BB Monthly Reports - 2001


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Monthly reports from the year 2001

So, the 2001 season is off and running (even if Berkshire Bedlam aren't) with 2 events in April and several more in May.
The first event of the season, as is traditional, was the dance out at the Queens Oak, Finchampstead, on Thurs 26 April, which featured flawless debuts from Sue and Tim (but really, if you want to fit better with the rest of the side, you'll have to make more mistakes).
2 days after this, on Sat 28, was Lee and Linda's wedding, a fabulous affair in the lavish setting of Easthampstead Park, Wokingham. They proved more than generous hosts for the day, laying on copious quantities of food and drink, and entertainment including the Old Rope String Band and an evening ceilidh featuring Token Women.  Berkshire Bedlam's main contribution to the day was to get through as much of the food and drink as possible, but also to perform a dance set in the afternoon along with Jackstraws and Seven Champions. A particular highlight was Lee and best man Jerry in full regalia (i.e. frock coats) performing a 2 man jig 'Arse about Face' (that's the name of the jig, not how they finished up). Later on, in the ceilidh interval,  BB performed the Cockney dance, and with a bit more practice may get that Cockney reel of death right one day.....

After our very different start to the season at Lee and Linda's Day of Dance in April, May was down to business.
First was a day at Hastings Jack-in-the-Green on Sat 5th, which started with Shooting at Winkle Island (well, not literally you understand). This was our second appearance at Hastings, and once again we enjoyed the informality of the day, even if Hammersmith did make it difficult to do our Mazurka, normally done without sticks or hankies, by continually feeding us things to hold (made the hand clapping sequences very tricky). Later on in the day we went up to the newly renovated and reopened pier where Schroedingers Hat/Cat, our new metaphysical dance, got its first proper public airing. And left everyone suitably baffled. Finally a cracking ceilidh with the Bismarcks, where Gareth and Eddie glistened all night long.

 Next up was a simply wonderful weekend in North Yorkshire at the Betty Luptons Laidle Laikers Weekend of Dance, hosted by Betty Luptons, with guests on Saturday Ripon City and Short Circuit, and on Sunday the Flag and Bone Gang, though we couldn't help noticing Betty's, Ripon and Flag and Bone members kept looking suspiciously alike.
Anyway they were great hosts for the weekend, laid on some excellent dance spots in Harrogate on Saturday and Knaresborough on Sunday, and gave us the surreal experience of a 'Sound of Music' party evening on the Saturday night with Nazi officers, cross dressed nuns, the entire costumed cast of do-ray-me-fah-so-la-tee, most of BB in Alpine-y type costume with appalling suitable green Tyrolean hats with white feathers, and featuring the unique sing-a-longa-Sounda-Music karaoke experience, once they got the subtitles working on the DVD. There were also a range of guest spots, into which our own offerings of the Von Krapp family and Schwarzkopf blended suitably tastelessly. 

Our von Krapps, which those on the inside would say looked suspiciously like our Cockney dance but with less 'gertchas' and more 'sieg heiling', introduced the roguish Colonel Lee von Krapp, with his delightful Krapp children including Lotza, Schlipon, Mustafa, and the boy-named-Sue, plus of course the lovely Paula, mother of all Krapps (and didn't she just revel in the role).
Schwarzkopf also went down a storm, despite the problems of the CD player jumping at critical moments when bouncing up and down on the wooden floor (first time round, Rob's triumphant final somersault just before the end caused the music to go back to the start). There were also some games laid on including 'guess the caption' competitions for stills from the Sound of Music DVD (our favourite : caption for a line of serious looking nuns standing high up on a balcony : "and if one black nun should accidentally fall...").
Anyway, well done B.Ls, thanks for looking after your soft southerner guests so well, and thanks for all the sandwiches and chips which appeared every time we stood still. And thanks for the glorious sunshine throughout the weekend - a welcome bonus!

The following Saturday saw us at the Rogue Day of Dance in Oxford, with Rogue, Jabberwocky, Loose Women, and Mabel Gubbins. After dancing in central Oxford in the morning, we took a boat trip down the Thames to the Kings Arms at Sandford Lock, where Simon endeared himself to Jameson with a particularly brotherly knee in the thigh during the fighting sequence in Albemarle's Hop. Another excellent day, even if Jameson has a limp for the rest of the summer.

