Christmas Dance Out, Coach and Horses, Adderbury, Tuesday 27th December 22

We assembled as usual, outside The Bell at 12.30pm for our traditional post-Christmas celebration of dance but as Nicola and Andy had decided to open a little later in the day, we decamped to The Coach and Horses, where landlord, Tony, was delighted to welcome us.

With musicians Donald and Malcolm setting a brisk tempo, our dancers warmed up rather more quickly than the large crowd of family, friends and interested passers-by who stayed to watch our antics. Over the next hour or so, a group ranging from six to 70 years of age performed 11 of our core dances with barely a false step, despite some members being a little rusty and at least one suffering the effects of over-consumption of Wadworth’s Old Timer (5.8%).

It was good to have two dancers of primary school age, including Dylan’s young brother Rhys who performed his first Shepherd’s Hey dance in public. More importantly for the future of the side is the fact that two of our regular dancers, Theo and Dylan, are still at The Warriner School and they certainly danced as well as anyone yesterday. In particular, they impressed in Postman’s Knock and in Jockey to the Fair, where three pairs of dancers attempt to out caper each other in this demanding double jig. Our traditional audience participation invitation dance, Shepherd’s Hey Jig drew some novices from the crowd as well as more experienced performers to make up a cheery throng of 16 dancers.

Post-Christmas dance out, Coach and Horses, Adderbury, 27 December 22

As tradition demands, we concluded proceedings with Brighton Camp, featuring whistle player Malcolm as a dancer, before heading home to warm fires and turkey sandwiches.

On reflection, what brings us together on occasions like the post-Christmas dance out is a shared love of music, laughter, dance, song, fellowship and a unique tradition. Long may this continue. Morris On!

A Happy New Year to all our friends.

John Ekers

Adderbury Christmas Tree Festival, 4 December 2022

Seasons greetings one and all! It’s the most wonderful time of the year – when Adderbury Village Morris Men have a chance to dance in St. Mary’s Church as part of the Adderbury Christmas Tree Festival. A beautiful plethora of trees decorated by various clubs and organisations throughout the village (including ours) were on display and were the perfect accompaniment for a spot of afternoon dancing.

Facing the Altar we warmed up with Sweet Jenny Jones and Haste to the Wedding. It was only appropriate to then dance the Bluebells of Scotland, which the church bells ring out every Wednesday. We finished our first half an hour with Stourton Wake, and truly appreciated the amazing acoustics of the Church. It was incredible to hear our sticking, singing and jingling (the last of which is actually pretty seasonally appropriate) echo throughout the church.

AVMM at the Adderbury Christmas Tree Festival

A brief coffee break and time to admire all the excellently decorated trees was followed by the Beaux of London City – we promise we were as careful as possible to not damage the floor! Our youngest and most energetic dancer, Dylan, asked that we all wore off those seasonal mince pies with Black Joke. I clearly am a little rusty, as I needed to take a moment to recover, before dancing Lads a’ Buncham and a six man Shepherds’ Hey Jig. Our final dance of the hour was Brighton Camp and with eight dancers we were tight for space in the narrow aisles but we managed it brilliantly.

Thank you to everyone who came to make the afternoon possible, and huge thank you to the team at St. Mary’s Church for not only putting on such a lovely charitable event, but also having us along to entertain the visitors.

Happy Holidays to everyone and we hope to see you all again very soon!

Story of the Dancer, St Gregory’s Church, Tredington, Warwickshire, 12 November 22

 

On Saturday 12 November, we performed The Story of the Dancer at St Gregory’s church, Tredington, Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire. Our performance coincided with a farewell event for the Reverend Stephen Fletcher, formerly vicar of St Mary’s Adderbury and his wife Jean who had been serving in Tredington. Given the farewell to Stephen and Jean and the proximity to Remembrance Sunday, we performed this powerful story to our largest ever audience.

Performing the Story of the Dancer by Donald McCombie. Photo by Hannah Ekers

The Story of the Dancer is a fictitious tale based on a factual First World War event – the Christmas truce that took place in December, 1914. The story is dedicated to those who lost their lives in conflict and, in that context, it recalls the fact that many Morris dancers perished and this nearly led to the end of the tradition. The story focuses on how singing briefly stopped a war and united soldiers from both sides in a shared vision of peace. The story is also about a love of Morris dancing and the final part describes the revival of the tradition by a new generation of young dancers in the 1970s.

