All posts by Richard Teare

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

Elephant & Castle, Bloxham 19 July 2023

One of our number suggested that, with several young and inexperienced dancers in our troupe, it might be a good idea to have occasional practices during the summer or alternatively to dance out at quiet country pubs as a means of maintaining social contact and improving the standard of our performance. Having decided on the latter approach our Bagman booked us in to dance at that fine ancient coaching inn, The Elephant & Castle in Bloxham. Arriving to perform at the pub despite dire warnings from David about the steep slope in the car park, reminiscent of the notorious sloping pitch of Yeovil Town FC, we were surprised to find the pub heaving and nearly all outdoor seating occupied. It transpired that the local WI were about to enjoy their annual fish and chip supper on the lawn just above our dancing pitch. So much for a quiet country pub with just two men and a dog having a fag break outside!

In the absence of Ryan, I took on the Squiring duties and our ten dancers and musician Donald launched into our traditional repertoire, dancing with hardly more than a brief refreshment break and change of personnel for the next 100 minutes. The crowd were enormously enthusiastic and delighted by the mixture of youth and experience in the side. To avoid possible offence to some of the more ancient members of the Women’s Institute, Donald adapted the introductory poem to one of our dances to ‘Young Woman Tossed Up In A Blanket’. The invitation Shepherd’s Hey Jig was a great success with a wide range of willing volunteers ranging in age from a small boy and his little sister over on holiday from France up to a spritely but very senior WI member who risked letting her chips get cold in favour of experiencing the joys of Adderbury Village Morris. Landlord, Simon ‘Smudge’ Finch, clearly delighted with the evening and pleased to meet up with his former Biology teacher and rugby coach, kindly donated a large jug of his excellent Hooky and made us very welcome.

A joyful dance-out at the Elephant & Castle, Bloxham with Landlord Simon Finch holding a jug of Hooky for the thirsty dancers!

With so many sides struggling to maintain their traditions during these challenging times, I reflected that our ten dancers last night included four members who are still at school, plus another young, compared to me, new recruit and that all of us live in Adderbury (4), Bloxham (3) or adjacent villages viz. Barford, Deddington and Aynho. I suspect that former AVMM Fool, the late Bryan Sheppard, would have approved of the development of the team, which appears to be in robust good health. Following The Beaux of London City, one old lady was commiserating with Dylan, who as Percy the horse’s jockey had been callously shot at the dramatic culmination of the dance, and asking if he was new to the dance. He replied, “Oh no, I am actually quiet experienced. I have been dancing for over six years and have been shot in three different countries.” Youth and experience, an unbeatable combination!

John Ekers

Whitchurch Summer Fete, Saturday 1 July 2023

Bagman David Snell write:

Sitting here on a cliff above the beautiful Porthcurno Bay watching the waves ebb and flow, it feels a long way from the location of our last dance out on Saturday in the bucolic setting of the fete in a farm field near the medieval lost village of Whitchurch in the Stour Valley.  However, I find that the motion of the waves puts me in mind of our dances, as they sway to and fro, overlapping and crossing over. I even saw some crows this morning above our campsite swooping in the gusting wind, doing something that looked very much like an Adderbury hey!

Flowers of Ilimington Morris with the Adderbury Village Morris Men

The fete itself was a lovely affair, with all the traditional tombola, cakes and tea, and it was a great to share the event with Flowers of Ilmington Morris, whom some of us had met before. We danced in turn, and compared our sides’ interpretations of haste to the wedding, constant Billy, and shepherds hey, all of which were markedly different! It was a fascinating afternoon of cultural exchange between our two sides. 


We hope we can visit again next year and dance again with the Flowers of Ilmington Morris. 

Fringford Beer Festival, Saturday 10 June 2023

Sitting on this balmy evening in a bar on Capitol Hill Street in Washington DC, it’s hard to believe that only four days ago I was dancing with the side at the most quintessential of English events, the village fete and beer festival at Fringford near Bicester.