The final May event was an evening at the Cricketers, Hartley Wintney, with Jackstraws. One of the reasons for choosing the location was its location, 300 yards away from our the house of Jane, our fiddle player - who was unfortunately in Australia for this particular evening. Anyway the evening was fine, Jackstraws provided good dancing and good company, and Jameson and Simon performed a spirited 'As the Tide was Flowing' without managing to damage each other this time....


June's first gig was a reappearance at one of the true Morris occasions of the year, the Kirtlington Lamb Ale. This was a chance to do possibly our only procession of 2001, an opportunity eagerly seized by .. er, well, no-one actually, though Paul had the audience gasping as he dropped out half way round ("its all right lads, its just me leg / knee / thigh / hairdo").  Dancing at the Village Hall with Isis, we were happy to help out when they asked for "3 men with hats for the next dance - well actually all we want is the hats" - though they were less keen when for our next dance we asked for "3 ladies in skirts - well actually ...". At the Oxford Arms, Jane had the chance to play for 'Fairies' while Chris Leslie, the renowned Fairport Convention fiddler, was in the audience ("nicely played" he observed to her afterwards, thereby causing her to swoon sycophantically for the rest of the day).

For our show spot, we chose to do 'Shooting' again, hoping no-one would remember we had done this as a Kirtlington show spot a mere 4 years earlier, the occasion of Gareth's famous mumbled introduction, totally unintelligible apart from the words 'Michael Portillo', after which he was barred from further introductions for the team. This time it went fine again, Rob's stick cleared the telephone wires, and everyone went home happy, particularly Jane who had persuaded Chris Leslie to pose with us for a photo on some pretext.

Next stop was a fairly surreal evening at the Red Lion at Avebury, to celebrate the summer solstice, with our guests for the evening Holt Morris. We had done a similar evening some 5 years earlier, when we had invited Old Spot to join us and they had pulled out at the last minute, leaving us to entertain a suitably solsticey audience of nutters, headcases, and King Arthur. This time much the same audience was present, but we finished up having a great evening, partly because the real headbangers had all gone off to the stones to celebrate something, (perhaps the world being in total harmony man), leaving some reasonably normal people to watch, but also because Holt Morris were great company for the evening, with some excellent dances, friendly banter between the sides, and a lively music session in the pub until closing time. Apart from having several good musicians, Holt also have a repertoire of acappella classics including such gems as 'The Young Ones'. Jameson kept up the honour of BB with the first outing for 18 months of 'When Father Painted the Parlour', but overall we had to concede their vocal repertoire was wider and better sung than ours. Our dancing though generally went well though we had a small taste of excitement during Shooting (quite rightly known as 'our most dangerous dance') when Lee could only get his fingers to one of Rob's more energetic stick throws, off which they bounced onto a small girl sitting on the bonnet of her dad's van. Fortunately, neither the van nor the small girl seemed too dented, and we nonchalantly carried on as if such an occurrence is a regular part of our dances ... 

Our last June event was the annual Dorset tour, this year excellently organised by Jerry, especially as it coincided with what turned out to be the hottest weekend of the year. The tour proper started on Saturday morning with a steam train ride from Norden into Swanage, followed by dancing in Swanage on the seafront, in the fishy square, and at the end of the otherwise deserted pier, where Shooting resonated nicely on the wooden slats though the wind interfered a bit with the stick catching (shouldn't have had the beans earlier). On the train on the way back we managed to do the Mazurka in the guards van (shame we had to chuck off the guard and all the luggage first) before stopping off at Corfe Castle where outside the castle entrance we got our most receptive audience of the day, with the music and stick clashing reverberating powerfully around the enclosed space we were dancing in.

Saturday evening as usual saw us dancing outside the Red Lion at Cerne Abbas, preceded by the annual walk down the hill from the camp site for those hardy souls camping this year at the Giants Head camp site (the wimps in B+B don't know what they're missing). After the evening dancing and eating, Jerry retired early due to overheating, Jameson and guest Jenny disappeared off to a French dance on the other side of Dorchester, and only a few were left to undertake the long trek back up the hill to the campsite - in the dark - through the cows - through the cowpats (hmmm, maybe next year we'll join the wimps in B+B).

