John Ekers writes: Many thanks to all our friends from AMM and S&B for inviting us to join them in the Adderbury Institute to share in a most enjoyable evening celebrating our shared love of Morris Dancing, good food, drink and music. This year’s event was kindly hosted by Adderbury Morris and it was clear that a most impressive amount of careful planning and hard work went into making the evening such a delightful celebration of Morris Dancing, folk song, fine music and convivial conversation.
The evening began with an hour’s dancing with each side showcasing several of their best dances. Jim and Malcolm provided the music for our eight dancers, all of whom performed impressively, despite the relative inexperience of some of our members. Thanks to all who turned out and in particular to Ryan who called all our dances. The first part of the social concluded with the traditional joint performance of Shepherds Away, in which some of the AVMM wives, girlfriends and children also participated enthusiastically.
All three sides then shared a most welcome communal meal and suitable liquid refreshment. The raffle was drawn and the youngest dancer of our team last night, Alfie Jordan, was delighted to win the star prize of an acoustic guitar kindly donated by Keith Norton. It was good to see former AVMM dancer Ashley Stevens in his new role of acting Squire for Adderbury Morris. A lovely example of how the local sides benefit from the friendly relations and occasional exchange of members that exist between them. After the tables were cleared away the guests enjoyed some high quality folk music, poetry, song and ceilidh dancing and the evening ended with the two men’s sides singing The Happy Men. After warm thank yous and farewells the guests headed happily homewards.
I would like to think that AVMM could pick up the baton and host a similar event next year, but feel we cannot promise anything at the moment. Our side needs new recruits. It was decided that the first practice before the Day of Dance will be on Wednesday 28th Feb from 7pm in The Tythe Barn. I hope that all members will try to attend as many practices as possible and to encourage friends and family to come along and have a go at learning our relatively straightforward tradition.
Finally a reminder that The Day of Dance takes place on April 27th this year.
John writes: Thanks for turning out in such good numbers and for dancing so well today. I thought we performed extremely well and our dancing was much appreciated by the large friendly crowds and both landlords. The weather was kind to us and to new recruit, Freddie Gasson, who showed great promise in both the Shepherd’s Hey Jig (with 20 dancers!) and as sacrificial horse in Beaux of London City. Thanks in particular to our musician Donald and to Ryan for taking on the lion’s share of the calling.
As I mentioned, we have been invited by the other two local sides to join them at their Winter Warmer in the Institute on the evening of Saturday 10th February. This is largely a social event with just a few dances from each side and some music. Food will be provided by the Adderbury Morris Men and we bring our own drink. Family and friends are most welcome. There is no charge and we wear full kit. Please keep the date in your diary!
We danced twice on Sunday 10th December for two very different events. Our first engagement was at the St Mary’s Adderbury Christmas Tree Festival – our usual annual performance for the local community. The spirit of Christmas seemed sadly lacking as we shot two of our own horses for fun whilst performing Beaux of London City … but wait, we have our own horse specialist vet Chris so no problem, they were instantly cured. There were lots of dancers for the communal Shepherd’s Hey workshop with much enjoyment and fun for all. Our thanks to St Mary’s for inviting us to dance.
Next, a drive over to the Sibford Friends Meeting House. The second performance of the day was a contribution to ‘The Story of the Dancer’ to coincide with International Human Rights Day. John writes: we managed a full complement of dancers for both events and danced alongside Sharp & Blunt for some of the dances we both perform. One of these was ‘Constant Billy’. We cross-checked beforehand on the number of figures – apparently the same but somehow, AVMM completed first! No matter it brought some smiles!
It was a pleasure to dance with Sharp and Blunt on this important occasion and at such a venue. The unique ‘Story of the Dancer’ was written by our musician Donald McCombie to remember the dancers who died during WW1. It is a spoken word piece interspersed with dances from both sides. Great joint dancing concluded with a communal morris off Shepherds Hey. Our thanks to Sibford Religious Society of Friends and to Sharp & Blunt.
Our thanks to all who danced yesterday and to all who joined us. We wish you a happy Christmas. AVMM are planning to dance-out in Adderbury on Tuesday 26 December commencing at 12:30pm outside the Coach & Horses. We hope to see you there!
The sun shone and crowd smiled as once again we marked the much-missed Hobby Horse festival with beasts of our own and dancing, not just in the Adderbury Village tradition, but also in the versions of dances from across the Cotswolds presented by our visitors, Adlington Morris Men.
