On bank holiday Monday 7 May, AVMM were invited to perform at the unique May Day celebrations held in the village of Preston on Stour, Warwickshire – for the first time. The May Queens procession was a highlight, being led by AVMM, followed by the May Queens entourage, the Lost village Morris and the masses of the village.
The village green, like no other, was resplendent with May decorations, including Her Majesties May Throne and enormous Maypole. Cries of ‘all hail the Queen of the May’ greeted her coronation, in front of the magnificent church of St Mary with it’s wonderful avenue of yew trees. Then AVMM performed an array of dances for an appreciative audience of people from Preston and the surrounding villages. They were later joined by the Lost village Morris for a traditional Princess Royal. Children’s games, tug of war and dancing around the Maypole all followed along with a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
It was a privilege to be part of such a joyous and none commercial community event. Truly a little piece of heaven in South Warwickshire.
Proceedings started at 10.30am in the graveyard of St Mary’s, Adderbury where the side honoured the contribution of Charlie Coleman, a survivor of the pre-World War One side, who was able to pass on memories of the Adderbury dances to Bryan Sheppard and Jim Plester founders of the revival side in the 1970s.
Dancing commenced in Church Lane and continued throughout the day at a number of pubs and landmarks around the village, including Lake House where the carers and residents enjoyed a performance of five of our dances. Although the weather wasn’t entirely hospitable, the day was a very happy and memorable one with an excellent turn out of dancers and a large crowd of friends, families and supporters, some of whom had travelled great distances to join us.
Many favourable comments were heard about the high standard of dancing. Tribute must be made to all those members who worked so hard during pre-season practices in The Tithe Barn and particularly to Dave Reed, who patiently passed on constructive tips on the dances to new recruits and more experienced dancers, all of whom are keen to improve the standard of our performances.
We were delighted to welcome our youngest new member, Xavier Peissel, just two weeks old, looking resplendent in new green baldricks (picture above in the front row). He later accompanied proud father Damien in our Drinking Jig outside The Bell. We welcomed some Morris dancers who had travelled down from Yorkshire and are fans of the Adderbury Village dances. With other invited guests, they made up a set of no less than 24 dancers for Brighton Camp. A fine lunch was provided by Tony at The Coach and Horses, where we danced and entertained the locals with the singing of Come Landlord Fill The Flowing Bowl.
A total of 52 dances were performed during the day covering our entire repertoire with two sets for The Happy Man and Postman’s Knock (twice) and three sets for a number of other dances. It was good to see Bill Plester come out of retirement to dance with son Tim at Le Hall Place, where we were provided with an excellent tea with a fine selection of cakes by our friends from Sharp and Blunt.
The day ended with all three local sides taking turns to dance outside The Bell and a final performance of Brighton Camp led by AVMM with guest dancers and musicians from the other sides joining our regular musicians Donald and Malcolm. Special mention must be given to Troy and Ryan who danced superbly, performing the very demanding jig Jockey To The Fair at each of the three local pubs, also to our youngest dancers, Alfie, Theo and Dylan who showed enormous enthusiasm and energy and were keen to tackle all of our dances and are surely the future of the side for many years to come. Thanks to all who made this such an enjoyable Day of Dance. It was certainly a day to remember.
Memorial Ceremony for Ronald Pargeter, St Mary’s Church, Adderbury, Friday 27th April at 6pm. Report by Squire John Ekers
Nine dancers and three musicians from the current side took part in a short ceremony to remember Pte Ronald Leonard Pargeter of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Charlotte of Wales’s (Royal Berks Regiment) 25 Brigade, the last of the pre-World War One side to be killed in action. He died on the Somme on this day 100 years ago.
