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Hampton Lucy, Warwickshire 21 July 21

AVMM enjoyed a delightful summer’s evening of dancing and Morris chat at The Boar’s Head, Hampton Lucy last night. As guests of the fine Worcestershire Border side, Bow Brook Morris we were also welcomed by local side Shakespeare Morris. The three sides danced turn and turn about, although as the heat started to take its toll, and given our greater numbers (an impressive turn out of 13 dancers), we were given the chance to perform more of our repertoire than the other sides. For the first part of the evening before our youngest performers had to leave to go to bed, we fielded two sets of dancers and impressed with fine demonstrations of Sweet Jenny Jones, Beaux of London City, Roast Beef of Old England, Lads-A-Bunchum, Shepherds’ Hey, Blue Bells of Scotland etc.

All three sides and some spectators participating in Shepherds’ Hey, led by John

The Bagman of The Morris Ring, Pete Austin, was present in his official capacity as well as dancing with all three sides and demonstrating an impressive solo jig. He introduced himself to our Squire and congratulated AVMM on the strength of our turn out and the quality of our dancing: quite an accolade given that three of our dancers were each only turning out in public for the second occasion.

In the latter part of the evening Troy, Ryan, Raf and John demonstrated a double two man jig, Jockey To The Fair and the crowd enjoyed our traditional classics of Postman’s Knock and Happy Man. We were also reminded how different are our versions of Black Joke, Princess Royal and Constant Billy from most other morris sides.

All in all the team had a great night and entertained a good sized crowd, making many new morris friends in the process. Thanks to our hosts and to all the wonderful members of AVMM who have turned out so regularly for practices. It is certainly starting to pay off.

Squire John Ekers

AVMM dance again! Kineton, 12 July 2021

AVMM were delighted to be out dancing again, performing to a large and enthusiastic crowd in the beautiful setting of Kineton Market Square at the request of the local stall holders. Squire John was really pleased to be able to field a strong squad of 14 dancers including three new dancers, for whom this was a first public appearance. All the dancers have been attending Wednesday night practices regularly since lockdown measures eased and the level of performance was impressively high. In all we danced a total of 16 dances, fielding two sets for most of them and giving our horses, Charlie and Percy, a welcome opportunity to caper around the performers after a long period of being confined to their stables in a local village.

AVMM at Kineton Farmers market, 12 July, 2021 – photo courtesy of Hannah Ekers

As well as receiving our customary appearance fee, our dancers were supplied with samples of the finest ice cream, soft drinks and craft beer donated by the generous stall holders. Thanks to all those who have worked so hard in practices, to Donald our musician and to all the dancers, and in particular Chris Gasson, Matt Dodridge and Alfie Jordan. All our new recruits can be really proud to have learned so many of the dances from our fine tradition in what have been unusual and difficult circumstances.

Donald and Hats! -Photo courtesy of Hannah Ekers

Practice continues next Wednesday 14th July as we prepare for further displays at local pubs and fetes in the weeks ahead.

Squire John Ekers

Hail to the Chief!

We were delighted that former Squire, Dorset Dave was able to make last week’s practice (we had a total of 14 dancers!) and he took the photo of six of us practising ‘Hail to the chief’. Dave only managed one dance during which he damaged a leg and so Squire John, a regular at Yoga sessions is considering whether we should limber up with a few Yoga moves in future … Our bagman David is doing a phenomenal job making up bell pads and kit for our new dancers and in briefings for our first events of the year: Kineton Farmers Market on Saturday July 10th (10.30am-12.30 pm) and Wroxton Fete on 7th August starting (1-3pm). Meanwhile, we all hope that Dorset Dave will be dancing on both legs again soon.

AVMM practice ‘Hail to the Chief’ photo by Dorset Dave Reed

Remembering Bryan Sheppard

Bryan died on 29 March 2020 aged 67 and because of the pandemic his many friends were unable to attend the funeral. To compensate for there being no Wake at the time, his widow Gail organised a Memorial Gathering in Adderbury on Sunday 27 April 2021 to give people an opportunity to remember him in his home village. She intended this to be fairly informal, starting at the Lucy Plackett playing field with a lunchtime picnic. Those present were able to catch up with people who many of us won’t have seen for over a year.

