All posts by Richard Teare

Fringford Beer Festival, Saturday 15 June 2024

John writes: A big thank you to all for making our performance at the Fringford Beer Festival such a happy occasion. The weather was challenging, to say the least but we enjoyed occasional glimpses of the sun. Particular thanks go to our excellent musicians, Donald and Malcolm, who had to put up with a cold wind and occasional heavy showers without the benefit of dancing to warm themselves up. Still, the crowd enjoyed our performances and the effect of the excellent beer and cider made itself evident when we pulled in unprecedented numbers of enthusiastic and well refreshed volunteers for our second Shepherds’ Hey Jig. David and Charlie the horse survived a nasty fall during one of our dances but are none the worse for the experience, David’s black eye notwithstanding. It was a great joy to welcome back Luke, Troy and Owen to the side. They all danced very well and I was delighted to be joined by grandson Owen as my partner as one of four pairs for our 8 man Jockey to the Fair Jig. Our thanks to Troy for the lovely photo (below).

Dancing when the sun came out at the Fringford Beer Festival – what could be better?

Thanks again to all for your excellent company, fine dancing and playing and support for our wonderful and unique tradition. Finally, we would all like to thank Jess and the Fringford Beer Festival organising committee for inviting us to dance again this year. This is a favourite annual event and we always look forward to participating.

John Ekers

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

Farewell to Tony, Adderbury 15 May 2024

On Wednesday evening 15 May, AVMM paid tribute to Tony, the long-time landlord of the Coach and Horses in Adderbury, as he prepares to retire in the next few weeks by performing inside and outside this village local, which has been a bolt hole for the side on many a Day of Dance and on other happy occasions over the years. It had been hoped to have all three local sides taking turns to entertain the crowd of regulars, but although Sharp & Blunt and Adderbury Morris Men were unable to raise a team, it was good to see the audience swollen with discerning Morris aficionados from both those sides. Fielding an impressive 14 dancers ready to perform to musicians Donald and Malcolm allowed us to dance with two sets of six and a brace of horses for most of our 18 dances. Princess Royal was danced with three sets of four performing in an unusual triangle formation, in order to reduce the risk of spilling onto the main road, whilst Jockey to the Fair featured an impressive four pairs in a star formation around our musicians. As Tony was kept busy pulling pints behind the bar, the side moved into the crowded pub to serenade him with four verses of ‘Come Landlord Fill The Flowing Bowl’, which delighted diners and locals alike and earned a hearty round of applause led by Tony. There was then time for more dancing outside and a photo with Tony before our traditional final dance of Brighton Camp.

Singing at the beginning of Brighton Camp – Our Farewell to Tony evening in Adderbury

After which we retired to the cosy interior of this fine old pub to enjoy a well earned drink. Tony thanked us profusely for helping him celebrate his impending retirement and complimented us on the number of youngsters in our side, without whom the long-term future of the side might be in doubt. Our extended version of Shepherds’ Hey Jig featured no less than seven current members of the Warriner School as well as Alfie from the local primary school. This bodes very well for the future. Dylan pointed out last night that it was exactly seven years since his debut in public for AVMM, which was outside the old Black Boy pub, now The Marlstone Tavern, in Milton. With excellent ambassadors for the side like Dylan and Theo, we should continue to attract more young dancers and musicians to share in our wonderful tradition.

We dance next at the Fringford Beer Festival on Saturday 15 June. Join us if you can!

John Ekers

Kineton Farmers’ Market, Saturday 11 May 2024

After a rather damp and chilly Day of Dance, the heat from the continuous bright sunshine that seemed to be trapped in the small but beautiful market square of Kineton, provided a different kind of challenge for the intrepid dancers of AVMM. Some much needed refreshment in the form of chilled cordials was provided by the kind folk who organise the market, and this was greatly appreciated by our small band of eight dancers who worked hard to entertain the shoppers with some very respectable dancing and horsing around.