Photo by Hannah Ekers

Our thanks to: Donald who wrote and narrated the story; Donald and Nigel who played for us and to dancers: John, Troy, Chris, Richard, Theo, Dylan, Owen and Luke. We should also like to thank Charlotte for playing ‘The Last Post’ so beautifully, Hannah for her evocative photos and the Rector, the Reverend Canon Richard Cooke who hosted the event.

Banbury dance out (formerly the Hobby Horse Festival) 8 October 22

After finding that there was no Hobby Horse Festival taking place this year, we decided as a group to dance in and around Banbury on Saturday 8th October, and provide the shoppers with some much-needed entertainment. Assembling at the White Horse in Banbury, we made our way down to Banbury Cross to get warm by dancing in the beautiful autumn day sunshine. Entertaining patrons of the nearby café, we started with Sweet Jenny Jones, Haste to the Wedding (which was a bit muddled due to my calling), Constant Billy and Stourton Wake. Making a point to keep things as horse related as possible, we crossed over and posed in front of the Fine Lady statue for photos before heading down through the town with flags waving.

Team photo – Photo by Hannah

Arriving at the bottom of the High Street near White Lion Walk, we continued to entertain with Postman’s Knock (brilliantly called by John), Hail to the Chief and Bluebells of Scotland, which was sounding particularly clear due to the acoustics created by the tall surrounding buildings. Having noticed quite a crowd was gathering, we decided to perform Shepherd’s Hey followed by the audience being asked to participate in a subsequent Shepherd’s Hey Jig. It was wonderful to see everyone having fun and joining in. I think it’s one of the first times I’ve seen a mother join in whilst carrying her son, but they both still did a splendid job and it was great to see them take part.

We moved on to the Band Stand, which had sort of become part of the regular route we take throughout town, and briefly danced Lads a Buncham (nearly losing my hat in the process), and Black Joke called superbly by our Treasurer Troy. It was very kind of people to stop and allow the team and our own Hobby Horses – Charlie and Percy – to cross the road. Although perhaps as they are black and white, they were mistaken for a Zebra crossing…

David and Troy find an obvious spot for a photo! Photo by Hannah.

Our penultimate stop was the Marketplace just at the bottom of Parson’s Street, and we thoroughly enjoyed singing and dancing for the crowds. We danced the Roast Beef of Old England (sadly we had no Vegetarian option which meant our Bagman David was unable to take part based on his culinary inclination), Old Woman Tossed Up in a Blanket, Washing Day and Princess Royal with eight dancers. Noticing the large flocks of pigeons circling the market, we decided it was time to do the stores a favour, and scare them off with our Shooting dance, the Beaux of London City. Following a moment’s break, we then danced Happy Man, after which we assembled six able and willing dancers to perform Jockey to the Fair with three pairs. Before moving on we concluded with a brilliantly danced Brighton Camp for ten dancers. Prior to settling down for a very well-deserved lunch, outside the Olde Reindeer we danced Sweet Jenny Jones and Shepherd’s Hey just one last time and provided an end to a very pleasant morning excursion.

A special thank you to Taryn who had come expecting the Hobby Horse Festival, but followed us all morning taking photos and listening to the tales of our two horses. Speaking of which, the two hobby horses are actually named after two members of the side. Charlie is named after Charlie Coleman, the last surviving member of the 1908 side after having fought in World War One, and the person to hand down the tradition to the new side formed in the mid-1970s. Percy is named after another member of the side from 1908, Percy Pargeter, who sadly didn’t make it back from the war and his brother Ronald was also killed in the fighting. Their names are inscribed in Pozieres cemetery and on the Thiepval Monument. We love bringing the horses out for people to see, and they make a brilliant addition to our side.

