Preston on Stour Fete, Monday 2 May 22

AVMM were delighted to be invited back to this beautiful unspoilt village to participate in their traditional celebration of May. Assembling with a good sized crowd outside the Village Hall we processed through the village, dancing all the way to the green next to the magnificent church, accompanying the May Queen and her assistant and followed by the madding crowd. As we are a side without a traditional processional dance, we danced energetically behind Percy the horse to the tune of Speed the Plough. This provided all the warm up we needed as the road through the village is both longer and steeper than first appears to be the case.

Following the hailing and crowning of the May Queen and the singing of a supposedly traditional May carol of dubious provenance led by Donald, we performed our first set of dances to an enthusiastic audience. Beaux of London City (Shooting) went down particularly well, with Dylan and Percy milking the dramatic end of this dance for all they were worth. Our usual crowd participation number (Shepherd’s Hey Jig) featured a very healthy number of enthusiastic volunteers of all ages. A fine rendering of Postman’s Knock marked the end of our first set. However, some of the fitter younger members of the set used the break to join in the traditional sports (foot, egg and spoon, sack, wheelbarrow races et al.), where they acquitted themselves very well. Older and perhaps wiser members chose to take advantage of some relaxation time by enjoying the excellent cask ale on offer and looking for bargains on the book and plant stalls.

Audience participation in the Shepherd’s Hey, photo by Hannah.

Our second set of seven dances had to include Stourton Wake, as we were so close to the eponymous river. We also danced Constant Billy, Bluebells of Scotland, Washing Day, Old Woman Tossed up in a Blanket and finished, as is customary, with Brighton Camp. Special mention, though, must be made of the four man double Jig, Jockey to the Fair, featuring members of the same family including for the first time, young Owen, dancing with his Dad, Troy. It was good to perform this challenging dance on the green around the maypole splendidly bedecked in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Special thanks as ever to Donald for inviting us and for providing the musical accompaniment without which we could not dance. Thanks too to our guest musician for the afternoon, Nigel Dunn, of Shakespeare Morris and the Flowers of Ilmington.

AVMM pose at the May Pole, photo by Hannah.

It was also good to meet up with our old  friend and former vicar of Adderbury, Stephen Fletcher, keeping an eye on his old flock and enjoying the proceedings as much as we did.

As I left, the tug of war was still being keenly contested between the local children and an invitation side featuring several familiar figures wearing bells and AVMM baldricks. It was a  lovely reminder of all that is best about traditional rural life. Thanks to Squire Ryan for leading the side and for his efficiency in marshalling the troops and to Hannah Ekers for capturing the atmosphere of the day so well with her photos. Our next dance out is at Kineton Farmers’ Market on Saturday 14th May from 10am.

John Ekers, Former Squire