Memories of Bryan were shared, and labels to write these on were distributed. In the afternoon everyone moved on to Colin Butler Green, for some words from Gail, Jack and Polly by the tree planted there last year dedicated to Bryan. There Gail paid tribute to her late husband, followed by moving recollections of their father from Polly and Jack. These short eulogies gave those of us who only knew Bryan through Morris an insight into how valued he was in his domestic life. Polly spoke of his insistence on good manners and giving people due respect. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one listening who found this at odds with his Morris Fool antics! Jack gave a very heartfelt picture of his relationship with his Dad in a poem he had composed for the occasion. Other memories were then provided by friends involving happy times of holidays together. The many memory labels were then tied to the Handkerchief Tree giving the impression of white blossom. We all toasted Bryan’s memory with flutes of Prosecco then gathered around the tree to read the tributes penned on the white labels.

Jack Sheppard reading his poem about Bryan, watched by Polly and Gail

The Adderbury Village Morris Men present then danced in honour of our founder. It was also good to see Ian Harris there representing the other side that Bryan helped bring into being, Sunrising Morris. Although only two of our men were in kit, we had enough in civvies to make up a side of six. The first dance was as traditional, Sweet Jenny Jones led by Dave Reed in kit with five in civvies – Raf Oya, Troy Daniels, David Davies, Chris Holmes and Chris Garrett with Jim Plester on fiddle. It felt so good to dance Bryan’s researched tradition in Manor Road outside Janet Blunt’s house again. Mark French was also present and it was wonderful to be together as a Side. Well done to David Davies, not seen since 2019 Day of Dance & Hornton May Day, who travelled all the way from Llandrindod Wells with his wife Jacky. For Shepherd’s Hey our Squire, the only other man kitted up, John Ekers took over calling duties, allowing Dorset to blow his harmonica alongside Jim in the Musicians’ Gallery.

AVMM dancing in memory of Bryan Sheppard

Our sincere thanks to Gail, Jack and Polly for a memorable day. Bryan is naturally buried in Adderbury Cemetery in Horn Hill Road. The grave is at the far right at the top if you wish to visit and see the newly installed headstone.

“Dorset” Dave Reed

16 June 2021 – AVMM in training!

Ten dancers and our musician, Donald met outside the Bell in Adderbury on Wednesday evening 16 June at 7pm. It is encouraging to see the great progress that our younger dancers and new recruits are making and we’ll continue to meet for practices outside at 7pm on Wednesdays in June and July. As ever, people stopped to watch and encourage us and who knows, we might be able to recruit a few of them!

As the photo shows, we take training seriously with careful water rehydration – before the beers arrive!

AVMM in training – rehydrating after a serious workout!

Adderbury, 19 May 2021

It has been 14 months since we were able to dance together and on Wednesday evening 19 May, ten dancers and musician Donald met outside the Bell, Adderbury for the first of our outdoor weekly practice sessions, beginning at 7pm.

In keeping with Covid-19 requirements, we doggedly danced on outdoors through the evening showers and drew smiles from passing motorists and dog walkers – one of whom stopped to watch until her dog began barking at us. Later, a small group of youngsters performed alongside us with their trick bikes and stayed on to watch for quite a while. Our sense was that the community were very glad to see us back in action and we’ll be there now every Wednesday at 7pm – barring torrential rain …

Thanks to Squire John for organising our reunion practice evening, to Donald for driving over from Warwickshire to play for us and to our enthusiastic youngsters, new recruits and experienced dancers. Roll on next Wednesday!

Wednesday 19 May 2021 at 7pm – AVMM finally picked up our sticks again!

Adderbury Day of Dance, April, 20

The annual Day of Dance, normally held on the last Saturday in April has over the past 45 years evolved into one of the most important annual events on the village calendar. The three sides: The Adderbury Morris Men, The Adderbury Village Morris Men and Sharp and Blunt start dancing mid-morning and continue at various locations around the village until the evening. Each of the sides have their own individual routes which cross over at key places.