Banbury has been one of my favourite dance outs over the past few years, and I am happy that we had such a good team of dancers out with us to make it possible. Thank you to all dancers and supporters who attended, especially our youngest dancers Owen, Luke and Alfie who were putting the older dancers to shame even after two hours! Thank you as well to your mums who followed us throughout the morning and cheered us all on! You all did a phenomenal job of showing off what we do to the people of Banbury town centre, as reflected in Hannah’s fantastic photographs. It’s been great to dance out with everyone once again, and we’ll hope to see you again soon.

Squire Ryan

Great Rollright Autumn Fair, 10 September 22

The Great Rollright Autumn Fair is hosted each year by the Friends of Great Rollright School. It is the main annual fund raising event for the school and this year the event began with a reflection and thanksgiving led by the vicar and council officials for the life of Queen Elizabeth II. The AVMM side all wore black arm ties and prior to dancing, our Treasurer Troy Daniels added our tribute to HM the Queen.

The event had many stalls and attractions for children and there were several hundred people in the field where we danced two sets, including Shepherd’s Hey with audience participation. The lady dancing opposite Richard danced every step perfectly – she said she’d learnt the dance as a university student many years before!

The very young and some slightly older dancers enjoying the Shepherd’s Hey. Photo by Hannah.

We were thrilled that our former Squire, David Reed and his wife Chris were able to join us for his final public dance out with us prior to moving to Wales. David has been a constant source of encouragement to all of us and has patiently helped to teach a number of us to dance over the past few years. He is a mine of information too about all things Morris-related and we shall miss him.

Left to right (back row): John, Richard, David, Donald, David Reed, Chris and Troy. Front row: Owen, Luke and Chris. Photo by Hannah.

We should like to thank the Friends of Great Rollright School and in particular, Charlotte and Chris for inviting us to dance and for their hospitality; our friendly audience and Hannah Ekers for taking some lovely photos.

Wroxton Fete, 6 August 22

A glorious Saturday was the perfect setting for our first dance out in almost 6 weeks. Wroxton Fete had invited us to entertain it’s visitors over the course of lunchtime in ideal weather conditions. We started with Sweet Jenny Jones and Haste to the Wedding, in which it was clear to see that the break in dancing events had certainly not diminished our quality as everyone danced brilliantly. Following on from that we shot some birds out of the sky with the Beaux of London City followed by Hail to the Chief and Lads a’Buncham to finish our first set.

After wandering around the fete to take in the sunshine (or running to find water and shade), we returned for a second set. We started with the Bluebells of Scotland and went on to perform Stourton Wake, Washing Day and Shepherds Hey both as a set and with the audience. We concluded with Postman’s Knock and Brighton Camp whilst singing and sticking for the whole fete to hear!

It was so much fun and great to see everyone dancing, singing and enjoying the good weather. Thanks to everyone who came, with a special well done to our youngest dancer Luke who did brilliantly throughout the afternoon. In a few years he’ll be tall enough to not have to stretch to during the overhead portion of Lads a’Buncham!! Thank you to the organisers for inviting us, to Hannah for the lovely photos and Donald for playing loudly and clearly over the noise of the fete and keeping us in time during Brighton Camp!

Squire Ryan

In memory of John, 28 July 2022

We don’t often pay tribute to our spectators and our supporters on this website so let me change that. They are the people that matter the most. It is with sadness that we announce the death of one of our long-time supporters, John Bush, from Stratford upon Avon. 

John was usually seated outside the Bell on the Day of Dance taking in the ambience of the day, the beer and enjoying the dancing of all the Adderbury sides. He loved watching our drinking jig and all the antics that accompany it.

John was also an obsessive follower of Fairport Convention and Richard Thompson – a man of great taste then and many years ago, he was a member of Shakespeare Morris. 

I was honoured to be asked to sing the Adderbury Village Morris version of The Happy Man at John’s cremation. The cremation was conducted by our good friend,  Rev Stephen Fletcher (once of Adderbury) and also a good friend to John.

Rest in Peace John.

Donations to Shakespeare Hospice.

Donald McCombie 

Goodbye Chris and Sandra! 24 June 22

After eight years of running a hub of Morris Dancing in the village of Adderbury, the resident landlord and landlady Chris and Sandra are sadly retiring from The Bell Inn. We thought it was only fair to make a song and dance of it, so decided to gather on Friday evening to wish them all the best. In typical Morris fashion, after a week of fair weather it was a cloudy and blustery evening outside the Bell. Undeterred, our team and loyal supporters had come out to help wish farewell to Chris and Sandra. We started with the usual Sweet Jenny Jones and Haste to the Wedding (Flasher), followed by the Beaux of London City (Shooting), in which our youngest member Luke performed brilliantly – even better than I did at some points!

