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.
AVMM were delighted to provide the annual Summer Fete entertainment once more on a warm afternoon in the idyllic grounds of the Chacombe Care Home. As residents and visitors enjoyed a variety of food stuffs and tried their luck on the tombolas and raffles, they were able to watch a strong Adderbury side perform a dozen of their dances spread over two sets with a break for much needed ice creams and other refreshments. Several members of the crowd shared happy memories of the early days of the 70s revival side with the current dancers. One, in particular, with great fondness recalled our fool entertaining the locals at his late mother’s pub in North Oxfordshire. Six members of the audience volunteered to try their hand at Morris dancing in our audience participation version of Shepherd’s Hey. Three young boys, aged between two and seven, showed considerable potential, no doubt inspired by the excellent dancing of young Owen, who didn’t put a foot wrong all afternoon. Once again, Ryan called the majority of the dances and he and Troy performed a splendid Jockey to the Fair, mirrored on this occasion by Percy the horse, ably ridden by David.
I am very grateful to Donald for arranging the booking and for providing the music on his splendid Serrenelli button accordion. Also, thanks to Richard, David, Troy, Ryan and others who continue to turn out regularly and ensure that AVMM always fields a full complement of skilful dancers at each booking. As is traditional, we concluded our performance with an impressive display of sticking on Brighton Camp.
AVMM were honoured to be invited by Banbury Town Council to participate in this unique celebration of local societies, history and culture. A large crowd enjoyed the various stalls, entertainments and displays of local produce and societies. Following the grand procession which opened proceedings, our musician, Donald talked about the history of the side for Radio Oxford, before they featured an interview with someone called Ed Sheeran, who is apparently a popular musician, if not perhaps as versatile as our Donald.
Most of the dancers who had turned out at Kineton the previous day performed again in front of the large crowds attending this magnificent event. In addition, we were joined by the grand old man of the side, Dorset Dave, whose experience was much appreciated on popular dances such as Lads a’Bunchum, Sweet Jenny Jones and Postman’s Knock. Dave also used the microphone to good effect, introducing the audience to three generations of the same family with six year old Owen, proving particularly popular with the crowd. Donald dedicated our performance of Old Woman Tossed Up In A Blanket to our fool, Bryan, who in the past, used to recite the children’s rhyme which precedes the dance. As usual we completed our programme by inviting members of the crowd to join us in Brighton Camp. Following this, several members of the audience wanted to find out more about our particular style of Cotswold Morris with at least two serious enquiries about joining the side from potential new recruits. It was a joy to be part of such a happy celebration of all that is best about life in the Banbury area.
I am grateful that we have in the current side so many
talented dancers of a wide range of ages. The standard of dancing over the
whole weekend was exceptionally high. This is a result of a most productive
practice season and the fact that we now have a core of regular dancers who
perform regularly together and who know our repertoire well enough to dance in
Our next dance out is at Chacombe Park Care Home on Saturday, 20 July.
Eight dancers from the side, together with our musician Donald, entertained an enthusiastic crowd at the excellent Kineton Farmers’ village market on Saturday 13th July – a regular AVMM booking for a number of years. With three dancers, Theo, Dylan and Owen all under 13 years of age, increasing in confidence and improving all the time, the future of the side looks rosy.
We danced most of the dances in our repertoire with Ryan and Troy’s Jockey to the Fair Jig being particularly impressive. Ryan and Theo, together with Squire John, shared in the calling of the dances and there were plenty of willing volunteers from the crowd for both Shepherds’ Hey and Brighton Camp. As well as being paid our usual fee, we were offered a choice of fresh apple juice or home brewed beer to refresh us on a warm and humid morning. We look forward to returning to Kineton again soon.
