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

Fringford Beer Festival, 15 June 19

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.

Intricate overhead sticking! Photo by Hannah

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.

Our wonderful young dancers: Dylan (left) and Owen (right). Photo by Hannah

Thanks to all who performed so well today and particularly to our musician and Bagman, Donald, without whom today could not have happened.

Squire John Ekers

A right song and dance at the Star, Sulgrave, 12 June 19

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.

At 73, Dave Reed still dances a variety of traditions and is an inspiration to us all. Here he is dancing with Brackley Morris.

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

Laugh, sing and dance is brewed once a year for our annual day of dance but we enjoy all three of these every time we perform!

Wroxton Fete, 27 May 19

AVMM were happy to perform at Wroxton Fete – a regular booking for us in recent years. A strong side with an excellent blend of youth and experience delighted the Bank Holiday crowd at this popular event. We danced two sets featuring almost all our dances and were particularly pleased to introduce our latest new recruit, Troy’s son Owen, who is six. He danced three dances and has clearly benefited from some intensive coaching from his father. Troy and Ryan performed Jockey To The Fair Jig, which drew many appreciate comments from the crowd and we managed to introduce several members of the audience to the delights of Morris in teaching volunteers a version of the Shepherds’ Hey Dance.

AVMM at Wroxton Fete – photo by Hannah

I am very grateful to those who turned out to perform today on a busy weekend. Donald and Malcolm, our musicians, and the dancers, Dorset Dave, David, Ryan, Troy, Mark, Dylan and young Owen. Without their enthusiasm and commitment to the side, we would not be able dance out so frequently nor be able to maintain such a high standard of dancing.

Three generations of AVMM dancers (left to right – Dylan, John, Owen and Troy) – photo by Hannah

Our next bookings are at 8pm on Wednesday 12th June when we are due at The Star at Sulgrave to dance with Brackley Morris. Later in that week at 1pm on Saturday 15th we will be entertaining the crowds at the Fringford Beer Festival.

Squire John Ekers

Banbury friendship festival, 19 May 19

AVMM were delighted to be welcomed back again to the wonderful Banbury Friendship Festival (BFF) which, this year, took place in the Bridge Street Community Garden. Eight regular dancers and two Hobby horses performed to the large and enthusiastic crowd with stalwarts Donald and Malcolm providing the essential musical accompaniment.

Photo by Hannah

Near flawless demonstrations of many of our most popular dances such as Sweet Jenny Jones, Postman’s Knock, Shooting, Princess Royal and Flasher brought loud applause and we had no difficulty in attracting volunteers for our audience participation numbers, Brighton Camp and a simplified version of Shepherds’ Hey for beginners. We were immediately asked back to next year’s festival and received several enquiries about our availability for other events as well as requests for more information from Will, a member of the Woodcraft Folk, who is already a proficient dancer and showed terrific potential.

Photo by Hannah

Thanks to dancers, Dylan, Chris G, Ryan, Mark, David S, Richard and a special mention to Troy, who on Lads a Bunchum, called a Morris dance in public for the first time. We should also like to thank Judith and Sue from BFF for hosting us and for the donation.

Our next dance out will be on Monday 27th May at Wroxton Fete starting at 1pm.

Squire John Ekers

Adderbury Day of Dance, 27 April 19

Thank you to all the dancers and musicians who braved the most challenging conditions that I can recall for a Day of Dance and made the day so special. In particular, thanks to Phil, Bob, Dave and Robin who all travelled from far afield in spite of the dire weather forecast. In the end it hardly rained and the sun made a brief appearance in the afternoon, even if the storm meant that hats were blown off mid-dance and bottles of beer and even traffic barriers were knocked over.

Notwithstanding the weather, the standard of dancing was high and our youngsters all performed very well and took on new challenges including learning new dances on the hoof. Alfie, Dylan and Theo all seemed to attract other youngsters, some of whom expressed interest in joining the side and Theo even called several dances. This bodes very well for the future. The photograph (below) features two of our young dancers alongside our more established members performing at Lake House where we enjoyed a break from the wind and the generous hospitality and attention of staff and patients.

Dylan (left) and Theo (right) join ten adult dancers for ‘Shepherd’s Hey’ at Lake House

It was good to be joined by Chris and Sandra from The Bell for our drinking jig. This was the first husband and wife team to join us for this highlight of the day, a fitting tribute to their generosity in welcoming us on so many occasions and providing the excellent beer. Thanks as always must go to Donald and Malcolm for their music throughout the day. They were joined for some dances by Dave Reed on harmonica and at Le Hall Place by Chris Leslie on fiddle.

A day to remember!

Squire John Ekers

St George’s Day, Harborne & Deddington, 23 April 19

AVMM celebrated this special day in the Morris calendar in some style, dancing out in the afternoon and evening in two very different locations. Once again, we were honoured to entertain the delightful regulars at the Harborne Day Centre for adults with learning difficulties in Birmingham, where we demonstrated a good selection of our dances as well as involving the residents in storytelling, singing and learning Shepherd’s Hey. Our youngest new recruit, six year old Owen Daniels, stole the show and was complimented by everyone present for his fine dancing. With more practice and greater strength he could soon be out-dancing the other Australian National in the side, to whom he is related.

In the evening we toured three pubs around the market square in Deddington,  performing no less than 19 dances in preparation for our Day of Dance which takes place on Saturday 27 April in Adderbury. 11 dancers and two musicians were able to turn out on a warm, dry evening and all acquitted themselves very well. We were particularly pleased to be the first Morris side to dance at The Red Lion, reopened under new management. We sang ‘Come Landlord Fill the Flowing Bowl’ inside the pub and congratulated the friendly new landlord on a very well kept pint of Tribute Pale Ale, before finishing a busy celebration of dancing in the twilight outside The Deddington Arms. Thanks to publicity secretary Richard for liaising with the Deddington pubs and making the evening such a success and to Donald and Malcolm for their music throughout the practice season.

St George’s Day in Deddington

The practice season has been well attended since January and our oldest member, Dorset Dave Reed, has proved an exemplary tutor of the AVMM tradition as well as being a fount of all Morris lore. With his full beard and striking attire he increasingly resembles an Old Testament prophet. Squire John and Bagman Donald are confident that we have the personnel and the enthusiasm to enjoy another successful season and look forward to being joined by many old friends on Saturday.

Squire John Ekers