From one of our newest members to one of the longest serving – it’s at this point that I need to make special mention of Former Squire David Reed, known affectionately as ‘Dorset Dave’ and his wife Chris who had made the effort to join us. After taking the decision to move to Wales to be closer to family, this may be one of the final times we get to see them. As a token of our appreciation for everything that Dave has done for the team over the years, we presented a photobook which included memories of his time with us. There’ll be a much more in-depth thank you at a later stage, but this gift hopefully goes some way to showing how much we’ve appreciated the knowledge and wisdom passed down over the years.

Former Squire Dave Reed (Dorset Dave) front left, dancing with Ryan and next to Luke, our youngest dancer. Photo courtesy of Hannah.

After Stourton Wake, I nipped into the pub for some refreshments and I could hear the Postman’s Knock being called outside by Troy. Having fetched a refreshing lemonade, it was three pairs for Jockey to the Fair and me praying the bubbly lemonade would stay down! Of course, being a professional, all was well and John, Dylan, Troy, Owen, David and I put on a good performance despite the sloped nature of the road. At this point we invited Chris to take a quick break outside the pub to listen to our serenade of ‘Come Landlord fill the Flowing Bowl’. A song which we only pull out for very special occasions! We did offer to sing inside the pub, but for some reason Chris didn’t want a load of rowdy Morris Men with large sticks in his establishment…

Landlord Chris Shallis demonstrates his sticking skills dancing with former Squire John. Photo courtesy of Hannah.

We danced Constant Billy as per the request of our Bagman David (who had squeezed in a dance-out and a theatre trip in one evening), and it was at this point we decided to bring in the children watching and do our obligatory Shepherd’s Hey Jig. I could definitely see a lot of prospective future members for the side which is always encouraging. We began winding down with the Bluebells of Scotland, Old Woman Tossed up in a Blanket, Lads a Buncham and Hail to the Chief, and then dragged Chris away from his bar once again to dance Brighton Camp with the signed stick which we presented to him. I would say that Morris men were impacting his usual business focus, but I’m sure we made up for any distractions with our own drink orders. The coats were coming on, the clouds had rolled in and at that point it was time to draw things to a close.

Thank you to everyone who came, Donald for the music and Hannah and Dorset Dave for the photos. Really though, this thank you section needs to be for Chris and Sandra who have done so much for all Morris sides in the past eight years of running the Bell. Thank you for the pints of Hooky, lemonade, Coke and water, a place to relax post practice and the setting for our AGMs. You’ve been contributing to the side long before I even knew it existed and you truly will be missed by the team in a way that words cannot fully express. We wish you both all the best for the future, and hope to still see you around and about in the village soon. Perhaps with some free time on your hands Chris, you may consider taking up a hobby. I hear dancing is good for your physical and mental health…

Squire Ryan

Fringford Beer Festival, 18 June 2022

The Fringford Beer Festival has become a mainstay of our dancing calendar and after a 2-year COVID-imposed hiatus, the side was once again looking forward to entertaining the Fringford crowds. (The fact that we are paid in beer tokens has nothing to do with it. We swear!).  After a week of sweltering temperatures, the weather had sadly turned as eight dancers and our musician Donald assembled in drizzly conditions.  With Squire Ryan being unavailable, it was down to past Squire John and Side Treasurer Troy to call the dances. With a precipitous break in the weather and a curious crowd coalescing, we started with our traditional opening dances of ‘Sweet Jenny Jones’ and ‘Haste to the Wedding’.  These were quickly followed by ‘Constant Billy’.  After a quick break to clear some confused worms from the grass dancing surface, no doubt attracted by the rhythmical percussiveness of the dancing, we proceeded to dance ‘Hail to the Chief’ and ‘Washing Day’.  The Fringford audience were clearly enjoying the display of traditional Cotswold Morris and so we continued with a performance of ‘Shepherds Hey’, following which we invited members of the audience to join us in an abridged version of the dance.  This opportunity to share our tradition has become a regular and much enjoyed feature in our dance sets.  Our final dance of this set featured the first full dance by our youngest and newest dancer Luke (aged 5), dancing a perfect ‘Beaux of London City’ (Shooting) to the delight of the crowd and his fellow dancers.  

