Every Morris side needs a ‘stick master’ and AVMM has the best! David Snell writes:
Like a scene taken from Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Woodlanders’, on a breezy, bright mid-June evening, two AVMM men and a visiting New Zealander met with David Best of Barford St John in the bucolic setting of the meadows by the Barford bridge, where David very kindly offered us a pick of the best growth from the stocks of his pollarded willows. It was surprisingly tricky to find a straight length of 39 inches with just the right diameter, but after having demolished half of David’s row of willows, we came away with over a score of beauties.
The sticks will be stripped using a draw knife once owned by another Adderbury man, the late Arthur Spencer of The Parish; by next Spring they will be seasoned and will clash for the first time at the Day of Dance, when the cycle of the year turns again. Heartfelt thanks to David Best for providing us with a new stock!
On a warm evening in June all three Adderbury Morris sides decided to get together and celebrate our different traditions outside local pubs for no particular reason other than our shared love of dance and camaraderie. Adderbury Village turned up in good numbers and kicked off proceedings in front of a discerning crowd at The Bell. Sharp & Blunt and Adderbury Morris began their evening later at The Red Lion and then joined us outside The Coach and Horses by the village green, before all three sides returned to The Bell to dance until dusk. AVMM were pleased to have the opportunity to showcase many of the dances they plan to perform on their forthcoming summer tour of the Somme battlefields in July.
AVMM also attempted to extend their unofficial world record attempt for the most dancers to perform Brighton Camp (24 dancers supported by 5 musicians). We danced for well over two hours maintaining a high standard throughout and although our oldest dancer on the night was ten times as old as our youngest, all the side performed with the same youthful vigour!
An afternoon dancing for the senior citizens at Chacombe Park Nursing home was the latest AVMM performance. With the advancing age profile of most Morris sides we are particularly respectful of this group of Chacombe residents. However with Theo present we were able to show some real youthful dancing. It is purely coincidentally that he was then made the target for a firing squad of wet sponges ! No it was not the climax to shooting, this time, just one of the fetes sideshows. To the delight of every one he survived for the next dance.
It was a pleasure to be part of the fete and perform our dances for the large audience of residents and spectators who particularly applauded our eight dancers, two musicians and one horse version of Brighton Camp. I would write more, however ‘I must return to the girl I left behind me.’ ……….in Brighton.
Squire John plus Dorset Dave had the pleasure of welcoming the East Suffolk Morris Men (ESMM) from Ipswich to Adderbury. This was the first stop on the second full day of their 60th anniversary celebratory tour. ESMM tour organiser Mike Palmer informed us that instead of their normal spring trip to the continent they are touring the Cotswold area to dance the numerous local traditions.
Landlord Tony opened The Coach & Horses early to provide Wadworths refreshments, enabling them to kick off their morning performance with Black Joke and Lads a Bunchum, both done with an 8 man set.
They were then keen to involve Dave and John in the dancing, so our two AVMM stalwarts joined Beaux of London City and Princess Royal. Much swapping of Morris tales then took place over a few beers before ESMM reboarded their minibuses. Their plan was to move on to Ilmington, Moreton in Marsh, Longborough and Oddington before returning to base in Hook Norton, followed by more dance spots on Sunday.
John was particularly delighted to meet ESMM member Mike Garland who was 1988 Squire of the Morris Ring. Dave comments that ESMM are a friendly bunch of lads and it is to be hoped that we can get together with them again, either in Oxfordshire or Suffolk.
AVMM once again entertained the good folk of Wroxton at their Whitsun Fete. Our set was positioned between a dog show and a magician and so it is appropriate to say that our performance was both cute and magical.
The masses were regaled with an array of our unique dances. A particular highlight was the firing squad at the end of ‘Shooting’ – ending the life of one of our musicians . The bad news is that he was revived by the kiss of a fair damsel in time to play Brighton Camp. Dancing, joy and mirth. What more can you want? Oh yes, nice weather, no rain, a dog show and a magician.
AVMM were happy to participate for the first time in the Banbury Friendship Festival (AVMM is also the first Morris side to dance at this festival). The event is an annual celebration of friendship and the cultural diversity that exists in this part of north Oxfordshire. On a very hot afternoon in Banbury market place, nine dancers and two musicians entertained a decent crowd during a 45 minute set which featured a broad selection of our dances.
The level of performance remained high despite the heat – although the call to dance “Black Joke” seemed to be greeted with slightly less enthusiasm by our dancers than is usual! Our last dance and audience participation number, “Brighton Camp” introduced four enthusiastic newcomers to the delights of Cotswold Morris and the close attention of Charlie the Horse. I hope that some, at least, will wish to learn more about AVMM’s unique style and get in touch about attending future practices.
Seven regular dancers, Charlie the horse and two musicians received a warm welcome as we entertained a large and enthusiastic crowd at Kineton Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning 12 May. The weather was perfect for Morris dancing and AVMM danced to a very high standard showcasing the full range of our repertoire in a 45 minute set which included Postman’s Knock, Beaux of London City and Washing Day. Several visitors to the market were introduced to the joys of dancing with AVMM and after a brief period of intensive coaching, joined us in demonstrations of Shepherd’s Hey and a ten man Brighton Camp.
