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

Adderbury Christmas Tree Festival, 6-8 December, 19

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.

Standing in front of the AVMM Christmas tree

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!

Banbury Hobby Horse Festival, 12 October, 19

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.

AVMM in Festive mood and horses at the ready! Photo by Hannah

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.

AVMM surrounded by horses! Photo by Hannah

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!

David Snell

Mary Arden’s House, Stratford-Upon-Avon, 15 September 19

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. 

Donald and Ryan ‘on stage’ at the Mary Arden Festival Event

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.

Which is the ‘real’ horse?

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! 

Thank you to all at Mary Arden’s House. 

Donald McCombie

Dancing with Swedes, Adderbury, 02 September, 19

Haste to the Wedding

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.

Eken dancing Constant Billy – Adderbury Sharp

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.

Postman’s Knock

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.

Eken watching AVMM dance

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 (Eken).

Eken dancing Skipping Chickens

Proceedings were concluded with a massed Shepherd’s Hey Morris Off and posing for a group photo.

Eken dancing Bean Setting – Headington Quarry

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, Eken, Sharp & Blunt

Dave Reed

Wardington Annual Fete, 01 September, 19

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.

AVMM dancing ‘Flasher’ Photo courtesy of Dave Reed

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’.

AVMM with Evelyn Phillips, aged 101 – she loves to dance with us! Photo courtesy of Hannah

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

Chacombe Care Home Fete, 20 July 19

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.

Troy and Ryan dance Jockey to the Fair. Photo courtesy of Hannah

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.

Squire John Ekers

AVMM performing at the annual Chacombe Care Home Summer Fete. Photo courtesy of Hannah

People’s Park Centenary, Banbury, 14 July 19

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.

Celebrating the centenary of People’s Park, Banbury – photo courtesy of the Banbury Guardian

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 any position.

Our next dance out is at Chacombe Park Care Home on Saturday, 20 July.

Squire John Ekers

Kineton Farmers’ Market, 13th July 19

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.

Theo, Owen and Dylan watching the AVMM ‘Jockey to the Fair’ jig

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.

Troy and Ryan performing ‘Jockey to the Fair’

Squire John Ekers

Caister Carnival Weekend, Norfolk, 29-30 June 19

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.

Squire John Ekers

AVMM performed at the Caister-on-Sea Carnival in sunny Norfolk on Sunday 30 June 2019