St Mary’s Adderbury, 09 November 18

AVMM would like to thank Bagman and Musician Donald McCombie, author of ‘Story of the Dancer’, Squire John Ekers, former Squire Dave Reed, former Vicar of St Mary’s, Stephen Fletcher and Sharp & Blunt and Adderbury Morris for joining us for this evening’s moving tribute to those who lost their lives in the Great War. It was a joyful moment of togetherness in remembrance.

Together we remember and give thanks

‘The Story of the Dancer’ focuses on the Christmas Truce of 1914 when singing briefly stopped the war. As we paused to reflect on the 100th anniversary of the end the First World War and the loss of nearly 20 million lives, Adderbury and its Morris sides are thankful for the sacrifices made and grateful that our music, song and dance live on.

Richard Teare

U3A, Methodist Church, Chipping Norton, 07 November 18

Donald’s ‘Story of the Dancer’ is an evocative, spoken-word story with music, song and dancing. It’s based around the 1914 Christmas truce and the story is intertwined with the Morris tradition. In the first of two outings this week, we performed for around 70 University of the Third Age (U3A) members at the Methodist Church in Chipping Norton. Many of the audience came over to thank us personally as we were packing up and one lady told me that it was the best U3A event she had ever attended! Our thanks to Anthony Benn at U3A for inviting us and to the large and appreciative audience.

Concluding ‘Story of the Dancer’ with a poem

AVMM will be performing ‘The Story of the Dancer’ with guests Sharp and Blunt and Adderbury Morris at 7.30pm on Friday 9th November, St Mary the Virgin Church, Adderbury.  The event is free of charge. Do please join us if you can.

Richard Teare

Hawthorn House, Coventry 03 November 18

Thanks to Donald for arranging for AVMM to dance at Hawthorn House, Coventry on Saturday 3rd November. Thanks also to Donald for playing, Dave for calling and to our side of six dancers who performed for a large and appreciative group of residents and carers.

AVMM at Hawthorne House, Coventry

Gail Sheppard writes: Thank you so much Donald for organising the dancing on Saturday. Your help and support in all of Bryan’s care is so much appreciated by the family. To AVMM: Thank you all so much for dancing at Hawthorne House on Saturday. It took Bryan a while to get into it, but thank you for taking the time to get him involved, I was really pleased that he did join in and did indeed seem to enjoy the dancing and meeting up with you all. The staff and residents all said that it was a fabulous afternoon, and we are all hoping that you will find some time to come back in the future. Gail and the Sheppard family.

Richard Teare

Christopher Rawlins Primary School, Adderbury, 16 October 18

On Tuesday 16 October, musician Donald McCombie and four members of the Adderbury Village side were able, at short notice, to join members of years 5 and 6 and their teachers at Christopher Rawlins Primary School to help them with their studies on the aftermath of the First World War in their village.

After fielding lots of interesting questions from the children on the origins of the Morris, our recent tour to the Somme and Passchendaele and the stories behind the Adderbury dancers who joined the conflict, Donald gave an abridged version of his ‘Story of the Dancer’ illustrated by a selection of our dances. Dave Reed played his harmonica and explained about the origin of our topless pyramid of hats, Donald led a rousing version of his song ‘Never Dance Again’ and our dancers with help from Linda Leslie, of Sharp & Blunt, taught the children a version of Shepherds’ Hey.

The children were very receptive and enjoyed learning about and practising our dances. Their class teacher thanked us for our input and asked whether we would be prepared to run a weekly after school Morris dance activity. I am very grateful to those who generously gave up their time for this workshop and hope that several of the children who took part will wish to join one of the three Adderbury sides in the future.

Squire John Ekers

Banbury Hobby Horse Festival, 13 October 18

AVMM were very proud to be the only Cotswold side performing at this year’s Hobby Horse Festival, which was on a smaller scale than in previous years. This was due to the event being condensed into a single day as a result of the Banbury Canal Festival being arranged on the Sunday. Organiser, Verna Wass, expressed her appreciation to the side for supporting the event and was impressed by the levels of fitness displayed, which enabled our dancers to perform with barely a break over four and a half hours.

AVMM with organiser, Verna Wass. Photo courtesy of Neil Simmons

Our horses, Charlie and Percy delighted the crowds with their antics, performing alongside a variety of other horses and the odd dragon and unicorn, most of which came from the local area. With ten dancers and two musicians performing, we were able to demonstrate the full range of Adderbury dances and provide excellent entertainment to fans of local traditions, visitors to the Folk Festival and bemused shoppers alike. Once again the team acquitted themselves extremely well: I have been so proud of the fact that the side has maintained such a high standard of performance throughout a long season and, in my view, are dancing as impressively as at any time during all the years that I have been a member of this great side.

