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

AVMM prepare for 2019 …

It is a little-known fact, outside of the esoteric world of Morris, that isosceles triangles, parallel figures of eight, diagonals and 6:8 timing are all mathematical applications involved in recreating the time-honoured tradition of Cotswold Morris dancing. The teachers and the students, the older and the younger members of Adderbury Village Morris Men, enjoy every minute of the weekly practice sessions when they meet in the 14th century tithe barn in the heart of Adderbury village, where for centuries the dancing men and women of the village have formed two lines, raised their willow sticks and commenced their ‘Foot-up’. The weekly practice sessions are open to all men and boys of any age, from 7 to 70, and are such fun that it’s a wonder the membership is not over-subscribed. If you, or someone you know would like to join our friendly bunch of dancers, you would be made very welcome. Just give our Squire a ring on 07586 261718 and pop along to Adderbury on a Wednesday evening at 8pm.

Young and old are welcome!

Adderbury Christmas Dance out, 27 December 18

AVMM’s final gathering of a very busy and successful 2018 took place on a mild and dry day in our home village. A surprisingly large crowd of friends, supporters and locals assembled outside The Bell at lunchtime to watch 14 dancers and a group of four musicians, including guest fiddler, Chris Leslie, perform a good selection of our dances. With so many dancers making themselves available, we were able to field two sets of six for most of our dances, with Theo and Dylan capering around and amusing the crowds on our hobby horses, Charlie and Percy.

Haste to the Wedding outside the Bell – all the dancers are airborne!

It was good to see various family members dancing together as well as old friends, relishing the chance to share in the seasonal goodwill and to dance, laugh and sing together as they have done in Adderbury at this time of year so many times in the past. We subsequently proceeded to The Coach and Horses where we were welcomed by landlord, Tony Watts before moving to a good pitch by the village green to complete an excellent afternoon of Cotswold Morris.

Haste to the Wedding outside the Coach & Horses

This was the final gathering of 2018. Practices for the 2019 season commence on Wednesday 20th February at 8pm in the Tithe Barn. As we are expecting several new recruits who hope to make the grade in time for the Day of Dance in late April, it is my hope that many experienced dancers will try to attend as many practice sessions as possible this Spring and that each will aim to bring along at least one potential new member.

Thank you for a great year!

Squire John

Story of the Dancer at Deddington CoE Primary School, 17 December 18

At 1.45pm on Monday 17th December, AVMM performed Donald’s ‘Story of the Dancer’ at Deddington Church of England Primary School. We were delighted by the welcome, attentiveness and responsiveness of around 200 children and their teachers. Donald had adapted ‘Story’ for our young audience who were seated on three sides of the hall. Our six dancers (John, David, Robin (up from Norfolk), Ryan (who had taken time off from work to join us), Pete and Richard) danced in the centre of the hall and together with Donald’s engaging narrative, held the attention of the entire group for our 65 minute presentation. As we have learnt from our prior school visits, Primary school children love to participate and a highlight of the afternoon was a mass Shepherd’s Hey – an amazing experience – around 220 of us dancing together, led by John and with the rest of us demonstrating the hand and leg movements to groups of children.

We should like to thank: Revd Annie Goldthorp, vicar of St. Peter and St. Paul’s and the Deddington Benefice (a Morris enthusiast who generously acted as our ‘agent’ and recommended us to the school), Judy Ward, Parish administrator, teacher Sally Barber (who has already asked us to perform at the school fete), all the other staff present, office manager Jenny Williams and headteacher Clive Evans. We really enjoyed our time with you and were impressed by the tremendous singing and dancing potential among all the children. Thank you!

Richard Teare