On Sunday, a gloriously hot day, we met up at the Square and Compass at Worth Matravers for our final dancing of the tour. Purely by chance we finished up sharing spots with a 4 piece folksy type band from Worcester who played a great variety of tunes ranging from Irish to American via several other influences, including one particularly well played number introduced as 'A rebel song' though this turned out to be Cockney Rebel's song, Mr. Soft. Our dancing was once again generally OK, despite the sloping and potholed surface, though this time in Shooting, Rob's stick eluded Simon's outstretched fingers, bounced off the ground, and hit an innocent looking dog who had been lying stretched out in the sun with its eyes closed - well, until the moment of impact anyway after which it hastily wandered off. Still, at least it got the audience's attention. Overall an excellent Dorset tour, good dancing, great weather, really nice venues, and the dog looked alright again later on - so, a great success! 


The 7th and 8th of July saw us in Bristol for Pigsty's annual weekend of dance, along with their other guests Harberton Navy, Glory of the West, and Liddington Hall. After starting 'under the sails' near the town centre, we moved to a nearby pub where a shaven headed, less than appreciative young local threw a custard slice at Jameson from a passing car. Now, the question occurred to us all - how come this probably otherwise fair-minded citizen had a custard slice ready to throw at exactly that moment? Could it be he makes a habit of visiting his local patisserie every Saturday morning and stocking up for the day ready for whatever traditional British sights he may choose to take offence at? Perhaps he has a range of cake shop delicacies to hand and chooses his particular weapon according to how much he feels his senses have been assaulted? Had he deemed Jameson, our twinkle toed superstar, to be even more offensive to his vision, could a whole cream cake broadside have been delivered, perhaps with a particularly tough rock cake for afters? Anyway, while we were pondering these and deeper issues, a seagull swooped down and made off with the aforementioned custard slice, thereby making it hard for us to test it for fingerprints or DNA. So our culprit escaped scot free for now - but if anyone reading this knows of a young offender in the Bristol area with a weakness for the cakes and fancies shelves at the local bakers, let us know. Meanwhile, please don't have nightmares.
After this, we moved to the covered Market Place for a dance and lunch, and in the afternoon to the @Bristol exhibition area near the former docks. Just outside one of the exhibition halls was a shallow paddling pool - so cue Soaking the Monkey, BB style. Bit damp, but had to be done.
In the evening there was a ceilidh with the Bismarcks, as usual featuring Gareth ( Mr. Plinky-Plonky himself) on keyboards. We had been asked to do a spot, so we reprised Jake the Peg, our spot from the 2000 Bunfight featuring a 3 legged version of Albemarle's Hop, with the tune being picked out by Jane on stylophone, accompanied by Sue and Bob on wobbleboard and claves. The dancers featured a range of dodgy long coats and grimy macs, with Rolf glasses and drawn on beards (where needed) while the musicians went all Australian too (we'd never realised how good Sue looks in a beard before now). The spot appeared to go down well with the audience, even though they seemed disappointed it hadn't involved taking our clothes off as they had been led to believe BB spots normally do.
Sunday saw a slightly depleted team at the Boars Head at Aust, but those present carried on regardless with an improvised repertoire of less-than-6-person dances. Overall a very enjoyable weekend.

The next event was the following Saturday when we joined part of Redbornstoke's 25th anniversary weekend. There were altogether 22 fine teams attending, necessitating 6 different bus tours. The day started off with all the teams going to Bedford on our respective buses for a mass photo - in the drizzle, unfortunately, followed by splitting into our various groups to do one dance in the slightly heavier drizzle, after which we decided to cut our losses and head to the nearest pub. It was by then 10.50 a.m. - but the pub didn't open till 11.00 a.m. However, imagine the landlady's look of sheer delight as she opened up on the dot of 11 to find a group of 30 bedraggled morris men and women on her doorstep, especially when she was on her own. After this it was back on the bus to a countryish pub for lunch, where the weather eventually cleared and allowed one dance from each side (us, Bedfordshire Lace, Mad Jacks Men and Mad Jacks Women), followed by another bus trip to that Mecca of the Home Counties, the Hat Capital of the World, Luton. There we danced in the town centre, near a visiting French Market, where we could swap each other's culture before returning to Ampthill on the bus. The evening featured cocktails, for which those of us left dressed accordingly, followed by a ceilidh from the RBB band. Overall a good day despite the weather - though just not quite enough bus for our taste.

