Not far from the village of Kineton in Warwickshire are the homes of two great English icons, the Land Rover, and William Shakespeare, fine emblems indeed of England’s past. Yet, so much more at the heart and soul of the common English people, and the quintessence of the English way of life for centuries, are the simple Market Place and, of course, Morris dancing.
As early as the 13th century there was a Tuesday market held by Stephen de Segrave at his manor of Kineton in the Fexhole Hundred. Nowadays, as one moves between the small stalls selling ales, meats, hand turned bowls and various other artisan produce, one cannot help but feel that little has changed in over 900 years. There would doubtless have been street entertainers even then, and this Saturday we had the honour and pleasure of continuing in that long ancient line of roaming performers, bringing smiles and applause from a large and welcoming crowd of market-goers and traders.
The sky was as grey as a pewter tankard, but no one noticed as they watched us dance through two sets of our usual repertoire, stopping only briefly for a refreshing elevenses of the artisan beers given by the organisers to us thirsty dancers. It was, as always, lovely to see everyone and to have twelve of us dancing. For me, the highlights included seeing Alfie’s dancing coming on leaps and bounds (hence the phrase, I suppose!), the continued commitment and enthusiasm of our new Russian friends, Max and Dmitri, Theo taking time out from GCSE revision for some stress-busting double-sticking, and the very amusing sight of two ex-Squires disputing moves with a passion which took me back to when Dorset Dave and John used to have heated debates about the minutiae of the tradition!
Our thanks to Donald for liaising with the Market organisers to make the event happen and for keeping us all in time – fluidly keeping pace with our unintentionally ‘nuanced’ dance steps!
As so often, the image of the day that I took away with me was that of the broad smile on the mother and child’s faces with whom I danced in the Shepherds Hey that we shared with the crowd. Once again this moment proved very popular with the audience and brought everyone together in a spirit of communal joy.
David Snell, Bagman