AVMM’s final gathering of a very busy and successful 2018 took place on a mild and dry day in our home village. A surprisingly large crowd of friends, supporters and locals assembled outside The Bell at lunchtime to watch 14 dancers and a group of four musicians, including guest fiddler, Chris Leslie, perform a good selection of our dances. With so many dancers making themselves available, we were able to field two sets of six for most of our dances, with Theo and Dylan capering around and amusing the crowds on our hobby horses, Charlie and Percy.
It was good to see various family members dancing together as well as old friends, relishing the chance to share in the seasonal goodwill and to dance, laugh and sing together as they have done in Adderbury at this time of year so many times in the past. We subsequently proceeded to The Coach and Horses where we were welcomed by landlord, Tony Watts before moving to a good pitch by the village green to complete an excellent afternoon of Cotswold Morris.
This was the final gathering of 2018. Practices for the 2019 season commence on Wednesday 20th February at 8pm in the Tithe Barn. As we are expecting several new recruits who hope to make the grade in time for the Day of Dance in late April, it is my hope that many experienced dancers will try to attend as many practice sessions as possible this Spring and that each will aim to bring along at least one potential new member.
At 1.45pm on Monday 17th December, AVMM performed Donald’s ‘Story of the Dancer’ at Deddington Church of England Primary School. We were delighted by the welcome, attentiveness and responsiveness of around 200 children and their teachers. Donald had adapted ‘Story’ for our young audience who were seated on three sides of the hall. Our six dancers (John, David, Robin (up from Norfolk), Ryan (who had taken time off from work to join us), Pete and Richard) danced in the centre of the hall and together with Donald’s engaging narrative, held the attention of the entire group for our 65 minute presentation. As we have learnt from our prior school visits, Primary school children love to participate and a highlight of the afternoon was a mass Shepherd’s Hey – an amazing experience – around 220 of us dancing together, led by John and with the rest of us demonstrating the hand and leg movements to groups of children.
We should like to thank: Revd Annie Goldthorp, vicar of St. Peter and St. Paul’s and the Deddington Benefice (a Morris enthusiast who generously acted as our ‘agent’ and recommended us to the school), Judy Ward, Parish administrator, teacher Sally Barber (who has already asked us to perform at the school fete), all the other staff present, office manager Jenny Williams and headteacher Clive Evans. We really enjoyed our time with you and were impressed by the tremendous singing and dancing potential among all the children. Thank you!
AVMM performed for an hour at St Mary’s annual Christmas tree Festival on Saturday 8th December. A good crowd enjoyed our performance of a selection of 13 of our traditional dances. The crowd-pleasers, Postman’s Knock, Happy Man and The Buffoon, were particularly well received. It was good to welcome back Pete Holmes, who danced with brother Chris.
Dylan rode our smaller horse, Percy and danced whenever any of the older dancers needed a rest. As custom demands, in our final dance we welcomed a few novice dancers to join our ranks for Brighton Camp. Troy danced with elder son Owen, who is six, while Pete was joined by his son, Matteo aged four. So our youth recruitment policy continues to bear fruit.
Thanks to Donald, our musician, and to stalwarts, Dorset Dave, Richard and David who have danced out so regularly throughout the past year. Thanks too to David for doing such a splendid job of decorating the AVMM entry for the Christmas Tree Festival.
The story of the Dancer was performed at Preston on Stour Village Hall on Friday 7th December featuring local historian Mick Jennings, local author Hannah Spencer and Adderbury Village dancers and musician. This represented a celebration of the centenary of the World War One armistice. This unique event was very well appreciated by a full house. A blend of history, storytelling, literature, WW1 songs and Morris dancing all revolving around the Christmas Truce story, the passing on of traditions and common humanity. Another opportunity to express our respect and remembrance of those of all sides who gave their lives in the conflict.
Thanks to the good people of Preston on Stour for hosting this event.
AVMM would like to thank Bagman and Musician Donald McCombie, author of ‘Story of the Dancer’, Squire John Ekers, former Squire Dave Reed, former Vicar of St Mary’s, Stephen Fletcher and Sharp & Blunt and Adderbury Morris for joining us for this evening’s moving tribute to those who lost their lives in the Great War. It was a joyful moment of togetherness in remembrance.
‘The Story of the Dancer’ focuses on the Christmas Truce of 1914 when singing briefly stopped the war. As we paused to reflect on the 100th anniversary of the end the First World War and the loss of nearly 20 million lives, Adderbury and its Morris sides are thankful for the sacrifices made and grateful that our music, song and dance live on.
Donald’s ‘Story of the Dancer’ is an evocative, spoken-word story with music, song and dancing. It’s based around the 1914 Christmas truce and the story is intertwined with the Morris tradition. In the first of two outings this week, we performed for around 70 University of the Third Age (U3A) members at the Methodist Church in Chipping Norton. Many of the audience came over to thank us personally as we were packing up and one lady told me that it was the best U3A event she had ever attended! Our thanks to Anthony Benn at U3A for inviting us and to the large and appreciative audience.
AVMM will be performing ‘The Story of the Dancer’ with guests Sharp and Blunt and Adderbury Morris at 7.30pm on Friday 9th November, St Mary the Virgin Church, Adderbury. The event is free of charge. Do please join us if you can.