We danced two sets in front of the audience at the festival, and also entertained people at the pub at the edge of the green with several of our regular dances. Despite the near drought conditions, as we danced on the grass in the central arena, sure enough the worms rose up and we had to watch our stepping to avoid squishing them!

It was lovely to have a record number of folk to join us for our traditional shared ‘Shepherd’s Hey’ (a total of 28 dancers); I am always amazed how fast some people pick up the various steps and clapping moves of that dance. There were eight of our regular team which also included our new dancers, who continue to make good progress, and it was lovely that their families could come along too. 

Shepherd’s Hey audience participation dance – all 28 of us!

Fringford Festival is an annual favourite with AVMM, and is a joyful celebration of all aspects of village life and and a fine platform for local talents and performers. My only regret is that I could not stay long enough to see the chap dressed as a snail playing the ukulele!

David Snell, Bagman

Kineton Farmers’ Market, Saturday 13 May 2023

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

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

Winter Warmer, 4 February, 2023

AVMM enjoyed a delightful evening at the Adderbury village institute as guests of Sharp and Blunt. With Adderbury Morris also performing, the early part of the evening was a real celebration of the three unique traditions flourishing in our village. The three sides danced in turn, exhibiting a fascinating contrast in dancing styles, costume and repertoire. Perhaps the dance most associated with AVMM is Postman’s Knock and we gave an excellent performance of this dance which was enjoyed by all.

An evening of Morris, companionship and lovely food! Thanks to Kim for the photo

Aficionados of the Folk tradition would have appreciated seeing certain dances being performed in totally different ways: Roast Beef of Old England, Washing Day and Sweet Jenny Jones come to mind. Ryan selected and called our dances with his customary efficiency and diplomacy. On one occasion we did follow S&B’s eight woman Jockey to the Fair with our quite distinct two man double jig using the same tune. However, far from this causing offence, all sides present were keen to enjoy and show their appreciation for the various different interpretations of Cotswold Morris styles on view. AVMM concluded their dancing for the evening with the traditional Brighton Camp, featuring three generations of the Jordan family, emphasising both the family links that have run through the side for so many years as well as the success of our youth policy: with three schoolboys dancing for AVMM last night the future of the side should be more secure.

The final dance of the evening was inevitably Shepherd’s Hey played by an impressive band of musicians including our own Donald, together with about 60 dancers and guests concluding this part of the proceedings. Richard, Ryan and I slipped across the Green to The Coach and Horses for some much needed refreshment to discuss Morris matters, before returning to the Institute for a tasty feast provided by our hosts. Adderbury might be the only village in the country with three such varied and active Morris sides. We are very lucky to be able enjoy them on the Day of Dance and throughout each year as well as the other musical and cultural delights of this fine place. We are very grateful to Beth, Sheena and the rest of Sharp and Blunt for allowing us to share in this delightful celebration.

John Ekers

PS: Wednesday practices will commence again in the Tithe Barn on 22 February. We will start at 7pm to accommodate the school-age members, so should finish around 9pm. Do please bring with you any friends who might like a taster session.

Christmas Dance Out, Coach and Horses, Adderbury, Tuesday 27th December 22

We assembled as usual, outside The Bell at 12.30pm for our traditional post-Christmas celebration of dance but as Nicola and Andy had decided to open a little later in the day, we decamped to The Coach and Horses, where landlord, Tony, was delighted to welcome us.

With musicians Donald and Malcolm setting a brisk tempo, our dancers warmed up rather more quickly than the large crowd of family, friends and interested passers-by who stayed to watch our antics. Over the next hour or so, a group ranging from six to 70 years of age performed 11 of our core dances with barely a false step, despite some members being a little rusty and at least one suffering the effects of over-consumption of Wadworth’s Old Timer (5.8%).