Taking it in turns we covered many of our favourite dances, and occasionally Adlington danced their own version to our familiar tunes, such as Sweet Jenny Jones and Postman’s knock. It’s always fascinating to witness other interpretations of these old Cotswold dances.
Charlie the horse was joined by a beautiful Unicorn called Ewan, and we had various members of the public join us for the shared Shepherd’s Hey. After a final photo opportunity with the now famous Cock-horse at Banbury Cross, Adlington were on their way to their next dance venue.
Our grateful thanks to everyone from the Adlington team for joining us and making it such a special day.
One of our number suggested that, with several young and inexperienced dancers in our troupe, it might be a good idea to have occasional practices during the summer or alternatively to dance out at quiet country pubs as a means of maintaining social contact and improving the standard of our performance. Having decided on the latter approach our Bagman booked us in to dance at that fine ancient coaching inn, The Elephant & Castle in Bloxham. Arriving to perform at the pub despite dire warnings from David about the steep slope in the car park, reminiscent of the notorious sloping pitch of Yeovil Town FC, we were surprised to find the pub heaving and nearly all outdoor seating occupied. It transpired that the local WI were about to enjoy their annual fish and chip supper on the lawn just above our dancing pitch. So much for a quiet country pub with just two men and a dog having a fag break outside!
In the absence of Ryan, I took on the Squiring duties and our ten dancers and musician Donald launched into our traditional repertoire, dancing with hardly more than a brief refreshment break and change of personnel for the next 100 minutes. The crowd were enormously enthusiastic and delighted by the mixture of youth and experience in the side. To avoid possible offence to some of the more ancient members of the Women’s Institute, Donald adapted the introductory poem to one of our dances to ‘Young Woman Tossed Up In A Blanket’. The invitation Shepherd’s Hey Jig was a great success with a wide range of willing volunteers ranging in age from a small boy and his little sister over on holiday from France up to a spritely but very senior WI member who risked letting her chips get cold in favour of experiencing the joys of Adderbury Village Morris. Landlord, Simon ‘Smudge’ Finch, clearly delighted with the evening and pleased to meet up with his former Biology teacher and rugby coach, kindly donated a large jug of his excellent Hooky and made us very welcome.
With so many sides struggling to maintain their traditions during these challenging times, I reflected that our ten dancers last night included four members who are still at school, plus another young, compared to me, new recruit and that all of us live in Adderbury (4), Bloxham (3) or adjacent villages viz. Barford, Deddington and Aynho. I suspect that former AVMM Fool, the late Bryan Sheppard, would have approved of the development of the team, which appears to be in robust good health. Following The Beaux of London City, one old lady was commiserating with Dylan, who as Percy the horse’s jockey had been callously shot at the dramatic culmination of the dance, and asking if he was new to the dance. He replied, “Oh no, I am actually quiet experienced. I have been dancing for over six years and have been shot in three different countries.” Youth and experience, an unbeatable combination!
Sitting here on a cliff above the beautiful Porthcurno Bay watching the waves ebb and flow, it feels a long way from the location of our last dance out on Saturday in the bucolic setting of the fete in a farm field near the medieval lost village of Whitchurch in the Stour Valley. However, I find that the motion of the waves puts me in mind of our dances, as they sway to and fro, overlapping and crossing over. I even saw some crows this morning above our campsite swooping in the gusting wind, doing something that looked very much like an Adderbury hey!
The fete itself was a lovely affair, with all the traditional tombola, cakes and tea, and it was a great to share the event with Flowers of Ilmington Morris, whom some of us had met before. We danced in turn, and compared our sides’ interpretations of haste to the wedding, constant Billy, and shepherds hey, all of which were markedly different! It was a fascinating afternoon of cultural exchange between our two sides.
We hope we can visit again next year and dance again with the Flowers of Ilmington Morris.
Sitting on this balmy evening in a bar on Capitol Hill Street in Washington DC, it’s hard to believe that only four days ago I was dancing with the side at the most quintessential of English events, the village fete and beer festival at Fringford near Bicester.
We danced two sets in front of the audience at the festival, and also entertained people at the pub at the edge of the green with several of our regular dances. Despite the near drought conditions, as we danced on the grass in the central arena, sure enough the worms rose up and we had to watch our stepping to avoid squishing them!