On Tuesday 16 October, musician Donald McCombie and four members of the Adderbury Village side were able, at short notice, to join members of years 5 and 6 and their teachers at Christopher Rawlins Primary School to help them with their studies on the aftermath of the First World War in their village.
After fielding lots of interesting questions from the children on the origins of the Morris, our recent tour to the Somme and Passchendaele and the stories behind the Adderbury dancers who joined the conflict, Donald gave an abridged version of his ‘Story of the Dancer’ illustrated by a selection of our dances. Dave Reed played his harmonica and explained about the origin of our topless pyramid of hats, Donald led a rousing version of his song ‘Never Dance Again’ and our dancers with help from Linda Leslie, of Sharp & Blunt, taught the children a version of Shepherds’ Hey.
The children were very receptive and enjoyed learning about and practising our dances. Their class teacher thanked us for our input and asked whether we would be prepared to run a weekly after school Morris dance activity. I am very grateful to those who generously gave up their time for this workshop and hope that several of the children who took part will wish to join one of the three Adderbury sides in the future.
AVMM were very proud to be the only Cotswold side performing at this year’s Hobby Horse Festival, which was on a smaller scale than in previous years. This was due to the event being condensed into a single day as a result of the Banbury Canal Festival being arranged on the Sunday. Organiser, Verna Wass, expressed her appreciation to the side for supporting the event and was impressed by the levels of fitness displayed, which enabled our dancers to perform with barely a break over four and a half hours.
Our horses, Charlie and Percy delighted the crowds with their antics, performing alongside a variety of other horses and the odd dragon and unicorn, most of which came from the local area. With ten dancers and two musicians performing, we were able to demonstrate the full range of Adderbury dances and provide excellent entertainment to fans of local traditions, visitors to the Folk Festival and bemused shoppers alike. Once again the team acquitted themselves extremely well: I have been so proud of the fact that the side has maintained such a high standard of performance throughout a long season and, in my view, are dancing as impressively as at any time during all the years that I have been a member of this great side.
Our youngest dancers, Dylan and Theo, contributed fully to the entertainment and drew many favourable comments from the crowds. The fact that the side has been dancing so tightly is due in part to the experience gained by the dancers from our two successful tours, for which Bagman and organiser Donald must be thanked. In addition, I would like to thank all today’s performers, most of whom have joined the team in the last three years, for all their hard work in practice before and during the current season.
Our thanks to Verna Wass, the White Horse for providing an excellent sandwich luncheon and to Neil Simmons, Modern Parlance Photos for his lovely photos.
Thank you to all involved in the Allerford Music and Dance Festival and the related events in Somerset last weekend. We made a lot of new friends and shared our dancing, music and songs.
Following a showing of the ‘Ballad of Shirley Collins’ on Friday evening, AVMM performed at the Festival on Saturday afternoon. We shared the dancing and music-making with the local community choir, West Somerset Morris and the Minehead Hobby Horse and followers. What followed was a great show of community dancing and singing followed by the first ever procession of the Minehead Hobby Horse through the village of Allerford accompanied by our own horses, dancers and musicians. The singing of ‘Happy Man’ on the famous Allerford packhorse bridge with the Minehead Hobby Horse and Gullivers was simply magical.
Sunday saw AVMM dancing in Minehead at the harbour followed by a short impromtu service in a wonderful Sailor’s Chapel. On to the historic village of Dunster with dancing next to the historic Yarn Market, with the towers of Dunster Castle in the distance.
Well done all and especially Dylan, probably the world’s youngest Morris Dancer who can actually do all our dances. Everybody loved him and our wonderful dual horses – just like the pre-First World War side. Thanks to David Snell for restoring Charlie and making our new, small size hobby horse (‘Percy’). Thanks also to Graeme Horn and Lisa Eden from Allerford for organising this event and inviting us and guest accordion wizard Joseph Mallinson.
Where next? The Hobby Horse festival in Banbury of course on the weekend of the 13th October.
On a beautiful Autumn day AVMM were proud to take part in this showcase of the various clubs, businesses and traditions of which Adderbury can be justifiably proud. David Snell produced a fantastic display featuring many memorable photographs of the side performing, practising and socialising together, ranging through time from the pre WW1 side up to this summer’s tour of the Somme and Passchendale war memorials. The display placed, in an ideal location outside The Bell, attracted many favourable comments from visitors and locals. A good turn out of eleven dancers including our three youngest members, two hobby horses and three musicians performed outside The Bell and then moved on to The Coach and Horses for our second set. In total we danced 19 of our dances, with only Brighton Camp, our audience participation number, being repeated. Dancing was of a high standard with Happy Man, Postman’s Knock and Troy and Ryan’s Jockey to the Fair being particularly impressive. Four promising potential new recruits, including some whom had recently moved into the village, expressed a firm interest in joining us for the 2019 practice season. When asked if he had seen Cotswold Morris dancing before, one said, “Yes, but not as good as this.”
I am very grateful to all who took part in what was a joyous celebration of all that we love about our unique tradition.
Squire John Ekers
Dancing the Adderbury tradition as recorded by Janet Blunt