AVMM action shot! Courtesy of Neil Simmons

Our youngest dancers, Dylan and Theo, contributed fully to the entertainment and drew many favourable comments from the crowds. The fact that the side has been dancing so tightly is due in part to the experience gained by the dancers from our two successful tours, for which Bagman and organiser Donald must be thanked. In addition, I would like to thank all today’s performers, most of whom have joined the team in the last three years, for all their hard work in practice before and during the current season.

Our thanks to Verna Wass, the White Horse for providing an excellent sandwich luncheon and to Neil Simmons, Modern Parlance Photos for his lovely photos.

John Ekers (Squire)

Allerford Music & Dance Festival, Somerset 28-30 September 18

Thank you to all involved in the Allerford Music and Dance Festival and the related events in Somerset last weekend. We made a lot of new friends and shared our dancing, music and songs.

Following a showing of the ‘Ballad of Shirley Collins’ on Friday evening, AVMM performed at the Festival on Saturday afternoon. We shared the dancing and music-making with the local community choir, West Somerset Morris and the Minehead Hobby Horse and followers. What followed was a great show of community dancing and singing followed by the first ever procession of the Minehead Hobby Horse through the village of Allerford accompanied by our own horses, dancers and musicians. The singing of ‘Happy Man’ on the famous Allerford packhorse bridge with the Minehead Hobby Horse and Gullivers was simply magical.

Singing ‘Happy Man’ on the Allerford packhorse bridge

Sunday saw AVMM dancing in Minehead at the harbour followed by a short impromtu service in a wonderful Sailor’s Chapel. On to the historic village of Dunster with dancing next to the historic Yarn Market, with the towers of Dunster Castle in the distance.

Concluding the tour at the Dunster Yarn Market

Well done all and especially Dylan, probably the world’s youngest Morris Dancer who can actually do all our dances. Everybody loved him and our wonderful dual horses – just like the pre-First World War side. Thanks to David Snell for restoring Charlie and making our new, small size hobby horse (‘Percy’). Thanks also to Graeme Horn and Lisa Eden from Allerford for organising this event and inviting us and guest accordion wizard Joseph Mallinson.

Where next? The Hobby Horse festival in Banbury of course on the weekend of the 13th October.

Donald McCombie

Adderbury community day, 15 September 18

On a beautiful Autumn day AVMM were proud to take part in this showcase of the various clubs, businesses and traditions of which Adderbury can be justifiably proud. David Snell produced a fantastic display featuring many memorable photographs of the side performing, practising and socialising together, ranging through time from the pre WW1 side up to this summer’s tour of the Somme and Passchendale war memorials. The display placed, in an ideal location outside The Bell, attracted many favourable comments from visitors and locals. A good turn out of eleven dancers including our three youngest members, two hobby horses and three musicians performed outside The Bell and then moved on to The Coach and Horses for our second set. In total we danced 19 of our dances, with only Brighton Camp, our audience participation number, being repeated. Dancing was of a high standard with Happy Man, Postman’s Knock and Troy and Ryan’s Jockey to the Fair being particularly impressive. Four promising potential new recruits, including some whom had recently moved into the village, expressed a firm interest in joining us for the 2019 practice season. When asked if he had seen Cotswold Morris dancing before, one said, “Yes, but not as good as this.”

Troy and Ryan dance Jockey to the Fair

I am very grateful to all who took part in what was a joyous celebration of all that we love about our unique tradition.

Squire John Ekers

Wardington Village Fete, 1 September 18

AVMM performed two long sets at Wardington Village Fete on Saturday 1 September and were warmly received by an appreciative crowd – especially when more than half a dozen children joined us for an audience participation version of Shepherd’s Hey. But it wasn’t just enthusiastic youngsters, bounding out from the crowd came Wardington’s oldest resident – Evelyn Phillips, aged 100! Evelyn told us that she is a lifelong dancer and she immediately picked-up the movements and steps, dancing near to the youngest member of her family aged 2. With five generations of the Phillips family present and an age gap of 98 years between the youngest and most senior dancers, this is a perfect example of the universal appeal of dance! At the conclusion of the event, the organiser immediately re-booked us for next year’s Fete and we’ll hope that Evelyn can join us then too.

AVMM pictured with Evelyn Phillips aged 100, at Wardington Village Fete

We are proud of the fact that we now have a number of keen young Morris dancers in the side and in seven year old Dylan, probably the youngest dancer in the country to know and be able to perform a respectable version of all the Adderbury dances as performed by AVMM.