During the morning we performed 16 dances including a three pair Jockey to the Fair Jig, an eight man Princess Royal and an extended Shepherds’ Hey Jig as our audience participation number. Postman’s Knock is our signature dance and is always enjoyed by the crowd, although some of the audience were shocked by our callous treatment of the horses at the end of “Shooting”, with Dylan and Dimitrii milking as much sympathy from the audience as they could manage. As usual we finished with Brighton Camp and went home to cool off after a busy morning’s work.

Kineton Farmers’ Market, Saturday 11 May 2024

I would particularly like to thank the younger members of the side who danced so well this morning. Theo and Dylan are of course very experienced and talented dancers, but Alfie Jordan also deserves credit for putting so much effort in on a very hot day when he could have been sat in the shade at home preparing for his SATs Tests next week.

We dance next on Wednesday 15th May outside The Coach and Horses in Adderbury starting at 6.45pm.

John

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

Bloxham & Adderbury dance out, 20 April 2024

After a most successful practice season, we opted to prepare for next Saturday’s Day of Dance by providing some of our younger dancers with the chance to perform in public in relatively quiet venues. We started at The Elephant and Castle pub in Bloxham, where landlord Simon Finch is a good friend to our side. With a gratifying 14 dancers turning out on a chilly, but sunny afternoon we were able to field two sets of six for most of the dances we performed over an hour in the pub car park in front of a small but discerning crowd. We then relocated to Lake House in Adderbury where we entertained a good crowd of residents, carers and visiting family members. Our efforts at both venues were much appreciated and Lake House kindly provided us with suitable liquid refreshments and cakes at the end of our performance there.

After dancing at Lake House we enjoyed some liquid refreshment and lots of cake!

Many thanks to all the dancers who have worked so hard during the practice season and to those who turned out today. We all made some mistakes, but that will help us to improve during the season ahead. Particular thanks must go to Jim Plester who has been ever-present during practice sessions and who was our musician today, providing an excellent soundtrack on his fiddle to our dancers.

We now have just one more practice in The Tythe Barn on Wednesday 24th at 7pm before next Saturday’s Day of Dance.

See you then,

John Ekers

Winter Warmer, Adderbury, 10 February 2024

John Ekers writes: Many thanks to all our friends from AMM and S&B for inviting us to join them in the Adderbury Institute to share in a most enjoyable evening celebrating our shared love of Morris Dancing, good food, drink and music. This year’s event was kindly hosted by Adderbury Morris and it was clear that a most impressive amount of careful planning and hard work went into making the evening such a delightful celebration of Morris Dancing, folk song, fine music and convivial conversation.

The evening began with an hour’s dancing with each side showcasing several of their best dances. Jim and Malcolm provided the music for our eight dancers, all of whom performed impressively, despite the relative inexperience of some of our members. Thanks to all who turned out and in particular to Ryan who called all our dances. The first part of the social concluded with the traditional joint performance of Shepherds Away, in which some of the AVMM wives, girlfriends and children also participated enthusiastically.

All three sides then shared a most welcome communal meal and suitable liquid refreshment. The raffle was drawn and the youngest dancer of our team last night, Alfie Jordan, was delighted to win the star prize of an acoustic guitar kindly donated by Keith Norton. It was good to see former AVMM dancer Ashley Stevens in his new role of acting Squire for Adderbury Morris. A lovely example of how the local sides benefit from the friendly relations and occasional exchange of members that exist between them. After the tables were cleared away the guests enjoyed some high quality folk music, poetry, song and ceilidh dancing and the evening ended with the two men’s sides singing The Happy Men. After warm thank yous and farewells the guests headed happily homewards.

I would like to think that AVMM could pick up the baton and host a similar event next year, but feel we cannot promise anything at the moment. Our side needs new recruits. It was decided that the first practice before the Day of Dance will be on Wednesday 28th Feb from 7pm in The Tythe Barn. I hope that all members will try to attend as many practices as possible and to encourage friends and family to come along and have a go at learning our relatively straightforward tradition.

