BB Monthly Reports 2005


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Reports from the year 2005  

SPRING 2005 - Aston King Dance, and those green hats come out again .... 

Our 2005 year started about as early as it possibly could with an appearance at the New Year's Day Haddenham ceilidh (where the band was Steam Chicken - very good too, especially with a bit of tabasco). With 2 separate spots to fill, it seemed appropriate to end the second one with our sword dance, which went very well in the large space available. Both spots were well received, possibly on account of people's New Year goodwill, or perhaps just because we were stonking (oops, the spell checker is sure that word should be stinking. Do you think the spell checker was in the audience?).

Our next public outing was a lunchtime display on 5th March at the Berkshire Schools 'Folk for Berkshire' day at Theale School, near Reading, where we did some display dances before Tim got all the kids up doing his inimitable version of Shepherds Hey, including of course the teapot chorus. As usual, by the end of it some of them were doing the dance better than certain members of Berkshire Bedlam, but then the kids don't have the disadvantages some of BB have like dodgy knees, shin splints, calf strains, imbecility and a complete lack of rhythm. We finished the display with another outing for the sword dance, introduced officially for the first time as Aston King Dance Number One. Anybody geddit?

On Sat 19th March a small but perfectly formed BB contingent headed to Nottingham for the Fabulous Fezheads Fig and Date Fayre, held at the Yacht Club, Long Eaton, Nottingham. It is hard to find the right words to describe this day, though that very feat is currently being undertaken by Lee, who has prepared an early draft which although very good is slightly longer than War and Peace - rest assured you can read it here when he has finished editing it. Meanwhile, the gist of the day was some organised dancing from the several guest sides, and a series of suitably figndate-y games organised by the Fezheads, including spitting dates through the eye of a camel, fruit rounders (very messy), fig and spoon race, vegetable conkers (even more messy), chillifig eating, a Belly dance competition, and other bits of inspired lunacy. For BB, the organised dancing featured the debut of 'Burka Bedlam', while later Paul and Lee spat their dates and Jameson belly danced anonymously-ish in his burka, as you do. A special mention also to Tim for chomping away on his chilli filled dates, each of which apparently contained approximately 300 times the maximum government recommended safe levels of chilli.

On Mon 18 April, we were invited to take part in Ashley Hutchings 'Morris On' show at Nettlebed folk club, a highly entertaining 2 hour plus show featuring folk rock interpretations of Morris tunes, some contemporary material, and some excellent dancing from the Outside Capering Crew. We were given a self contained spot of our own within the show of 10 minutes, during which we did the 3 dances we had carefully been rehearsing for the previous 2 weeks, though we had to change the personnel around a little on the night when one of our team members didn't make it having been struck by a severe bout of amnesia. Still we hardly missed Jerry (oops, given away the name now), and performed a well received set consisting of Fairies, As The Tide was Flowing, and Coconuts, all of which had been modified in presentation to suit the narrow performance space between the band and the audience. We also reappeared during the finale, doing a procession across the stage and round the whole of the hall before returning to the excellent buffet in the performers area which included a very tempting nettle pie (I feel though I should point out this is probably only really tempting if you like nettles).

The following Saturday (23rd April) found us at Adderbury as a guest side at the annual Adderbury Day of Dance, led by the two morris teams located there i.e. Adderbury and Adderbury Village. Along with our hosts and fellow guest sides Armaleggan and Bloxham, we performed in the early evening outside The Bell, and The Coach and Horses, to quite a large crowd of morris people and also many locals, as the day is quite a renowned local event with the morris forming an integral part. Among the more memorable parts of the dancing was Adderbury Village's Shepherds Hey drinking jig, where each dancer in turn has to dance a chorus and then down a pint in one. It has to be said that though all 12 of the dancers managed it with varying degrees of success (and at varying speed with age certainly being a telling factor) the hobby horse struggled greatly and spilt most (all right all) of his pint on the pavement when it was held to his lips. Anyway, after we had done our bit there was a buffet laid on for the guests and amazingly we seemed to be pretty well at the front of the queue again. Just got lucky, I guess?