The Adderbury Village Morris Men (AVMM) start their day by visiting the grave of Charlie Coleman in the churchyard. Charlie Coleman was a village blacksmith and a member of the revival Morris team that was formed in the early part of the 20th century. Charlie and four other members of this team joined the armed forces during the First World War. Charlie was the only one to return and this ended the Morris revival at this time. However Charlie, once again as a much older man, played a significant part in helping and encouraging the Morris revival in 1975, by providing information.

In 2008 the AVMM visited the memorials of those members of the early revival team that had been killed during the First World War. At each memorial a simple service took place, which included the reading of a poem chosen by one of the team. A poem called ‘Adderbury Sunrise’ compiled from verses written by Richard Thompson and Janet Blunt was read out by Chris Garrett, an AVMM Morris Man at the memorial bearing the name of Ronald Pargeter.

Originally, the simple ceremony to commemorate the life of Charlie Coleman  only included the singing of a Morris Song called ‘The Happy Man’. Over time this has evolved to include the reading of ‘Adderbury Sunrise’ and in 2011, a song celebrating the day called: ‘ The Day of Dance ‘.

With the current restrictions in place, the 2020 Day of Dance had to be cancelled. Chris Garrett local resident and AVMM member felt the Day of Dance should not go unrecognised and so on Saturday mid-morning went to the grave of Charlie Coleman and read aloud the verses of ‘Adderbury Sunrise’.

Chris Garrett reading ‘Adderbury Sunrise’

 The words of ‘Adderbury Sunrise’ were written by Janet Blunt and Richard Thompson and compiled by Chris Garrett in 2008. A video of Chris reading his poem can be viewed from the link:

In addition to Chris Garrett’s tribute in the churchyard, various members of the three local Morris sides celebrated what would have been the traditional date for the Adderbury Day of Dance as well as they could during lockdown. Chris Leslie, our celebrated local fiddler, performed his one man Jockey to the Fair Jig whilst simultaneously playing his fiddle in social isolation. AVMM’s Bagman, David Snell, danced an unusual variant of Shepherd’s Hey Jig with his neighbour, who dances for Sharp and Blunt, separated by their shared garden wall.

Representatives of AVMM and Sharp and Blunt dance the Shepherd’s Hey, separated by a garden wall

In addition, five members of the current Squire’s family, all regular performers for AVMM, with the help of modern technology in the form of Zoom, managed to perform four dances simultaneously in three separate villages using music recorded by musician, Donald.

Tommy Ekers (left) and Squire John Ekers dancing in Aynho

Report by Chris Garrett and John Ekers

Tribute to Bryan Sheppard, 15 April 20

Without Bryan Sheppard, Adderbury Village Morris Men would, I believe, not exist. For 45 years he was an inspirational leader and dancer who had a clear vision of how the revival side should develop and insisted on the high standards of performance he demonstrated at all times, whilst never losing sight of the need for fun and laughter. In practice sessions he was quick to spot any drop in standards or stylistic blemishes, yet was always encouraging to newer recruits, perhaps realising that it would take a great deal of further practice, experience, improved fitness and not a little  talent to approach the exemplary performance standards which he exhibited for so long wherever Cotswold Morris was danced. For most of the early years of the revival side Bryan combined the roles of Squire, Fool, Master of Mayhem and star dancer. There have been four other Squires since Bryan stood down from this role, but no-one has tried to emulate his anarchic style in the role of AVMM’s Fool. Traditionally the best dancer in the side, the Fool in Morris circles takes many guises, but I have never seen one like Bryan who, sporting a huge range of costumes whenever the team performed, could draw and entertain a crowd whilst meting out summary justice with his bladder to any dancer who perhaps made a slight mistake.

Tribute to Bryan Sheppard, co-founder of the 1975 Adderbury revival side. Photo by Richard Ansett.