Children from the local Primary school then performed a couple of Maypole dances before we concluded this lovely event with a two man Shepherd’s by Squire John and his grandson Dylan followed by a four man Princess Royal. We received plenty of positive feedback from the crowd with requests for our services at other events and enquiries from potential new members. I am very grateful to both our regular musicians Donald and Malcolm and to Dave R, Dylan, Ryan, Mark, Chris H and David who played and danced superbly. We declined an opportunity to dance the drinking jig (apple juice and cider donated by one of the market stalls) only because time did not permit it. But we sampled the product and very fine it was too. A very good morning’s work!
On bank holiday Monday 7 May, AVMM were invited to perform at the unique May Day celebrations held in the village of Preston on Stour, Warwickshire – for the first time. The May Queens procession was a highlight, being led by AVMM, followed by the May Queens entourage, the Lost village Morris and the masses of the village.
The village green, like no other, was resplendent with May decorations, including Her Majesties May Throne and enormous Maypole. Cries of ‘all hail the Queen of the May’ greeted her coronation, in front of the magnificent church of St Mary with it’s wonderful avenue of yew trees. Then AVMM performed an array of dances for an appreciative audience of people from Preston and the surrounding villages. They were later joined by the Lost village Morris for a traditional Princess Royal. Children’s games, tug of war and dancing around the Maypole all followed along with a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
It was a privilege to be part of such a joyous and none commercial community event. Truly a little piece of heaven in South Warwickshire.
Proceedings started at 10.30am in the graveyard of St Mary’s, Adderbury where the side honoured the contribution of Charlie Coleman, a survivor of the pre-World War One side, who was able to pass on memories of the Adderbury dances to Bryan Sheppard and Jim Plester founders of the revival side in the 1970s.
Dancing commenced in Church Lane and continued throughout the day at a number of pubs and landmarks around the village, including Lake House where the carers and residents enjoyed a performance of five of our dances. Although the weather wasn’t entirely hospitable, the day was a very happy and memorable one with an excellent turn out of dancers and a large crowd of friends, families and supporters, some of whom had travelled great distances to join us.
Many favourable comments were heard about the high standard of dancing. Tribute must be made to all those members who worked so hard during pre-season practices in The Tithe Barn and particularly to Dave Reed, who patiently passed on constructive tips on the dances to new recruits and more experienced dancers, all of whom are keen to improve the standard of our performances.
We were delighted to welcome our youngest new member, Xavier Peissel, just two weeks old, looking resplendent in new green baldricks (picture above in the front row). He later accompanied proud father Damien in our Drinking Jig outside The Bell. We welcomed some Morris dancers who had travelled down from Yorkshire and are fans of the Adderbury Village dances. With other invited guests, they made up a set of no less than 24 dancers for Brighton Camp. A fine lunch was provided by Tony at The Coach and Horses, where we danced and entertained the locals with the singing of Come Landlord Fill The Flowing Bowl.
A total of 52 dances were performed during the day covering our entire repertoire with two sets for The Happy Man and Postman’s Knock (twice) and three sets for a number of other dances. It was good to see Bill Plester come out of retirement to dance with son Tim at Le Hall Place, where we were provided with an excellent tea with a fine selection of cakes by our friends from Sharp and Blunt.
The day ended with all three local sides taking turns to dance outside The Bell and a final performance of Brighton Camp led by AVMM with guest dancers and musicians from the other sides joining our regular musicians Donald and Malcolm. Special mention must be given to Troy and Ryan who danced superbly, performing the very demanding jig Jockey To The Fair at each of the three local pubs, also to our youngest dancers, Alfie, Theo and Dylan who showed enormous enthusiasm and energy and were keen to tackle all of our dances and are surely the future of the side for many years to come. Thanks to all who made this such an enjoyable Day of Dance. It was certainly a day to remember.
Memorial Ceremony for Ronald Pargeter, St Mary’s Church, Adderbury, Friday 27th April at 6pm. Report by Squire John Ekers
Nine dancers and three musicians from the current side took part in a short ceremony to remember Pte Ronald Leonard Pargeter of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Charlotte of Wales’s (Royal Berks Regiment) 25 Brigade, the last of the pre-World War One side to be killed in action. He died on the Somme on this day 100 years ago.
Mike Dalchau, a member of the current side planted a wooden cross in the garden of remembrance of St Mary’s Adderbury. We then filed into the church where Chris Holmes read ‘Anthem For Doomed Youth’ by Wilfred Owen. Squire John Ekers read some words by Marianne Griffin and a wreath was laid by Ryan Jamniuk. After a pause for remembrance, Chris Garrett, Treasurer of the current side recited ‘Adderbury Sunrise’ by Richard Thompson. Those present then joined in the singing of ‘The Happy Man’ and a song composed by musician Donald McCombie, ‘They’ll Never Dance Again’. The ceremony concluded with a harmonica solo of the tune Shepherd’s Hey followed by the dance of that name in the aisle.
Dancing the Adderbury tradition as recorded by Janet Blunt