Adderbury Day of Dance, Saturday 27 April 2024

Despite an unpromising start to the day with early persistent drizzle and very cold temperatures, we managed to assemble a good number of musicians, dancers, family and friends in the churchyard for the traditional rites which mark the start of The Day of Dance. Chris Garrett read the usual poem, Donald led us in a song celebrating the day and our youngest new recruit, Freddie Gasson was called upon to pour a good drop of Hooky on the grave of pre WW1 dancer, Charlie Coleman. Later we honoured the grave of Janet Blunt, without whom we wouldn’t have our unique tradition, in a similar manner.

There were a few slight changes in the routes taken by AVMM and the other two sides this year, designed to improve the safety of the Morris teams and spectators and also to increase the amount of time spent in key locations such as the three pubs. It was a great pleasure to welcome back old members who travelled considerable distances in order to return to the village to share news and the joy of dancing together. It was particularly pleasing to see old friends like Dorset Dave, Tim Plester, Chris Holmes, Nick Duxbury and Rob Southern, whom we hadn’t seen for some while. It was also a delight to be introduced to the grandchildren of founder members of the side such as Bill Plester and our late Fool, Bryan Shepherd. All were clearly enjoying the day.

As usual we started dancing in Back Lane with the traditional dances accompanied by bottles of Hooky and hot sausage rolls supplied by a kind spectator. We then proceeded to Streams and Colin Butler Green to dance by Bryan’s Handkerchief tree and then on to Rose Cottage where we fielded three sets for Princess Royal whilst trying to avoid passing vehicles. At noon it was time to move on to the pubs. We entertained good crowds at the Red Lion for an hour before heading to The Coach and Horses for another busy hour of dancing before stopping for a well earned break for lunch supplied by Tony at The Coach.

Our final destination of the day was the Bell, where we impressed a very healthy and well refreshed crowd for another hour or so before being joined by Sharp and Blunt and Adderbury Morris in taking turns to demonstrate our respective styles and skills. As usual, the day’s proceedings concluded with a mass dance off of Shepherds Away with about seventy dancers, eight musicians and a rubber chicken.

Day of Dance 2024

There were many highlights to the day which will perhaps be different for everyone. Postman’s Knock is always a crowd pleaser as is our audience participation dance of Shepherds’ Hey Jig. I have previously noted how well the practice season had gone, with a lot of hard work and a great atmosphere of cooperation and passing on of the tradition to new members. It certainly paid off on the day with our younger members impressing the crowds with their energy, enthusiasm and skill. Our usual musicians of Jim (fiddle), Donald (button accordion) and Malcolm (whistle) were augmented by the wonderful sounds of hurdy gurdy and bagpipe from Sue and Mike. The AVMM wall of sound was further strengthened by our oldest member Dorset Dave’s harmonica, when he wasn’t dancing with a surprising level of energy. Later in the afternoon we were happy to welcome Chris Leslie on fiddle to complete our talented band of musicIans. Another personal highlight was the drinking Jig, which this year included members of Sharp and Blunt as well as Michelle the new landlady at the Bell, who kindly provided the beer, as well as her dancing partner, son Milo. As usual competing dancers were urged on by the crowd to caper higher and drink faster than their opponent. Sadly I was eclipsed by my grandson.

Our young dancers represent the future of the side and it was great to see how they embraced our tradition with so much energy and enjoyment. Jockey to the Fair, our double Jig featured two older dancers as well as two of our star younger dancers, Ryan and Dylan, and was greatly appreciated by the spectators. Traditions must evolve or die and it was interesting to see a small change in the finale of The Beaux of London City (Shooting), which might now be known as The Horses’ Revenge. Instead of the dancers dispatching the poor equine animals at the end of the dance, our riders pulled out Morris sticks and shot our sets of dancers. Tim Plester, in particular, relished the chance to employ all his considerable dramatic skills at this point.

Thanks to all of you who made the day such a pleasure as always. Particular thanks must go to Ryan, who called every dance and tried to keep an accurate record of the 40+ dances we performed (often with two or three sets of dancers) over six hours of dancing; and, of course, to our marvellous musicians.

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Day of Dance since the revival of Adderbury Morris. I hope we can demonstrate then that our marvellous tradition remains in a healthy state and that we can encourage more members of any age to experience the joy of the Morris. Our next engagements are at Kineton Farmers’ Market on May 11th and at The Coach and Horses pub in Adderbury on the evening of May 15th to say thank you to Landlord, Tony, for his support before his imminent retirement.

John Ekers