It was good to have two dancers of primary school age, including Dylan’s young brother Rhys who performed his first Shepherd’s Hey dance in public. More importantly for the future of the side is the fact that two of our regular dancers, Theo and Dylan, are still at The Warriner School and they certainly danced as well as anyone yesterday. In particular, they impressed in Postman’s Knock and in Jockey to the Fair, where three pairs of dancers attempt to out caper each other in this demanding double jig. Our traditional audience participation invitation dance, Shepherd’s Hey Jig drew some novices from the crowd as well as more experienced performers to make up a cheery throng of 16 dancers.

Post-Christmas dance out, Coach and Horses, Adderbury, 27 December 22

As tradition demands, we concluded proceedings with Brighton Camp, featuring whistle player Malcolm as a dancer, before heading home to warm fires and turkey sandwiches.

On reflection, what brings us together on occasions like the post-Christmas dance out is a shared love of music, laughter, dance, song, fellowship and a unique tradition. Long may this continue. Morris On!

A Happy New Year to all our friends.

John Ekers

Adderbury Christmas Tree Festival, 4 December 2022

Seasons greetings one and all! It’s the most wonderful time of the year – when Adderbury Village Morris Men have a chance to dance in St. Mary’s Church as part of the Adderbury Christmas Tree Festival. A beautiful plethora of trees decorated by various clubs and organisations throughout the village (including ours) were on display and were the perfect accompaniment for a spot of afternoon dancing.

Facing the Altar we warmed up with Sweet Jenny Jones and Haste to the Wedding. It was only appropriate to then dance the Bluebells of Scotland, which the church bells ring out every Wednesday. We finished our first half an hour with Stourton Wake, and truly appreciated the amazing acoustics of the Church. It was incredible to hear our sticking, singing and jingling (the last of which is actually pretty seasonally appropriate) echo throughout the church.

AVMM at the Adderbury Christmas Tree Festival

A brief coffee break and time to admire all the excellently decorated trees was followed by the Beaux of London City – we promise we were as careful as possible to not damage the floor! Our youngest and most energetic dancer, Dylan, asked that we all wore off those seasonal mince pies with Black Joke. I clearly am a little rusty, as I needed to take a moment to recover, before dancing Lads a’ Buncham and a six man Shepherds’ Hey Jig. Our final dance of the hour was Brighton Camp and with eight dancers we were tight for space in the narrow aisles but we managed it brilliantly.

Thank you to everyone who came to make the afternoon possible, and huge thank you to the team at St. Mary’s Church for not only putting on such a lovely charitable event, but also having us along to entertain the visitors.

Happy Holidays to everyone and we hope to see you all again very soon!

Story of the Dancer, St Gregory’s Church, Tredington, Warwickshire, 12 November 22

 

On Saturday 12 November, we performed The Story of the Dancer at St Gregory’s church, Tredington, Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire. Our performance coincided with a farewell event for the Reverend Stephen Fletcher, formerly vicar of St Mary’s Adderbury and his wife Jean who had been serving in Tredington. Given the farewell to Stephen and Jean and the proximity to Remembrance Sunday, we performed this powerful story to our largest ever audience.

Performing the Story of the Dancer by Donald McCombie. Photo by Hannah Ekers

The Story of the Dancer is a fictitious tale based on a factual First World War event – the Christmas truce that took place in December, 1914. The story is dedicated to those who lost their lives in conflict and, in that context, it recalls the fact that many Morris dancers perished and this nearly led to the end of the tradition. The story focuses on how singing briefly stopped a war and united soldiers from both sides in a shared vision of peace. The story is also about a love of Morris dancing and the final part describes the revival of the tradition by a new generation of young dancers in the 1970s.

Photo by Hannah Ekers

Our thanks to: Donald who wrote and narrated the story; Donald and Nigel who played for us and to dancers: John, Troy, Chris, Richard, Theo, Dylan, Owen and Luke. We should also like to thank Charlotte for playing ‘The Last Post’ so beautifully, Hannah for her evocative photos and the Rector, the Reverend Canon Richard Cooke who hosted the event.