The last event of July was a night out on 18th July at the Cricketers, Littlewick Green, as guests of Windsor Morris. Once again we severely tested the rule that 'it never rains on Berkshire Bedlam', but the rule just about held on the basis that we didn't dance until the rain stopped. For the first and last time of the year BB had a full side present in all its glory, and it was interesting to see just how well everyone was remembering the dances at this stage of the season. Still, it proved we can all ad lib with the best of them. We had a good evening with Windsor, our hostesses with the mostesses, and only interfered with one or two of their dances this time. Our standards must be slipping.


Although there were no events involving the whole side in August, there was one memorable event which took place for some of them. Here is a (fairly straight) account of it !

On 5 Aug 2001, dancers Simon and Jameson, with musician Gareth on melodeon, were well deserved winners of  the inaugural Sidmouth double jig competition, held in front of a full house at the Manor Pavilion Theatre at the world renowned Sidmouth International Festival. Dancing a traditional Fieldtown jig, to the tune of 'Blue Eyed Stranger', they put on a spirited performance which thoroughly entertained the audience and distinguished panel of judges. Apart from the technical ability they both displayed, and the quality of the melodeon playing from Gareth, an important feature of their dance was their interaction throughout with each other, and also with the audience, for which they received a long and warm ovation at the end.

This is the second time Jameson has been a Sidmouth winner, having won the solo jig competition in 1996 with Jane as musician, but for brother Simon it was the first time he had taken part in such an event. The overall quality of the competition was very high, and there were also excellent performances from Sue Graham & Brian Mander (musician Mark Rogers) who finished 3rd, and from Simon Pipe and Mikey Radford (musician Cat Radford) who came 2nd. However the judges were unanimous in awarding the trophy to Simon, Jameson and Gareth for their combination of technical ability, musicianship, and audience appeal. 

Having won the competition in 2001, Simon and Jameson are not allowed to enter the following year's competition. However they will be returning in 2002 to perform, as the previous year's winners traditionally perform their winning jig at the start of the following year's competition. If you missed it this year, make sure you are there to see it again on Sunday 4 August 2002 !


Following a quiet month for the side in August, except for Jameson and Simon's notable Sidmouth Double Jig success, the side were next in action on a Tuesday night for a change, on the 4th Sept at the Plough, Little London. On a pleasant late summer evening we were guests of Basingclog, along with Hook Eagle, for a North West Border Cotswoldy sort of evening. Sue couldn't make it, so we had invited Gareth along to play for us, and he soon showed us that his memory for the tunes had not changed ("errr .... Simon - how does this one go??"). One of Basingclog was about to leave for University, so we invited her into our set for Coconuts where she proceeded to show us how it should be done. The evening ended for us with a reprise of the Sidmouth jig, after which platefuls of sandwiches appeared from nowhere and disappeared swiftly. 

Our other engagement in September came at the end of the month when we were invited to Halifax for 'Traditions 2001', a day long festival of street entertainment, organised by Pete Coe, and sponsored by Halifax Town Council and other local organisations, and featuring other high quality Morris and street theatre performers. After some unpromising weather at the start of the day the skies cleared, the sun emerged, and it finished being an excellent day. Much of the activity was centred around the Piece Hall, fine old buildings on 3 levels arranged around a huge open quadrangle, where merchants used to bring their pieces of cloth or whatever to trade. Today in the quadrangle is a covered stage area (featured in the film 'Brassed Off' amongst others) where we performed a 4 dance spot in the morning, and a 2 dance spot as part of the afternoon showcase. The 4 dance spot finished with our worst rendition for some time of Shooting (and that's saying something) during which 4 sticks got dropped, 3 on the last chorus as we performed our big finish. Still, at least we didn't maim any dogs this time. During the day we also performed in the Southgate, and at the Eureka! childrens exhibition area where we had to wait for the Sambangra drummers to finish (they were good, of course, but perhaps not quite enough drum .... ).