The last Thursday in April (this year falling on the 28th) usually marks our official opening to the season and is when in most previous years we have had our 'Bob's Fish and Chip Shop Tour', a bit of a misnomer as we haven't been there for some years and have just danced at the Queens Oak in Finchampstead. Anyway this year the opportunity arose to mark the season opening in a slightly different way from usual with - what else but - a sing-a-long Sound of Music evening at the Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park, Bracknell. Why? - well our interest in all things Julie Andrews goes back to our very successful weekend with Betty Luptons in Yorkshire 4 years ago when we had a Sound of Music themed evening which included singing along gustily to some of the songs, and since then we have been looking for an opportunity to repeat the experience. Paul had managed to persuade South Hill Park management to let us perform outside the theatre at the start of the evening and again at the interval, so once again 8 Bedlams donned the (imitation) lederhosen and the (cardboard) green hats with feathers, and, accompanied by Frau Jane and Frau Bob, metamporphosed into the Schwarzkopf Bavarian dancers, performing Der Mazurka, Der Tanze von Grossen Goblenz, and as a highlight the resurrected Bavarian Woodchopper Boy dance, performed to an audience consisting largely of nuns, but also a brown paper package tied up with string, and somewhat implausibly a lady in a mountain costume with tiny nun cut outs ascending it, prompted perhaps by her 'Climb Me' sign. In between and after our performances we did actually sit through the entire Sound of Music film with subtitles for singing along to, prompted by the evening's compere who encouraged us to wave our arms when we saw mountains, hiss the countess, make woof-y noises when Rolf came into view, and several other things including letting off party poppers when Christopher Plummer gets to snog Julie Andrews for the first time (a particular highlight). The audience responded magnificently throughout and we all needed a good lie down when it had finished, especially since as far as I could see the film had not been abridged at all for the singalong version and appeared to last for many many hours (possibly 16 going on 17?).

And so (a needle pulling thread?) on to our first major event of the season, May 7th - 8th, a mainly bright and sunny weekend at the Weymouth Folk Festival - not a huge event, but one which was highly enjoyable overall. It was nice to see almost a full complement of BB dancers and musicians who between them contributed to a number of memorable moments, starting on the Saturday morning when John immobilised his car by temporarily losing a small but critical bit out of his key, necessitating a tow into the nearby car park from Rob before the critical bit was found. After dance spots at the White Hart and the (now non-existent) Maypole in town, we took part in the Morris procession along the promenade from the Clock tower to the Pavilion complex (the main centre of activities over the weekend). This was one of our more enjoyable processions due to the number of photo posing opportunities, plus the unscheduled boarding of a coach of very pleasant ladies not in the first flush of youth, who seemed delighted to see us and took lots of photos of us sitting at the back of their coach (once they had put their teeth in and worked out how to operate their cameras). However, our subsequent game of beach cricket must then have taken more out of us than we thought, judging by the (lack of) quality of our following set at the Ocean Rooms. Later on we ran a workshop, which turned out to have not been advertised anywhere, making it a miracle that one person (Alex) did actually turn up for it, though just one was all we needed for the BB workshop-a-thon machine to swing into action and teach a couple of dances. The workshop took place on the large stage in the Pavilion Theatre, on which we were due to take part in the Morris On show later (the same show we had participated in at Nettlebed some 3 weeks earlier). Being there gave us the chance to do some revised planning for the show, since Ashley Hutchings had just broken it to us he wanted us to do two spots in the show instead of one, and we also had to take account of Simon's back locking up fairly dramatically. However our time in the theatre also gave us the chance to fully explore all the dressing rooms, and Paul in particular was struck with the idea he was looking out of the very same windows which top names like the Brotherhood of Man Lookalike Tribute Band may have lobbed TVs through. Anyway later on that evening we did actually perform in the show, in which members of Morris Offspring accompanied the band on some numbers, while we had 2 sets of our own, one in each half. Despite the very confined dance space, the spots both went very well, leading to good feedback throughout the rest of the weekend. And again, led by Tim, we got the chance to leap across, up, down and around the stage in the finale.