Finally a reminder that The Day of Dance takes place on April 27th this year.

John Ekers

Boxing Day dance out, Adderbury 2023

John writes: Thanks for turning out in such good numbers and for dancing so well today. I thought we performed extremely well and our dancing was much appreciated by the large friendly crowds and both landlords. The weather was kind to us and to new recruit, Freddie Gasson, who showed great promise in both the Shepherd’s Hey Jig (with 20 dancers!) and as sacrificial horse in Beaux of London City. Thanks in particular to our musician Donald and to Ryan for taking on the lion’s share of the calling.

AVMM outside the Red Lion, Adderbury, Boxing Day 2023

As I mentioned, we have been invited by the other two local sides to join them at their Winter Warmer in the Institute on the evening of Saturday 10th February. This is largely a social event with just a few dances from each side and some music. Food will be provided by the Adderbury Morris Men and we bring our own drink. Family and friends are most welcome. There is no charge and we wear full kit. Please keep the date in your diary!

Wishing you all a happy New Year

John Ekers

Adderbury & Sibford Sunday 10 December 2023

We danced twice on Sunday 10th December for two very different events. Our first engagement was at the St Mary’s Adderbury Christmas Tree Festival – our usual annual performance for the local community. The spirit of Christmas seemed sadly lacking as we shot two of our own horses for fun whilst performing Beaux of London City … but wait, we have our own horse specialist vet Chris so no problem, they were instantly cured.  There were lots of dancers for the communal Shepherd’s Hey workshop with much enjoyment and fun for all. Our thanks to St Mary’s for inviting us to dance.

AVMM at the St Mary’s Adderbury Christmas Tree Festival

Next, a drive over to the Sibford Friends Meeting House. The second performance of the day was a contribution to ‘The Story of the Dancer’ to coincide with International Human Rights Day. John writes: we managed a full complement of dancers for both events and danced alongside Sharp & Blunt for some of the dances we both perform. One of these was ‘Constant Billy’. We cross-checked beforehand on the number of figures – apparently the same but somehow, AVMM completed first! No matter it brought some smiles!

Members of Sharp & Blunt dancing during the ‘Story of the Dancer’ performance

It was a pleasure to dance with Sharp and Blunt on this important occasion and at such a  venue. The unique ‘Story of the Dancer’ was written by our musician Donald McCombie to remember the dancers who died during WW1. It is a spoken word piece interspersed with dances from both sides. Great joint dancing concluded with a communal morris off Shepherds Hey. Our thanks to Sibford Religious Society of Friends and to Sharp & Blunt. 

Our thanks to all who danced yesterday and to all who joined us. We wish you a happy Christmas. AVMM are planning to dance-out in Adderbury on Tuesday 26 December commencing at 12:30pm outside the Coach & Horses. We hope to see you there!

Donald McCombie & John Ekers

Banbury dance-out Saturday 7 October 2023

The sun shone and crowd smiled as once again we marked the much-missed Hobby Horse festival with beasts of our own and dancing, not just in the Adderbury Village tradition, but also in the versions of dances from across the Cotswolds  presented by our visitors, Adlington Morris Men.

Taking it in turns we covered many of our favourite dances, and occasionally Adlington danced their own version to our familiar tunes, such as Sweet Jenny Jones and Postman’s knock. It’s always fascinating to witness other interpretations of these old Cotswold dances.

Charlie the horse was joined by a beautiful Unicorn called Ewan, and we had various members of the public join us for the shared Shepherd’s Hey. After a final photo opportunity with the now famous Cock-horse at Banbury Cross, Adlington were on their way to their next dance venue.

Our grateful thanks to everyone from the Adlington team for joining us and making it such a special day.

David Snell, Bagman