At the 2018 AGM, former Squire, Dave Reed, paid tribute to Bryan’s immense contribution to the side and in particular to his role as Fool and proposed that Bryan be given the title of Fool Emeritus. Here is an extract from his tribute:

In his early 20s through his interest in folk music, Bryan became involved with Moulton Morris and from Barry Care he acquired the revelation that there were Morris dances from Adderbury. For most people this would have been an historical curiosity but Bryan decided to do something about it. Through his initiative and great determination he persuaded his mates to set up a Morris dance side in the village. The Adderbury tradition has long been well known within the Cotswold Morris fraternity, but Bryan wasn’t content to mimic how other sides interpreted the dances. He set about going back to basics and his research led to the Blunt manuscripts, and he came up with a format that was different to the generally accepted Cecil Sharp notation. This was a really valuable gift for the village – Adderbury had reacquired its unique tradition of over twenty dances, more than most other village repertoires. The Morris sides who are dancing their own village tradition are held in high esteem by all Cotswold sides. Through Bryan’s efforts, the Adderbury Village side are Morris royalty. Throughout his involvement with AVMM there has been one constant – Bryan’s role as Fool. Usually dressed incongruously as a Victorian clergyman was his preferred method of cocking a snook at authority. But every Day of Dance he would give us a special treat – who can forget his Gorilla, Giant Chicken, Homer Simpson, Scuba Diver or Darth Vader? In acknowledgement of Bryan’s immense contribution to The Morris I propose that we bestow on him the honour of the title Fool Emeritus, to be held by him in perpetuity.  

Given the enormous esteem that the members of AVMM had and continue to have for Bryan, the motion was approved unanimously. A year earlier, perhaps realising that his own dancing days were starting to draw to a close, Bryan had encouraged the current Squire to take the side on an overseas tour in order to improve harmony and team spirit and to raise standards. It seemed entirely appropriate to repeat the tour of the World War 1 battlefields which Bryan had masterminded in 2008 and thus combine a tribute to the young dancers whose lives had been cut short by war over a hundred years ago with a homage to the man who resurrected our tradition in the village. That the side continues to flourish is, I believe, Bryan’s legacy to the village he loved so much.

John Ekers Squire, AVMM

First Practice, Adderbury, 26 February 20

As always, the seasons turn, and as sure as eggs is eggs, the weekly dance practices start again. It was with palpable delight that members of the side re-convened in the Tithe Barn on Wednesday evening 26 February and we had the pleasure of welcoming four new recruits, who by the end of the session were showing great promise and clearly enjoying themselves; I believe it is true to say that despite it being their first time with a stick in their hands, no knuckles were rapped! Contrary to photographic evidence, the Squire did not spend the entire evening with his hands in his pockets, indeed he and father of the side Dorset Dave, the latter competing with John Wright for the best beard in the side competition, led a very instructive and productive session. The musicians accompanied the dancing with an orchestral flourish, and as tradition dictates we retired afterwards to the Bell for a sociable pint. And so the dancing year commences!

Bagman David Snell

First practice in the Tithe Barn, Adderbury, 26 February 2020

Annual Christmas Dance Out 28 December, 19

The annual Christmas gathering of AVMM to celebrate friendship, camaraderie and a love of Cotswold Morris is as much a feature of this wonderful season as a trip to the panto, cribs and mince pies. On a mild and mercifully dry Saturday lunchtime, we were welcomed as usual by Chris at The Bell and proceeded to entertain an enthusiastic crowd with a good selection of ten of our dances featuring ten regular dancers, Percy and Charlie our horses and a couple of guests.

AVMM Christmas dance out with Percy in the foreground, ridden by Theo. Photo by Hannah

Theo’s Uncle Chris was persuaded to join us on Brighton Camp and looks a very promising dancer. We hope he will join us for the practice season which starts on the last Wednesday in February. We then proceeded to The Coach and Horses to conclude our Christmas revels with another six dances including a rare example of a double Jockey To The Fair Jig featuring Ryan and Troy and Chris H and John.

Older and younger dances in action! Dorset Dave (front left) . Photo by Hannah

Chris G looked resplendent with his hat decorated with brightly coloured tinsel, whilst Dorset Dave, our oldest member, was ever present, calling dances, providing helpful tips or fooling around with Charlie. Our thanks, as ever, to our brilliant musicians, Donald, Malcolm and John W, to Hannah for her excellent photos and to all the friends, family and interested passers by who showed such appreciation for our efforts.

Squire John Ekers