It was lovely to have a record number of folk to join us for our traditional shared ‘Shepherd’s Hey’ (a total of 28 dancers); I am always amazed how fast some people pick up the various steps and clapping moves of that dance. There were eight of our regular team which also included our new dancers, who continue to make good progress, and it was lovely that their families could come along too.
Fringford Festival is an annual favourite with AVMM, and is a joyful celebration of all aspects of village life and and a fine platform for local talents and performers. My only regret is that I could not stay long enough to see the chap dressed as a snail playing the ukulele!
Not far from the village of Kineton in Warwickshire are the homes of two great English icons, the Land Rover, and William Shakespeare, fine emblems indeed of England’s past. Yet, so much more at the heart and soul of the common English people, and the quintessence of the English way of life for centuries, are the simple Market Place and, of course, Morris dancing.
As early as the 13th century there was a Tuesday market held by Stephen de Segrave at his manor of Kineton in the Fexhole Hundred. Nowadays, as one moves between the small stalls selling ales, meats, hand turned bowls and various other artisan produce, one cannot help but feel that little has changed in over 900 years. There would doubtless have been street entertainers even then, and this Saturday we had the honour and pleasure of continuing in that long ancient line of roaming performers, bringing smiles and applause from a large and welcoming crowd of market-goers and traders.
The sky was as grey as a pewter tankard, but no one noticed as they watched us dance through two sets of our usual repertoire, stopping only briefly for a refreshing elevenses of the artisan beers given by the organisers to us thirsty dancers. It was, as always, lovely to see everyone and to have twelve of us dancing. For me, the highlights included seeing Alfie’s dancing coming on leaps and bounds (hence the phrase, I suppose!), the continued commitment and enthusiasm of our new Russian friends, Max and Dmitri, Theo taking time out from GCSE revision for some stress-busting double-sticking, and the very amusing sight of two ex-Squires disputing moves with a passion which took me back to when Dorset Dave and John used to have heated debates about the minutiae of the tradition!
Our thanks to Donald for liaising with the Market organisers to make the event happen and for keeping us all in time – fluidly keeping pace with our unintentionally ‘nuanced’ dance steps!
As so often, the image of the day that I took away with me was that of the broad smile on the mother and child’s faces with whom I danced in the Shepherds Hey that we shared with the crowd. Once again this moment proved very popular with the audience and brought everyone together in a spirit of communal joy.
The Adderbury Day of Dance is a time to leave behind winter and to celebrate spring. It provides an occasion for nostalgia as well as looking to the future, but it is principally an opportunity to share in our collective love of laughter, song, music and Morris dancing, whilst meeting friends old and new. Adderbury is undoubtedly a beautiful village and the physical environment is an essential component of the day, but the fact that the village still boasts of three active Morris teams is what sets it apart.
Adderbury Village Morris Men, as tradition demands, assembled at 10.15am outside the library, before processing to the churchyard for the ceremonials that precede the many dances to follow around the village during the course of the day. Donald sang his song about the Day of Dance, Chris Garrett read his usual poem and Bagman David poured the customary pint of Hooky over Charlie Coleman’s grave. For those unfamiliar with these rituals, Charlie was a survivor of the pre-WW1 side, who was able to pass on his memories of the AVMM tradition to some of the young men who were responsible for the formation of the seventies revival side. Later in the day, the side would pay tribute to two other villagers (Janet Blunt and Bryan Sheppard) without whom our unique Morris tradition would not exist.
Our dancing started behind The Bell in Church Lane with a healthy number of dancers and three musicians. It was not difficult to field two or three sets of six for Sweet Jenny Jones, Haste to the Wedding and Washing Day, whilst late comers hurriedly attached bell pads and adjusted baldricks. Later in the day it became more of a challenge to persuade one or two members to put aside beers and ice creams or interrupt conversations, but with well over 20 dancers present for most of the day we were able give everyone a chance to dance as many or as few of our dances as they wished, whilst demonstrating a high standard of performance and a mixture of youth and experience. Particular mention must be made of our two newest recruits, Max and Dimitri, who have worked very hard in practice to reach the required standard and were performing in public for the first time. They and those members of the side who are still at school, Theo, Dylan and Alfie, danced impressively all day, although there was evidence later in the day that age, fatigue and beer may have adversely affected other spectators and dancers.
