunt (including their Squire, Beth), along with landlord of the Bell itself Chris, his wife Sandra, and his daughter Grace. As I dashed inside to place the bumper order, I left the team in the capable hands of our former squire John, where they danced another set of Brighton Camp for eighteen people, Shooting and the Bluebells of Scotland. Emerging with the drinks in hand, it was time to set up and dance the infamous drinking jig! It was brilliant to have our side come together with Sharp and Blunt along with Chris from the Bell, for a drinking jig our members have been waiting for almost two years for! It was a truly memorable occasion and one we will remember for years to come! Not least because Chris’ daughter Grace downed her pint quicker than him during the jig – it’s probably a good thing that a landlord can’t down a drink too quickly, otherwise there would be none left for the customers!
We then made our way up to Le Halle place to join up with AMM and to enjoy some well-deserved tea and cakes organised and provided by Sharp and Blunt. Sitting in the garden outside Janet Blunt’s former residence, surrounded by Morris Dancers with their friends and family, was truly a delightful moment that made the hard work of the day feel so worthwhile. We did a turn and turnabout with the three sides, in which we danced Washing Day a final time, before inviting Sharp and Blunt, and AMM to dance Brighton Camp with us. AMM, stood in a set alongside AVMM and Sharp and Blunt to make two long sets of dancers, with our combined set having twenty four dancers – far more than any set I had ever led before, and my charts for Brighton Camp couldn’t account for it. After running the numbers, we put together an amazing collaboration, in a true display of unity across all sides of the village. We all love Morris Dancing (even when it has to be on soft grass), and sharing in that love is one of the things which makes the day truly remarkable.
We all made our way back down to the Bell for a final set of dancing. Taking it in turns between each side, we danced Flasher, Happy Man, Roast Beef, Hail to the Chief, another three pairs in Jockey to the Fair, and finally after Sharp and Blunt had done their version of the Beaux of London City, we decided we’d perform our version too (don’t worry I asked and they said it was ok) as we rounded off our day with a total of 40 dances. As our team started to disperse, we joined one final dance of Shepherds’ Hey with the Adderbury Morris Men, Sharp and Blunt, and members of the public bringing the day to a wonderful conclusion.
Ok, I think that covers the day’s events so now, we need to do a part I feel is equally important – thanking people. In no particular order:
Thank you to both the Adderbury Morris Men and Sharp and Blunt who dance with us every year, and are part of this wonderful tradition we all share. It was great to speak to you this year and be able to bring music and dance to the village after the two-year hiatus.
To Jim Plester, Donald McCombie, Malcolm Wood and Dorset Dave who provided music for our side throughout the day. Truly a linchpin of our team, the music was brilliant and we can only hope your hands and fingers have been resting as much as our feet have been.
To Gail Sheppard for not only decorating Bryan’s tree but also being present there and supporting our dancing and buying our side, as well as the Adderbury Morris Men, drinks that no doubt kept us going during the day. We truly appreciate your generosity and were so happy to have you there. We hope to see you at more events in the future.
To Louis for continued use of the Tythe barn for practices – a building which has been well looked after over the years, which has helped to provide a shelter from the elements and enabled us to hone our dancing skills.
To Tony and his team at the Coach and Horses for providing lunch which we wholeheartedly enjoyed! Our team needs fuel after I’ve marched them up and down the village and it’s always appreciated.
To Chris and his staff from the Bell for providing drinks to everyone during the day and also for the jig. We appreciate everything you’ve done for our side over the years, and whilst we want you to stay longer at the Bell, I speak for all of us when I say we wish you the best of luck in the future. Saying you will be missed is a gross understatement, but maybe with all that free time on your hands you might consider taking up a dance-based hobby…
To the family and friends who followed us throughout the day, providing drinks, food, lifts and around support we appreciate you and everything you do. We hope you enjoy watching as much as we enjoy performing for you. A special mention goes to Hannah, who is our prized photographer and does a brilliant job at making us look good in our photos. Hannah had a whopping 270 photos to sift through to pick our favourites for the the AVMM Facebook page.
To our young members who are the future of the side, including our up-and-coming dancer Luke, who took part in some of his first dances on the day, and received his first hat and stick. We also had Leo dancing around with our smaller horse Percy providing further entertainment and mischief – we hope to have you and many others continuing this tradition well into the future.
To all the members who travelled up and down the country to join us. Mark French and Bob Southern worked the box and made sure we have funds to pay for equipment, lunches and drinks on days like the Day of Dance. Chris and Matt who are two newer members also did brilliantly and managed to keep up with their first Day of Dance excellently. I mentioned the number of dancers we had a lot in the report but it’s because it was truly outstanding to have three sets of six dancing at various times throughout the day. Coming together like this is truly an amazing experience and every year we make memories that last a lifetime and I am so grateful to all who participated.
Thanks also to David for being bagman, voluntary road safety officer, tailor, stick curator, lunch buyer and horse wrangler. It is sometimes overlooked but the work of a Bagman is a hard, often thankless task but I truly do believe that it is vital for our side to keep going. Your organisation is brilliant, you bring everyone together and I couldn’t do what I do without your help. In my eyes, a Bagman is more important than a Squire – I just turn up and shout figures at people! Finally, a big thank you to all the agencies and volunteers who enable the Day of Dance to happen.
Right, I can hear the orchestra playing which means I’ve been talking for too long, but I did have a lot to say about the day. It was brilliant and as my first Day of Dance as Squire, I don’t think it could have gone much better. To sum up the day I can only think of something which one of our members Ian Baum said when looking at the wide range of dancers we have in our side – we remember the past, and look forward to the future. Thank you for reading, if you came to see us, thank you for watching and I’ll see you all at the next event!!