Mike Dalchau, a member of the current side planted a wooden cross in the garden of remembrance of St Mary’s Adderbury. We then filed into the church where Chris Holmes read ‘Anthem For Doomed Youth’ by Wilfred Owen. Squire John Ekers read some words by Marianne Griffin and a wreath was laid by Ryan Jamniuk. After a pause for remembrance, Chris Garrett, Treasurer of the current side recited ‘Adderbury Sunrise’ by Richard Thompson. Those present then joined in the singing of ‘The Happy Man’ and a song composed by musician Donald McCombie, ‘They’ll Never Dance Again’. The ceremony concluded with a harmonica solo of the tune Shepherd’s Hey followed by the dance of that name in the aisle.
Our first two public performances of the year went very well. On Sunday 22nd April we danced in a beautiful rural setting on fresh tarmac at the Chacombe Care Home and took part in the official opening of their new car park (see the photo below). The residents, relatives and carers were very appreciative of the performances of the nine dancers present and particularly enjoyed the dancing of our two youngest dancers, Dylan and Theo. Theo, aged ten, only joined us at the start of the practice season, so it was his first public performance. Well done that man!
To celebrate St George’s Day on Monday evening 23rd April, we assembled a good team of ten dancers and two musicians to dance around Deddington. We started at The Unicorn where local vicar, Annie, gave us a special blessing and said a short prayer of thanks for the joys of Morris dance and friendship. On a chilly evening only a few hardy spectators braved the elements. However, the Landlord kindly offered us a free drink so we went inside and performed “Come Landlord Fill The Flowing Bowl” which was much appreciated by the man himself and his locals. Thanks to Dorset Dave and Donald for leading the singing on that item.
We then proceeded to the Deddington Arms where we performed further dances from our repertoire before darkness descended and we called it a day.
Earlier in the day a group of us had given a demonstration of Morris dancing to clients and carers at the Harborne Day Centre for adults with learning difficulties. A large and very exuberant crowd loved our performance and as always appreciated meeting Charlie the horse. The residents were taught a simple dance which they greatly enjoyed and they also showed us some disco dance routines which they had been learning for St George’s Day.
AVMM were delighted to join Adderbury Morris, Lepton, Armaleggan and Mabel Gubbins’ Rapper at the second Sharp and Blunt Ale at Kings Sutton Memorial Hall. This was a most convivial affair with plenty of good dancing and singing and excellent food and drink. Our side were pleased to welcome back Pete Jordan from his recent travels in India and put on a very good display of some of our more vigorous stick dances.
The first practice session of the season was well attended earlier in the week and bodes well for the remainder of the forthcoming season.
Eleven regular dancers and a brace of musicians gathered together on a cold but beautifully sunny day for the traditional Boxing Day gathering of Adderbury Village Morris Men. We entertained large crowds at the two best pubs in the village dancing for 45 minutes outside the Coach and Horses and then proceeded to The Bell to join the other two Adderbury sides who were coming to the end of their sets.
It was good to welcome new recruit, Tommy, son of Squire John, who had benefited from the tutelage of Dave Reed in the intensive pre-Christmas coaching sessions arranged at the Tythe Barn. It was also pleasing to see our Fool Bryan, resplendent in his green outfit, Chris Garrett and grandson Alfie, and to welcome back Mark French after his mountaineering exploits in Nepal.
Thanks to Chris Holmes for help with calling the dances and, as ever, to our musicians, Donald and Malcolm, without whom we couldn’t dance.
The Story of the Dancer is a unique blend of Morris dancing, music and storytelling written by AVMM musician Donald McCombie. It’s a fictitious tale based on a factual 1st World War event – the Christmas truce that took place in December, 1914. The story is dedicated to those who died and in that context, it recalls the fact that many Morris dancers perished and this nearly led to the end of the tradition. Most of the village of Adderbury Morris side (pictured in 1908) joined the armed forces and only one – Charlie Coleman – returned to the village in 1918 and so that side never danced again.
The story focuses on how singing briefly stopped a war and united soldiers from both sides in a shared vision of peace. It is also about a love of Morris dancing and the final part of the story describes the revival of the tradition by a new generation of young dancers in the 1970s.
