Fringford Beer Festival, 18 June 2022

The Fringford Beer Festival has become a mainstay of our dancing calendar and after a 2-year COVID-imposed hiatus, the side was once again looking forward to entertaining the Fringford crowds. (The fact that we are paid in beer tokens has nothing to do with it. We swear!).  After a week of sweltering temperatures, the weather had sadly turned as eight dancers and our musician Donald assembled in drizzly conditions.  With Squire Ryan being unavailable, it was down to past Squire John and Side Treasurer Troy to call the dances. With a precipitous break in the weather and a curious crowd coalescing, we started with our traditional opening dances of ‘Sweet Jenny Jones’ and ‘Haste to the Wedding’.  These were quickly followed by ‘Constant Billy’.  After a quick break to clear some confused worms from the grass dancing surface, no doubt attracted by the rhythmical percussiveness of the dancing, we proceeded to dance ‘Hail to the Chief’ and ‘Washing Day’.  The Fringford audience were clearly enjoying the display of traditional Cotswold Morris and so we continued with a performance of ‘Shepherds Hey’, following which we invited members of the audience to join us in an abridged version of the dance.  This opportunity to share our tradition has become a regular and much enjoyed feature in our dance sets.  Our final dance of this set featured the first full dance by our youngest and newest dancer Luke (aged 5), dancing a perfect ‘Beaux of London City’ (Shooting) to the delight of the crowd and his fellow dancers.  

Audience participation time with lots of youngsters – including a one-year old and mother! Photo by Hannah.

After a short interval, during which we were able to sample some of the many fine ciders, ales and porters available at the festival, we were back in action.  Our second set commenced with something of a historic moment for the side: Namely, ‘Lads a Bunchum’ being performed entirely by family members of ex-Squire John.  Not since William Walton’s family danced in Adderbury in the late 19th Century has a side been comprised entirely of members of the same family.  Additionally, and in keeping with the side’s goal of sustaining the tradition through teaching the next generation of dancers, three of the side were under the age of 12!  This historic moment was followed by performances of ‘Old Woman Tossed Up in a Blanket’ and ‘Postman’s Knock’ featuring young Luke’s 3rd dance for the day.  A somewhat chaotic ‘Princess Royal’ for 8 dancers followed with dancers being distracted by dropped hankies, some errant calling and the reappearance of the worms who were possibly massing for a counter-attack.  However, we quickly recovered to host another superb audience participation in ‘Shepherd’s Hey’.  With the weather starting to turn and the rain setting in, we performed ‘Bluebells of Scotland’ and ‘Stourton Wake’ before finishing with our traditional final dance of ‘Brighton Camp’.

Brighton Camp to end – then it’s back to the beer tent (shown in the background). Photo by Hannah.

We thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share our Morris tradition with all, and the many positive comments – and even membership enquiries – received afterwards were testament to the Fringford audience’s enjoyment of our dancing.  Many thanks go to the organisers of the festival for inviting us back, the dancers who turned out, Hannah for the photographs and as always, to Donald for the music.

Treasurer Troy