On the Sunday, injuries and absence had taken their toll, but we were able to start with a spot at the Maypole, where Alison, sitting on some stone steps huddled under John's cloak, was taken pity on by a kind hearted passer by and given 50p despite the absence of a dog on a rope. We then went back to the Ocean Rooms for a jig event where amongst other teams efforts, Jameson and Tim performed a stylish Princess Royal, and we liberally interpreted the event definition by doing Arse about Face for 6 (well it arguably still is a jig). Before going off to the White Hart for our last set of the weekend, the Theatre Manager proudly presented Bob with his / her missing drumstick, thereby making his / her day, and for which the Theatre Manager was rewarded with a hearty handshake / a sloppy kiss. At the White Hart, Jerry and Paul did a fine version of Old Molly Oxford before our final dance, a stonking Little Fairies. Just time for a cream tea for those who were left (nice tea but the cream was stronger than the scones, leading to some scone fragmentation) before heading back to the unreality of the real world .......

SUMMER 2005 - Cotswold, and a cornucopia of cocktails 

Following our diverse experiences at the Weymouth Festival early in May, we returned to a more traditional environment on Sun 22nd May at the Kirtlington Lamb Ale, which featured the usual fine line up of Morris and other entertainment including the Kirtlington Maids dance with their cute little lamb (not on wheels this year). There was more than a hint of rain in the air at several stages during the day including some actual downpours (not, unfortunately, during the processions, the traditional stamina tests) but as we all know by now it never rains on Berkshire Bedlam (except when it does), and we were able to perform our show dance in the school playground as usual - this year featuring our sword dance, which seemed to go down well, even though performed in our normal kit as opposed to the frilly shirts due to a personal wardrobe memory malfunction problem issue.

On Thurs 9 Jun we were at The Bell at Aldworth once again, with Old Speckled Hen and Kirtlington, which proved as usual a very pleasant evening with good company, crowned once more by the appearance of a range of consumables after the dancing finished (and that's consumables in the traditional sense rather than printer ink cartridges and paper). Amongst other things during the evening we were able to show Kirtlington once again just how much we had improved the hey figure of theirs which we had nicked (sorry, should say 'used as a loose starting point only') for our Lucky Pierre dance.

nd then it was festival time, from 17 - 19 June, at the Beverley Festival in North Yorkshire. Due to various circumstances we were a little short of numbers on the Saturday, but we managed to perform a good selection of 5 and 4 person dances, plus some double jigs, and the odd Coconuts with a pressganged Bob, on an exceptionally hot day, the passing of which was eased somewhat by the selective application of cocktail (a refreshing Blue Cherry variety) to our internal organs. Accompanied mostly by Solstice, a young school based side performing an interesting repertoire including a version of the Matachins dance, we performed at a variety of spots in town, outside the Minster (a particularly imposing setting), and at the main Festival site before most of us headed off for an excellent evening meal at the Valencia restaurant near the station, and then on to the Whapweasel ceilidh. On the Sunday Jerry joined us, swelling our numbers to 6, and we had some more good spots and more cocktail, this time a pink Woo-woo - nice, but a bit more sickly. Overall though another very enjoyable weekend, with an abiding memory of - cocktail.

The following Thursday (24th June) it was off to Avebury once again for the semi-regular midsummer dance out with Holt at the Red Lion. This has become easier and less dangerous since the car park surface was relaid, and it is also an easier though quieter gig if, like this year, it does not coincide exactly with the summer solstice which tends to brings out various free spirits (not from behind the bar though). This year the only nutters evident were the ones from BB and Holt, though a fine evening was had by all, with a little bit of community singing afterwards at which Andy revealed a fine singing voice and appropriate song for the evening i.e. not trad-finger-in-the-ear stuff.