AVMM Tour to World War I graves 26-29 July 18

After a somewhat troublesome crossing of the channel by some (!) the side (9 dancers, 1 musician and 10 friends and family) assembled in La Belle France for a third tour of the war graves. For many of the dancers and their families this was their first of these tours and there was a keen sense of anticipation on the Thursday evening / Friday morning when we arrived.

Friday saw some of the highest temperatures the Picardy region has had in many a year, this in turn was met with some of the hottest dancing the AVMM have done in some time!

The day started with the short drive to the war graves in Pozieres, where we paid tribute to those that fought and died in this part of France through our own brand of song and dance – in particular to Ronald Pargeter from the Adderbury Morris side. Three of the touring party have strong links to Bloxham School and took time to pay respects to an ex school Captain – Arthur Stevens who lies here. As with everywhere we went these graves were immaculately looked after and readily available plans meant finding the AVMM dancers was easy. Congratulations should go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for their continual work in this regard.

The short drive to the Thiepval memorial allowed us to reflect on the enormity of the battles in the First World War and the number of people lost on all sides – which is reflected excellently in the song penned by our musician Donald – we sang this a number of times and its power never diminished. The size of the Thiepval memorial really brings this loss into focus. We paid our respects to Percy Pargeter here and singing and dancing here felt very special and for me personally singing about the ‘…generation lost and gone who will never dance again…’ here was a significant moment.

Lunch was had in the lovely Le Corner pub in Albert where we replenished our energies and rewarded the landlord and landlady for their efforts with our version of ‘Landlord’ (under the air-conditioning!).  After managing to find some shade in the picturesque main square of Albert we ran through a good number of stick and hankie dances before taking a rest prior to the evening’s festivities.

In the evening we were the guests of honour at the Son et Lumiere show in Pozieres. This sound and light spectacular portrays the story of WW1. As part of the show they depict normal British life in the run up to the war featuring George Butterworth (an English composer and Morris dancer) who died here in the war. AVMM danced as part of this reflecting George Butterworth’s love of Morris dancing in the pre-war years. It was lovely to be involved in something that really felt like a community organisation paying tribute to the efforts of people 100 years ago and for this evening we were truly welcomed into their community.

The following morning we all made our way over the border into Belgium and assembled by the cloth hall in Ypers. We performed some dancing here before walking the short distance to the Menin Gate. Here we were honoured to be able to lay a wreath as part of the last post ceremony. This was an emotional event for all of the side and our family who accompanied us on the tour made all the more so by the excellent Stockport Schools brass band playing as part of the ceremony. It was very powerful to see the number of people attending the last post ceremony and heartening that the millions lost are still remembered by so many.

There was some debate on twitter about this ceremony with a few people keen for it to return to a simple playing of the Last Post on bugle. However it seems that all who saw AVMM were impressed with the dignity and respectful way we conducted ourselves and I hope in some way persuaded the traditionalists that our uniform is a valid as any other. Being part of a ceremony such as this feels very important and it is an honour for the side to be able to do once again.

That evening then allowed for a gentle sampling of a few lovely Belgian beers before and after dinner which were all excellent and this time really allowed the side to get to know each other outside of the dancing sphere.

Sunday started with a tour of the excellent Passchendaele museum – which comes highly recommended before the short drive to the Tyne Cot memorial (where George Robins’ memorial is) where a relatively large audience saw our final song and dance performance bringing an excellent tour to a conclusion.

I personally wish to thank John Ekers for his excellent organisation of this tour and it was a great shame Bryan Sheppard, our fool, was unable to join us on this occasion due to ill health. His contacts and organisation of previous tours played a large part in helping make this one successful.

Iain Wilkinson

AVMM

 

Elephant & Castle, Bloxham, 4 July 18

Squire John Ekers writes:

On a very warm evening at The Elephant and Castle, six of our dancers, four of whom are travelling to dance in France and Belgium later this month, assembled before an enthusiastic crowd to demonstrate some of the dances they will be performing across the North Sea. John Ekers was grateful to father of the side, Dorset Dave Reed, for calling Happy Man and Hail to the Chief, the latter dance being appropriate for American Independence Day. Troy and Ryan performed a most impressive Jockey to the Fair jig (see below)

Jockey to the Fair

and the whole side showcased a variety of stick and hanky dances with Postman’s Knock and Brighton Camp being particularly impressive. Landlord Simon Finch thanked the side for their performance and offered a free drink for the whole team. However, such are the levels of dedication to fitness and sobriety amongst the current side that water was the chosen drink of choice.