The day ended with an excellent communal meal at the lively 'Incognito' restaurant, sponsors for the day of the Iclognito clog dancers, who were exiting as we entered, having Inclognitoed the chef. The chef had been at the Piece Hall during the day and had seen our performances, enabling him to do a good version of Fairies with large pepper grinders. However he spent much of evening extracting the mickey from us for offences like dropping our sticks in Shooting and not being able to dance very well. Harsh words, but probably justified on the day, we felt. Still, at least we can cook.

Following the evening the team retired to their various sleeping quarters around the Halifax area. For Jameson and Lee it was the culmination of thier years of togetherness as at last they were able to share a double bed in the exotic surroundings of the Halifax Travelodge, while Tim and Sue looked on. Well, what a night that was, culminating in a fire alarm and evacuation at 9.00 a.m., way before Lee's getting up time. And of course he was very tired after the previous night's activities. Sadly the BB website is unable to bring you any pictures of the big night due to grounds of decency, taste, and the fact no one had a camera. Shame .........


November brought its usual lowspot in the BB calendar on Sat 24th with the 21st annual bunfight, to the theme of 'Mysteries of the East'.

Due to a little local difficulty the venue moved this year to St. Crispins School, where we last were in 1998 for our infamous Latin evening. This time we were further East for our theme, and we were pleased to see many people had made the effort to dress in line with the theme, some more successfully than other. Yes I know if you keep going east you will eventually end up west but that wasn't quite the idea. We particularly liked our gangster from the East (End) (was that a real knife Derek?) and an assorted collection of belly dancers, geisha girls, the wicked witch from the East, and any number of dodgy looking blokes in a nightshirt and fez - oh sorry, that was BB. And a whole lot more imaginative and over the top costumes. Meanwhile Phungus provided excellent musical accompaniment as always, and this time had Andy Stafford as caller, who hammed it up nicely for the BB spots - thanks Andy.

The first spot featured some Arab musicians (Rob made his snake dance very nicely), an Egyptian mummy, a real camel dressed to look like there were 2 people inside, and after our Eastern princesses has sprinkled onto the floor some sand that was so magic it was invisible, Lee and Jameson performed an excellent sand dance that really looked like they knew what they were doing, with tap breaks and everything. Just like the old Headington Sand Quarrymen used to do it on Christmas Day over 100 years ago in front of the watching Cecil Sharp of the Desert.

The second spot was inspired by the famous film of the 1980's 'Flashdance' starring Jennifer Beales. Well actually it was the title of the film that inspired us as we proceeded to do a flash(ers) dance, with the BB boys dressed only in macs and negligible undergarments flashing at each other while performing loosely choreographed shuffling movements to the tune of 'Eye Level' by the Simon Park Orchestra, better known as the Van der Valk theme. Amazingly after performing it once we were asked to do it again, at the end of which we opened our macs to a somewhat unimpressed audience to reveal black posing pouches, adorned with a small sequinned dolphin (where did you manage to get them Jerry, and why?) and with a strategically pinned on BB rosette. Sadly some photographs of this event have been preserved for posterity (or posteriority) and more can be seen on the Bunfights page.....

But another good evening with a good attendance, and another challenge to live down to next year .....


December contained its usual couple of events - the Wokingham Winter Carnival and St. Thomas Day dance out in Wokingham Market Place. There was no Carnival procession this year, and without this spur it proved somewhat difficult to extract some members of the side from a local tavern after lunch ("right - just coming" ... "with you in a minute" ... "we'll be right behind you" ... etc). The St. Thomas Day dance out also always suffers similar problems, since it involves meeting on a bitterly cold day in a nice warm pub, going outside and dancing to a small audience which doesn't stay, it being a Saturday just before Xmas and bitterly cold, then going back into the nice warm pub, and then going out in the bitter cold again to an even smaller audience which stays even less time, mainly on account of the bitter cold. And did I mention the temperature? Still, its got to be done, hasn't it, it being traditional and all that.... At times like this its easy to understand why some of the old traditions died out. Still, never let it be said BB are not playing their part in keeping some of the old traditions going, such as overeating and overdrinking in December, thereby rendering Morris activity in the New Year highly problematical. As no doubt we shall see in the early months of 2002. And the middle months. And the later months.  

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