Audience participation time with lots of youngsters – including a one-year old and mother! Photo by Hannah.

After a short interval, during which we were able to sample some of the many fine ciders, ales and porters available at the festival, we were back in action.  Our second set commenced with something of a historic moment for the side: Namely, ‘Lads a Bunchum’ being performed entirely by family members of ex-Squire John.  Not since William Walton’s family danced in Adderbury in the late 19th Century has a side been comprised entirely of members of the same family.  Additionally, and in keeping with the side’s goal of sustaining the tradition through teaching the next generation of dancers, three of the side were under the age of 12!  This historic moment was followed by performances of ‘Old Woman Tossed Up in a Blanket’ and ‘Postman’s Knock’ featuring young Luke’s 3rd dance for the day.  A somewhat chaotic ‘Princess Royal’ for 8 dancers followed with dancers being distracted by dropped hankies, some errant calling and the reappearance of the worms who were possibly massing for a counter-attack.  However, we quickly recovered to host another superb audience participation in ‘Shepherd’s Hey’.  With the weather starting to turn and the rain setting in, we performed ‘Bluebells of Scotland’ and ‘Stourton Wake’ before finishing with our traditional final dance of ‘Brighton Camp’.

Brighton Camp to end – then it’s back to the beer tent (shown in the background). Photo by Hannah.

We thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share our Morris tradition with all, and the many positive comments – and even membership enquiries – received afterwards were testament to the Fringford audience’s enjoyment of our dancing.  Many thanks go to the organisers of the festival for inviting us back, the dancers who turned out, Hannah for the photographs and as always, to Donald for the music.

Treasurer Troy

Chris & Charlotte Gasson’s Wedding Party, Saturday 11 June 22

A glorious Saturday in June was the ideal backdrop for us dancing at Chris and Charlotte Gasson’s Wedding Party at their scenic Coldharbour Farm in West Oxfordshire, to provide some entertainment for their guests. Once we decided on which way to dance in Chris’ yard, we started with Sweet Jenny Jones and Haste to the Wedding. Amongst other dances we notably had some audience participation as part of a Shepherd’s Hey Jig, with many of the younger party guests having a go at our tradition (though sadly some lived a little too far away to perhaps be future members). Former Squire John adds: It was a challenge trying to identify some of the bearded middle aged guests who claimed to be former pupils of mine. I assumed they were telling the truth as they recalled details of Biology practicals I did with them that wouldn’t be allowed today. At least one of these expressed serious interest in joining AVMM. Later, some members of the side had to leave the celebration to spend the latter part of the evening playing at a ceilidh in Preston-on-Stour, where we also taught the audience the Shepherds’ Hey Jig and  demonstrated Princess Royal. We never stop sharing the joy!

Congratulations Charlotte and Chris! Photo by Hannah

After rounding things out with an eight man Brighton Camp, we took a quick photo opportunity in front of Chris & Charlotte’s Hay pyramid. Donald, who had taken the time out of his busy weekend to play for us, sadly had to head off, but John stepped in and we finished out the afternoon with an extra encore of Washing Day (on a very high spin cycle), Bluebells of Scotland and Sweet Jenny Jones.

Charlotte, Chris and his Morris family! Photo by Hannah

Thank you to everyone in the side, along with our supporters, who came and performed in the gorgeous afternoon sun, and to Donald and John for supplying the ever essential music. A special thanks though has to go to Chris. As one of the newer members of the side, Chris has a lot in life to juggle including a family, farm and veterinary occupation, but he has made time for almost every event and practice since he first joined. It was an absolutely fantastic opportunity to show our appreciation for all that hard work and commitment. Chris and Charlotte; we were grateful for you keeping us fuelled up on Beer, Pimms and Ice Cream, and we wish you both all the best for the future and thank you once again for inviting us to perform!

Squire Ryan