Bank holiday Dance Out 30 August 21

This is a good day for dancing!” exclaimed our Squire as we assembled outside the Tithe Barn by The Bell in Adderbury at noon on a grey but warm Bank Holiday Monday. And indeed it was. We were soon into our stride, with once again two sets of six men presenting many of the regular dances to a large and enthusiastic audience gathered around us. Probably because we were making such a noise dancing outside his house, we were joined for a while by our esteemed Adderbury friend Chris Leslie on the fiddle. We all had such fun that we found it hard to leave the spot just down the road from the Bell Inn. However as planned we then proceeded up to the Coach and Horses for another one hour set where we repeated some but also covered several of the dances we had not already done. Again the audience was very appreciative and seemed interested by the historic and cultural background that we gave them by way of introductions to the dances.

Donald, Malcolm and Chris playing outside the Bell, Adderbury. Photo courtesy of Hannah Ekers.

Having lost track of time in all the joy and merriment, we then headed over to Aynho and danced for a while outside the Cartwright Hotel to a smaller but no less enthusiastic audience. During the afternoon, our audience participation version of Shepherds’ Hey dance was particularly well received  with good numbers of volunteers keen to experience the delights of the Adderbury Village Morris tradition. During four hours of dancing we ran through pretty much the entirety of the AVMM repertoire with 15 dancers and three musicians, not to mention Charlie and Percy, our horses. We were very pleased that our ex-Squire and honorary Foreman Dorset Dave Reed was able to join us for a few dances later in the afternoon. Then it was back to Chez Ekers for tea on the lawn, where Mrs Squire had prepared a delicious and wonderful spread of cakes and sandwiches which we devoured with great enthusiasm and then we ruined the Squire’s lawn by rounding such a merry gathering off with a few of our favourite dances from the day. Tea, Hooky beers and soft drinks were available to slake the thirsts of the weary dancers and Dave Reed made a lovely speech congratulating the current side on the quality of its dancing. A very jolly day was had by all!

Tea time in Aynho and still dancing! Photo courtesy of Hannah Ekers.

One of our supporters told me at the end as we were talking “When you guys dance, it is the look of joy on all of your faces that is so infectious, and the audience notices this and absolutely loves it.” Praise indeed!

Our thanks to Hannah for her lovely photos and to Jackie Ekers for hosting afternoon tea and more. We look forward to returning to Adderbury on the 18th September to dance around the village once again.

David Snell, Bagman

Whitchurch Parish Fete, Warwickshire, 14 August 21

If you look on the OS map, the lost village of Whitchurch-On-Stour is a mere hump of raised ground next to a beautiful old church in the middle of nowhere, by the banks of the river. Being so remote, my expectations for the scale of this event were not great, but to my pleasant surprise the people from all around flocked to make this fete a great success, with the customary splat the rat, bric-a-brac, tea and cakes and other staple village fete fare.

We Morris men (two sets of six once again) seemed to be the main entertainment and were given free rein in the middle of the paddock. We must have danced continually for around an hour and a half! Some of our number had travelled a long way to get there, and all of us were rather hot and tired by the end. As were so close to the River Stour we had to include Stourton Wake in our set as well as most of the rest of our regular dances. The audience was very appreciative, and many of the locals cheerfully joined in with our audience participation version of Sheperd’s Hey. Involving the crowd has always proved a good way of promoting new membership: the young people dancing opposite me enjoyed it so much and said that they would have been interested in joining our side had they not lived in Bristol.

Shepherd’s Hey audience participation! Photo courtesy of Hannah Ekers

The clouds occasionally parted and the sun shone down. It was a beautiful afternoon with good dancing. New recruits, Owen, Matt and Chris are all making great progress. It was also good to welcome back Tommy, who had travelled from Weymouth via Essex to dance with AVMM once again.

Group photo courtesy of Hannah Ekers

We were also pleased to meet up with our old friend the Rev. Stephen Fletcher, former vicar of Adderbury and now plying his trade in the wilds of Warwickshire. As we drove away from the venue, we saw families from the neighbouring villages wandering wearily home down the quiet country lanes, the children’s faces covered in melted ice cream and the parents carrying all kinds of cakes, books and unusable items from the bric-a-brac store.

Our thanks to the Fete organising committee and all those who watched and appreciated our dancing.

David Snell, Bagman

Wroxton Village Fete, 7 August 21

Adderbury Village Morris Men were the star guests once again at this popular event held on Saturday 7 August. After last year’s Fete was cancelled because of the pandemic, the organiser, Chris May, was particularly keen to draw in a large crowd to raise money for local good causes. For the first time at Wroxton we were able to field two sets of six for the majority of our traditional dances. We danced continuously for two hours with just short breaks to take on water and to form a guard of honour for a young bridal couple walking through the village following their wedding. It turned out that the bride was a teacher at Christopher Rawlings School in Adderbury, which was particularly fortuitous.

Just Married! AVMM form an archway for the happy couple. Photo courtesy of Hannah Ekers

Following our traditional starting dances of Sweet Jenny Jones and Haste to the Wedding, we demonstrated Shepherd’s Hey dance to the crowd and then invited audience participation for a modified version of the same dance. Judging by the number of young volunteers who put themselves forward, this could be a very useful recruiting tool when we resume visiting local schools to demonstrate our tradition.

Haste to the Wedding. Photo courtesy of Hannah Ekers

We were lucky that the forecast showers hardly touched Wroxton and so we were able to dance without interruption, entertaining the crowd with most of the dances in our repertoire. Lads A Bunchum, Brighton Camp, Black Joke, Postman’s Knock, Happy Man and the very impressive double jigs, Shepherds’ and Jockey to the Fair were all performed to a very high standard. It is clear that the extra al fresco practices arranged  since the end of lockdown have paid off. A very experienced former dancer of the Longborough tradition who was watching, was keen to compliment all the side and was surprised both by the youth of some of our dancers and the fact that some of our members have only danced in public on a handful of occasions. I’m delighted with the way the current side is dancing and look forward to another successful and enjoyable afternoon next Saturday 14 August when we will be dancing in Warwickshire at 2.30pm, postcode CV37 8PD – come and join us!

Our thanks to Chris May and the Wroxton Village Fete organising committee and to Hannah Ekers for capturing AVMM in action!

Squire John Ekers

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

Dancing the Adderbury tradition as recorded by Janet Blunt