The Adderbury Day of Dance, 22 April 2023

The Adderbury Day of Dance is a time to leave behind winter and to celebrate spring. It provides an occasion for nostalgia as well as looking to the future, but it is principally an opportunity to share in our collective love of laughter, song, music and Morris dancing, whilst meeting friends old and new. Adderbury is undoubtedly a beautiful village and the physical environment is an essential component of the day, but the fact that the village still boasts of three active Morris teams is what sets it apart.

Adderbury Village Morris Men, as tradition demands, assembled at 10.15am outside the library, before processing to the churchyard for the ceremonials that precede the many dances to follow around the village during the course of the day. Donald sang his song about the Day of Dance, Chris Garrett read his usual poem and Bagman David poured the customary pint of Hooky over Charlie Coleman’s grave. For those unfamiliar with these rituals, Charlie was a survivor of the pre-WW1 side, who was able to pass on his memories of the AVMM tradition to some of the young men who were responsible for the formation of the seventies revival side. Later in the day, the side would pay tribute to two other villagers (Janet Blunt and Bryan Sheppard) without whom our unique Morris tradition would not exist.

Our dancing started behind The Bell in Church Lane with a healthy number of dancers and three musicians. It was not difficult to field two or three sets of six for Sweet Jenny Jones, Haste to the Wedding and Washing Day, whilst late comers hurriedly attached bell pads and adjusted baldricks. Later in the day it became more of a challenge to persuade one or two members to put aside beers and ice creams or interrupt conversations, but with well over 20 dancers present for most of the day we were able give everyone a chance to dance as many or as few of our dances as they wished, whilst demonstrating a high standard of performance and a mixture of youth and experience. Particular mention must be made of our two newest recruits, Max and Dimitri, who have worked very hard in practice to reach the required standard and were performing in public for the first time. They and those members of the side who are still at school, Theo, Dylan and Alfie,  danced impressively all day, although there was evidence later in the day that age, fatigue and beer may have adversely affected other spectators and dancers.

Saturday morning 22 April 2023, the traditional AVMM photo location

For the first time in my memory the side was accompanied by all three AVMM Hobby ‘Osses, all of which were humanely dispatched at the end of each rendition of The Beaux of London City aka “Shooting”. Special mention should be made of Tim Plester: as the only professional actor in the side, his dramatic demise as the jockey of ‘Os, Charlie was suitably theatrical, indeed positively Shakespearean in its pathos. With AVMM performing the full repertoire of their dances and doing so with multiple sets throughout the day, it was a pleasure to be able to share the duties of calling the dances between experienced dancers like Iain W, Chris H, David, Ryan and others. Most of our dances were in one, two or three sets of six, although we had four sets of four for Princess Royal by Rose Cottage. Jockey to the Fair was performed twice as a double jig with two pairs: our invitation dance of Shepherds’ Hey Jig proved popular with young and old and, of course, we concluded our sets outside various village pubs with a raucously sung and vigorously danced Brighton Camp. It was good to dance Postman’s Knock, Happy Man and other favourites of our former Squire and Fool, Bryan, by the tree planted in his honour on Colin Butler Green following his untimely death.

Lunch was kindly provided by Tony at The Coach and we danced outside his pub before and after the meal as well as performing at The Red Lion before all three local teams ended up later in the afternoon outside The Bell.

The Drinking Jig is always popular with spectators and dancers alike and is an occasion for much merriment and more or less helpful advice from the crowd. The kind members of Sharp and Blunt provided a generous and excellent afternoon tea in the Methodist Chapel. After a rapidly consumed chocolate brownie, I was able to drag away enough of our remaining dancers to perform six more dances outside The Bell, which kept the large and well refreshed crowd entertained. We were then joined by our friends from Adderbury Morris and Sharp Blunt, who each performed another dance apiece, before a massed Shepherds Away Jig concluded the Morris activities for another Day of Dance.

Saturday afternoon 22 April 2023 – AVMM outside the Red Lion

Special thanks should be offered to the officers from all three sides who planned and coordinated the day and to members of the Parish Council for all their good work in ensuring that the roads were made safe for dancers and spectators alike whilst allowing for essential access. Thanks also to all our dancers – some of whom had travelled a long way and to our excellent musicians, Donald, Malcolm and Jim.

The rains predicted by some earlier in the week never arrived, and the temperature was certainly conducive to dancing. According to Ryan’s calculations, we danced 42 times (two more than in 2022!) and to add to the occasion, the sun was visible throughout the day for which we are truly grateful.

See you all again next year?

John Ekers