For the first time in my memory the side was accompanied by all three AVMM Hobby ‘Osses, all of which were humanely dispatched at the end of each rendition of The Beaux of London City aka “Shooting”. Special mention should be made of Tim Plester: as the only professional actor in the side, his dramatic demise as the jockey of ‘Os, Charlie was suitably theatrical, indeed positively Shakespearean in its pathos. With AVMM performing the full repertoire of their dances and doing so with multiple sets throughout the day, it was a pleasure to be able to share the duties of calling the dances between experienced dancers like Iain W, Chris H, David, Ryan and others. Most of our dances were in one, two or three sets of six, although we had four sets of four for Princess Royal by Rose Cottage. Jockey to the Fair was performed twice as a double jig with two pairs: our invitation dance of Shepherds’ Hey Jig proved popular with young and old and, of course, we concluded our sets outside various village pubs with a raucously sung and vigorously danced Brighton Camp. It was good to dance Postman’s Knock, Happy Man and other favourites of our former Squire and Fool, Bryan, by the tree planted in his honour on Colin Butler Green following his untimely death.
Lunch was kindly provided by Tony at The Coach and we danced outside his pub before and after the meal as well as performing at The Red Lion before all three local teams ended up later in the afternoon outside The Bell.
The Drinking Jig is always popular with spectators and dancers alike and is an occasion for much merriment and more or less helpful advice from the crowd. The kind members of Sharp and Blunt provided a generous and excellent afternoon tea in the Methodist Chapel. After a rapidly consumed chocolate brownie, I was able to drag away enough of our remaining dancers to perform six more dances outside The Bell, which kept the large and well refreshed crowd entertained. We were then joined by our friends from Adderbury Morris and Sharp Blunt, who each performed another dance apiece, before a massed Shepherds Away Jig concluded the Morris activities for another Day of Dance.
Special thanks should be offered to the officers from all three sides who planned and coordinated the day and to members of the Parish Council for all their good work in ensuring that the roads were made safe for dancers and spectators alike whilst allowing for essential access. Thanks also to all our dancers – some of whom had travelled a long way and to our excellent musicians, Donald, Malcolm and Jim.
The rains predicted by some earlier in the week never arrived, and the temperature was certainly conducive to dancing. According to Ryan’s calculations, we danced 42 times (two more than in 2022!) and to add to the occasion, the sun was visible throughout the day for which we are truly grateful.
AVMM enjoyed a delightful evening at the Adderbury village institute as guests of Sharp and Blunt. With Adderbury Morris also performing, the early part of the evening was a real celebration of the three unique traditions flourishing in our village. The three sides danced in turn, exhibiting a fascinating contrast in dancing styles, costume and repertoire. Perhaps the dance most associated with AVMM is Postman’s Knock and we gave an excellent performance of this dance which was enjoyed by all.
Aficionados of the Folk tradition would have appreciated seeing certain dances being performed in totally different ways: Roast Beef of Old England, Washing Day and Sweet Jenny Jones come to mind. Ryan selected and called our dances with his customary efficiency and diplomacy. On one occasion we did follow S&B’s eight woman Jockey to the Fair with our quite distinct two man double jig using the same tune. However, far from this causing offence, all sides present were keen to enjoy and show their appreciation for the various different interpretations of Cotswold Morris styles on view. AVMM concluded their dancing for the evening with the traditional Brighton Camp, featuring three generations of the Jordan family, emphasising both the family links that have run through the side for so many years as well as the success of our youth policy: with three schoolboys dancing for AVMM last night the future of the side should be more secure.
The final dance of the evening was inevitably Shepherd’s Hey played by an impressive band of musicians including our own Donald, together with about 60 dancers and guests concluding this part of the proceedings. Richard, Ryan and I slipped across the Green to The Coach and Horses for some much needed refreshment to discuss Morris matters, before returning to the Institute for a tasty feast provided by our hosts. Adderbury might be the only village in the country with three such varied and active Morris sides. We are very lucky to be able enjoy them on the Day of Dance and throughout each year as well as the other musical and cultural delights of this fine place. We are very grateful to Beth, Sheena and the rest of Sharp and Blunt for allowing us to share in this delightful celebration.
PS: Wednesday practices will commence again in the Tithe Barn on 22 February. We will start at 7pm to accommodate the school-age members, so should finish around 9pm. Do please bring with you any friends who might like a taster session.
Dancing the Adderbury tradition as recorded by Janet Blunt