Butchers Arms, Balscote, Wednesday 12 June 2024

Many of us will have recently enjoyed the play ‘Lark Rise’ at the Chipping Norton Theatre, which featured the dancing of our friends Sharp and Blunt. On Wednesday evening we were dancing out ourselves deep in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside, this time at a quintessentially beautiful pub in a village setting so similar to that portrayed in the wonderful play at the theatre. The Butchers Arms at Balscote was the setting for that evening’s traditional Morris dancing. The audience received us warmly, the sun shone, we had four musicians playing fiddle, hurdy-gurdy, English pipes, and melodeon, all giving a beautiful accompaniment to our traditional repertoire. We also did our regular audience participation version of Shepherds’ Hey and amongst the various audience members was Andy, one of the technicians that had worked on the Lark Rise play. Perhaps it was the spirit of Lark Rise that had got into his soul, as he said that he felt that the Morris tradition was a really appealing pastime that he is keen to try!

About to dance the Shepherds’ Hey with audience participation outside the Butchers Arms, Balscote

I always think it’s curious what we as individuals find difficult in our Morris dancing; when we had the four pairs of dancers doing Jockey to the Fair that evening, with my partner Ryan’s excellent calling I found myself allaying some of my fears about that dance and I felt I had finally done my best. Visually, the setting of us four pairs in a cross formation in the pub garden with the backdrop of the church and with all the musicians standing in the middle of us must have looked spectacular. I congratulate our entire team for their energy and enthusiasm and their joy of dancing and playing music together, but I feel special mention should go to Dylan, who called both Constant Billy and Princess Royal with aplomb.

Kate and Simon from the Butchers Arms were so welcoming, and we were pleased to be able to sing Landlord to them. Their beers, served straight from the barrel, were the finest Hook Norton beers I have tasted in a long time!

David Snell