Sunday 26th saw us off to Adderbury for the second time in 2 months, this time for the Adderbury sides 30th anniversary day, with another varied line up of (mainly Cotswold) teams. Another hot day, with no refreshing cocktails in sight this time, though since all the dance locations appeared to be directly outside pubs this was not a big issue. The day wore on, the sun shone throughout, the dances and dancers came and went, the beer and conversation and music all flowed, and we got most of our dances right - what more could you ask for?

On Thurs 7 July we had another very pleasant pub evening at the Bull at Riseley with Mayflower and Muddy River, a ladies Cotswold team from Massachusetts, and then on Sat 9th we joined in the Jackstraws Day of Dance, along with Thames Valley Morris, in and around Farnham. Once again another hot, sunny day, and a further opportunity (though somewhat enforced) for us to go through our repertoire of 4 and 5 person dances - though we briefly peaked at 6 dancers at one point. A particular highlight was a late afternoon version of Coconuts, where the 5 of us still left 'randomly' roped in from the audience a certain L. Hiscott to join us, and we're not talking Lee either. ("What's your name, dear? Linda? Never seen this dance before, have you dear?..."). Actually Linda was excellent at it, just shows she'd been paying attention on our course all that time ago. After the dancing finished there was some extremely welcome tea, cakes and barbeque, including a particularly fine chocolate cake, made by the aforementioned L. Hiscott, with minimal help from the other one - indeed a cake to get your teeth firmly into.

The beginning of August saw us once again off on our annual Dorset Tour, which turned out to be another fabulously organised weekend thanks to Rob and Miriam's sterling efforts. We started at the Farmer's Market in Poundbury (though if there was one teensy criticism of the weekend's organisation it would be that Rob's directions to it were somewhat vague and perhaps a little ambiguous e.g. for 'left' read 'right', for 'just off first roundabout' read 'actually quite a long way off second roundabout' - but only a minor quibble really....). This was an excellent spot in the middle of the market area outside the excellent Poet Laureate pub, so Malcolm chose to introduce the side (as Rob had requested) in verse which was only mildly embarrassing for everyone, so not too bad then. The market stall holders liked us too - one gave us some excellent slices of cooked mushroom, while another offered us discounts on their very nice but very rich organic desserts.
We then headed for the Swan Inn at Abbotsbury for lunch and a short dance spot, followed by an appearance on the edge of the beach outside the Hive Beach Cafe, Burton Bradstock, much to the bemusement of the people who had come for a nice quiet afternoon by the blustery (being kind) English seaside. After this we set up camp on the beach, and the hardier and foolhardier went for a swim, though it would be fair to say the sea was not at its warmest. Later on we returned to the campsite for an early evening barbeque, and its amazing just how black those chicken legs will turn when you're not looking. Still the nibbles, Pimms and gin were all good, so suitably refreshed we set off for the long walk down the hill into the village of Cerne Abbas, arriving at the Royal Oak rather later than intended, in fact about 10 minutes after some people Rob had invited to come and see us had given up and gone home for a nice warm by the fire. But we performed away gamely to a small but select audience before returning back up the hill, through the cowpats (literally in some cases), looking out all the time for the once again non existent glow-worms, which several of us have come to realise over the years are merely a rumour perpetrated by the Cerne Abbas Giant's Head Campsite Let's Get Them Walking Up That Hill In the Dark For No Good Reason Society.

The next day saw us at Stourhead House and Gardens, a huge National Trust property just outside Mere in Wiltshire. The weather had considerably perked up and we had a good audience to see us perform in a good audience-catching spot just outside the cafe, information point and toilets. The dancing went well, and after it several of us took the opportunity to go round the really fabulous estate, including a celebrated 18th century landscaped garden with enchanting temples, monuments and rare planting around a tranquil lake. A very English sort of experience somehow, especially when washed down in the pub on the edge of the estate with cider, beer or a cream tea depending on your poison as it were. And once again we agreed Rob had made a serious mistake in setting such a high tour standard for the future ......  