AVMM performed the Story at St Peter and St Paul, the Parish Church of Deddington on Friday evening 10 November with contributions at the start and conclusion by the Deddington Parish Church Choir. The AVMM side of six dancers, two musicians and Charlie our hobby horse were supported by the Choir and a large, appreciative audience. Voluntary donations in aid of church funds were made over refreshments at the end of the performance.
Saturday 14th was a day of terrific dancing and joyful celebration for AVMM. At lunchtime we were joined by the men of Adlington Morris at The Bell, who were on their annual tour in the Cotswolds. Squire Duncan had seen us in action at the Day of Dance previously and had wanted to give his friendly and vibrant side a chance to dance alongside a traditional side from a village about which they had heard much. The home side fielded a strong side with a wide age range and were joined by fool Bryan Sheppard, looking resplendent in his bright green outfit (as seen in the photo below). Both sides gave excellent displays from their respective repertoires before Adlington adjourned for lunch in the pub.
The home side reconvened in the evening at The Institute in Adderbury for an Ale to celebrate Bryan’s magnificent contribution to the Morris revival in the 1970s. Guests included Barry Care MBE, former Squire of the Morris Ring and a brace of Moulton’s fine young team, Sunrising Morris and various friends, relations and original members of AVMM. Fellow founder of the side Jim Plester read out tributes from Chris Leslie and Tim Radford who were unable to attend, Barry Care spoke about Bryan’s contribution and Jim invited Phil Taylor to present Bryan with an engraved tankard to honour all he has done for AVMM. As well as country dancing with callers and musicians provided by both hosts and guest sides, Moulton, Sunrising and AVMM gave excellent demonstrations from their respective range of dances, showing the broad range of styles that are included in the term Cotswold Morris. A fine feast and plenty of Hooky were provided by staff from The Reindeer public house and dancing and merriment continued late into the evening. Special thanks must be given to the organising committee of Jim Plester, Phil Taylor and Chris Garrett who had worked so hard to make this event such a success and of course to our guests who made this such an enjoyable and memorable evening. Above all we must thank Bryan Sheppard, who has done so much to bring back the Morris to Adderbury and to ensure the continuing success of AVMM.
We had a wonderful time at the Banbury Folk Festival and Hobby Horse Festival. Appearing at five venues throughout the day in front of large, knowledgeable and enthusiastic crowds, we performed in excess of 20 of our dances. We met plenty of old friends and made some new ones including many strange hobby horses and beasts. We particularly enjoyed meeting folklorists, Fred Mead and his son Josh, who had come over from Essex to learn more about Cotswold Morris. (The photo below shows them joining John, Troy, Richard and David dancing Brighton Camp in front of The Reindeer.)
An action-packed afternoon ended at the Bandstand where we performed Black Joke in front of the other dance sides. After the final procession of beasts we danced Constant Billy and were joined by four of the splendid Broadstairs Hooden Horses (as seen in the photo below).
The weather was kind to us and this was the most enjoyable day I have had in Banbury for a very long time. Thanks as ever to our musicians: Malcolm, who combined whistle playing with riding Charlie the ‘Oss and of course to Donald. Congratulations to Troy, who has assimilated the AVMM dances in an amazingly short time and has quickly established himself as an essential component of the side.
On Saturday 23 September, AVMM members Donald, David and Richard sang, played and demonstrated the Morris tradition at the Apple Day, Tudor re-enactment, Mary’s Arden’s farm at Wilmcote, near Stratford-upon-Avon. Built by Mary’s father, Robert Arden around 1514, Mary Arden’s House has been significantly altered over time. Today, visitors to Mary Arden’s Farm can peek inside the chimney and the walls, discover how the house was built and imagine what life must have been like for Mary when she lived here with her seven sisters. Add to this, the Apple Day events with many demonstrations of traditional crafts, song and dance. As ever at this event, there were a lot of children who enjoyed interacting with Charlie our hobby horse (ridden by Liz, a visitor from the USA) and many of them joined David and Richard by participating in the Shepherd’s Hey. Our thanks to Donald for organizing an excellent day.
Dancing the Adderbury tradition as recorded by Janet Blunt