At the invitation of long standing member of the side and Caister resident, Robin Wilkinson, an experienced squad of AVMM dancers, Donald our lead musician and Bagman, and a small coterie of supporters descended on this lovely Norfolk seaside village for a weekend of sunshine, laughter, dance and song. Robin booked us in at two excellent local pubs for the Saturday evening where we were welcomed by the friendly locals who applauded every dance with great enthusiasm and volunteered willingly for any audience participation numbers. On a warm summer’s evening we were able to dance until the light finally started to fade and then we continued to entertain the locals with Donald leading the singing with a little help from backing musicians and percussionists. As well as receiving a small donation for the side we were also bought drinks by the locals and one of the landlords. The relaxed ambience of the outside drinking and dining areas of the pubs provided the ideal environment to run through the full range of our dances and to ensure that our latest new recruit, James, an experienced performer with Norwich based Kemp’s Men and Golden Star Morris, could perform all our dances to a high standard.
On the Sunday afternoon we were booked as star guests at the Caister Carnival and Fete and entertained the large crowd for an hour in the main arena. The sun continued to shine and once again we were inundated by volunteers wanting to try out AVMM’s unique style of Morris. Had the Squire brought more sticks, we could have accommodated even more on the final Brighton Camp. Particular thanks to Robin for organising the weekend, to Ryan, who called every dance and worked out a well judged programme of dances and to Dorset Dave and his wife, Chris, who made a particular effort to join us.
I was so proud of the side today. Fringford is one of my favourite beer festivals and a delightful traditional Fete, raising money for valuable local causes like MIND research and the local church. AVMM danced a splendid half hour set with a strong side, displaying our range of age and experience, which must be the envy of many other traditional sides who are struggling to recruit new members after the 1970s folk and Morris revival. We finished our set with the traditional Brighton Camp featuring ten members of the side with an age range of over sixty years.
After a brief refreshment break in the beer tent, we also danced a short set of five dances outside The Butchers’ Arms. Congratulations to Ryan, who not expecting to be asked to dance again, managed to perform a splendid Jockey to the Fair with Troy, without regurgitating the enormous burger which he had consumed after our scheduled set. The strength in depth of the current side was demonstrated by no fewer than four different members calling the dances despite the absence of many regular dancers and callers. Congratulations to six year old Owen who performed brilliantly at a high profile event for the first time. His heys were a joy to behold. Thanks too to Chris G and particularly Phil T, who travelled from Shropshire to be with us, and provided continuity with the 1970s revival side. It was evident that God loves a Morris dancer, as floods of almost biblical proportions occurred either side of our two sets, during which we danced 90% of our repertoire, while the sun shone on AVMM.
Thanks to all who performed
so well today and particularly to our musician and Bagman, Donald, without whom
today could not have happened.
AVMM were delighted to join our hosts, Brackley Morris, at one of their regular weekly dance outs. The weather forecast was distinctly unpromising and so AVMM took the precaution of arriving early and in good numbers. Having staked out our territory in the bar we danced in the street outside the pub, much to the delight of the landlady and the Brackley men and also the bemusement of passing drivers. Percy, the younger of our two horses, cavorted around the dancers and jockey Theo, did good work when required, holding an umbrella to keep the rain off the musicians’ instruments. Once Brackley had raised a full side, with the help of Dorset Dave, who can dance styles of Cotswold Morris of which Cecil Sharp could only dream, we took turn and turn about. The rain becoming more persistent, we finished our al fresco exertions with members of both sides joining in AVMM’s Brighton Camp and returned to the bar for refreshments and shared music and song.
Although it was a school night for Theo, his Mum Kim decided that prolonging the evening would offer educational benefit for her son and so it proved. Dorset Dave taught him some dubious French and opened his eyes to some of the experiences of military personnel in The Great War whilst David S. gave him a few tips on playing the spoons. Songs and stories were shared by all and I heard a couple of new verses to ‘Come Landlord Fill The Flowing Bowl’ as well as a rare folk song about bell ringers from North Devon. All in all it was a most convivial evening. As well as being an excellent warm up for Saturday’s booking at the Fringford Beer Festival and Fete, it was good to catch up with so many old friends and to laugh, dance and sing o’er a drop of good beer!
Squire John Ekers
Dancing the Adderbury tradition as recorded by Janet Blunt