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!
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
AVMM were delighted to dance again on Sunday 8 December at the annual Christmas tree festival and fund-raiser organised by St Mary’s, Adderbury.
Reflecting on the event, their website comment is as follows: What a wonderful weekend of community spirit, sparkling trees shining out their messages of love, hope and joy and live music and dance, the sixth Adderbury Christmas Tree Festival turned out to be. The trees were spectacular and so much thought and care had gone into the decorating meaning that each one was a winner in its own right. Amazingly during the weekend over 640 votes in total were cast for the best decorated trees by members of the public.
Our thanks to Hannah for the photos, Emily Reed, Clare Lester, Liz Simpson and their team for inviting us and as always, making us feel so welcome. We’re already looking forward to next year’s event!
Laurence Sterne’s character Tristram Shandy describes riding one’s hobby-horse as an individual actively expressing their personal preoccupation or even perhaps their obsession, in whatever way they think fit (the modern general word ‘hobby’ derives from that 18th century usage). It is fair to say that last Saturday saw members of AVMM riding their hobby-horses, both in the 18th century sense and physically, with both Charlie and Percy going full-tilt for most of the day. It was hard to suppress their boisterousness; thankfully there was only one slightly embarrassing moment when Charlie nose-dived for a munch of the hedge outside the Whately Hall Hotel.
As with previous years, our Morris side led the procession of hobby-horses of all hues, sizes and styles through the town and we then spent an enjoyable time dancing our traditional dances in front of the shopping public at various stations around Banbury town centre. With seven dancers, when we weren’t processing through the old streets, we managed to fit in around twenty dances. We were warmly received in the White Horse for lunch where we were offered a generous array of sandwiches followed by us regaling all and sundry with a vibrant rendition of ‘Come Landlord fill the flowing bowl’, which went down very well with the White Horse customers, many of whom were in town for the annual Banbury folk festival. We were supported all day by several friends and family, some with smaller horses of their own, and it was lovely to see Gail there too.
Thankfully the Met
Office got it wrong and the rain clouds stayed slightly further south, so hard
luck Oxford and Buckingham but lucky us! It was quite tiring constantly
promenading and dancing, especially for the horses, and Charlie and Percy
were glad at the end of the day to be put back in the stable with a blanket
each and a bowl of oats.
Our grateful thanks to Hannah for her lovely photos and to the BHH Festival organisers. We all look forward to the next outing!
A beautiful autumn day in Shakespeare land saw Adderbury Village Morris spread equine joy galore at the Mary Ardens House Harvest festival event. Such a lovely and friendly event deserved the sunshine.
The highlights of the day were surely the masses of children dancing Shepherd’s Hey and the procession of horses. So good are our Adderbury Village horses that even the real thing was fooled. See the picture of the elegant white pony that joined us, complete with Elizabethan minder.
Also on offer were the Silver Bough musicians, an amazing medieval puppet show, falconry and all manner of Elizabethan persons revived from history for our delight. What a day! What a venue! What a date next year? Come you thankful people come, raise the song of harvest home!
After our exertions at Wardington Manor House on Sunday, we were keen enough to dance out again the next day on our home patch. Through the good auspices of Adderbury’s Sharp & Blunt Morris Side we gathered at The Bell on Monday at 7pm. What a rewarding experience this turned out to be. S&B were hosting a visit by Eken Morris from Sweden. This side from Stockholm were on a Cotswold tour to celebrate their 40th Anniversary. They formed in 1979 as a result of a growing interest in English folk music in the 1970’s, and have toured the UK, the first time in 1986, then 1992, 1994 and 2015. They are all Swedish nationals and speak wonderful English (although one admitted to being from Cornwall which we all know is not in England). They can even sing many of our folk songs.
The evening took the form of each side taking turns one dance at a time, S&B kicking off with Washing Day and later their unique style of Lollipop Man. Eken then took to the stage and performed Country Gardens, (see https://youtu.be/TUp86m1fwbA), Constant Billy, Skipping Chickens (a dance of their own devising to a Danish tune), Bean Setting and Lads a’Bunchum.
AVMM’s contributions were Söta Jenny Jones, Hasten till Bröllopet (Blottare), Brevbärarens Slå, Glad Man and Prinsessa Kunglig. We acquitted ourselves well and
our display was much appreciated by the visitors who were witnessing Adderbury
Blunt tradition for the first time.
This was a brilliant evening of international
harmony and a demonstration of the fun to be had with the Morris family of
ladies (S&B), men & boys (AVMM including Dylan) and a mixed side
were concluded with a massed Shepherd’s Hey Morris Off and posing for a group
The happy throng then retired to the back bar of the pub to swell the ranks attending Sheena & John’s fortnightly singaround The Bell Folk Club.
AVMM were delighted to return to the beautiful gardens of Upper Wardington Manor House on Sunday 01 September to entertain the guests in warm afternoon sunshine at their annual Fete. Ten dancers and two musicians performed 14 dances in two sets with a short break for tea served in antique silver pots.
The organisers were very appreciative of our efforts and urged us to return again next year. The Fete was formally opened by the village’s oldest resident, 101 year old Evelyn Phillips, a lifelong dancer who, along with nine other volunteers, joined the side for an audience participation version of ‘Shepherd’s Hey’.
The afternoon was memorable for fine dancing, great camaraderie and much laughter. Our two Hobby Horses provided splendid entertainment to a large crowd. 12 year old Jockey Theo rode Percy with great distinction, fooling around during dances, winning a two horse race during the children’s sports, gaining a creditable third place in the best dressed animal competition and even joining in a Tai Chi demonstration. It was altogether a fine afternoon and we can’t wait to return to Wardington again next year. Our grateful thanks to James (our main contact) for thoughtfully providing beer and tea to keep us going and to all members of the organising committee for inviting us back.
Squire John Ekers
Dancing the Adderbury tradition as recorded by Janet Blunt