AUTUMN / WINTER 2005 - A trip to Shropshire, a Bavarian chuckle, and a Can-Can do 

Saturday 3rd September saw us again at the Wallingford Bunkfest, now in its 4th year and going from strength to strength with a fine line up of artists and more Morris than ever. Our day started early on the Kinecroft South Stage - good venue though only a small audience early in the morning. But we also had later spots at the Market Place and outside The Dolphin before the now traditional highlight (well, we did it for the second time so it's traditional now) of a trip to Sue's nearby residence for tea and pineapple chunks with evap - a perfect way to while away an hour or two.

The next weekend (9th - 11th) we were at the Bromyard Festival where we are informed it always rains, and this year was no exception (though not of course on Berkshire Bedlam, oh no). Our weekend started with a reasonably well attended workshop on the main site, in which Jameson taught Sucking The Monkey and Mazurka, after which we had a slightly damp spot on site before heading into town where we eventually performed outside various pubs with various other teams and had a generally good time. In the evening several of us ate at the 'Taste of India' Indian restaurant in Bromyard though if you should ever go there having booked a table for 6.30 as we had, don't expect your table to be ready till 7.30 or your food to arrive till 8.30 as happened to us, and as we had a pleasant chat with the manager about afterwards. On Sunday we had a later start and performed in several venues around town, the most memorable being a good session with Eynsham and Chinewrde in the back area of the Bay Horse. Later in the afternoon we had a ceilidh spot during the Bedlam ceilidh which was followed later by a particularly fine spot from Eynsham, helped it seemed by quite a lot of the previous contents of the town pubs cellars.

Two weeks late was another treat for us, with an invitation to join Shropshire Bedlams and Martha Rhodens Tuppeny Dish for the Bishop's Castle Michaelmas Fair weekend, a weekend centred on the traditional Fair held in Bishop's Castle in Shropshire (where both teams are based) and featuring a range of attractions including fairground rides, steam engines, and street entertainment - including of course Morris Dancing. For us though the weekend started in Montgomery, just over the Welsh Border, where on a beautiful clear morning we danced in the main square before climbing the hill to the grounds of the former splendid and now mainly in ruins Montgomery Castle, with quite magnificent views from its elevated position out over the surrounding countryside and hills. a perfect venue for an excellent picnic, though not quite so good for the short lived game of cricket (6 and everyone out as the first cleanly hit shot disappeared over the castle wall and into the depths below). After this we had more dancing in Montgomery before returning to Bishops Castle for further performances outside various pubs and venues up and down the main street through the town, before heading to the Church Barn for the evening entertainment laid on by our hosts, 'An Open Evening At Hogwarts'. This involved, for most people, dressing up Harry Potter style, though since BB for various reasons (to be revealed later) were going through a Bavarian phase, out came the green hats and lederhosen again. The evening featured some most interesting turns, including games of Quidditch with doubtful rules, and a highly amusing cross between Charades and Chinese Whispers for which you had to be there really. BB performed their Bavarian (Schwarzkopf) dance (including a false start when the CD player jumped early on, after which Paul lived up to his name by Holden on to it) which went down _____ (really well / OK / averagely / poorly / lead ballon / I'll get me coat) - delete as applicable. 

Next morning we performed again in Bishop's Castle, danced at various pubs including the splendid Three Tuns, our guests home pub, and later watched the steam rally go by before performing again in the streets just after it had gone to a reasonably enthusiastic and appreciative audience. Throughout the weekend we had a great time and were really well looked after throughout by our hosts, who fed, watered and otherwise looked after us at every possible opportunity, as well as entertaining us with their own unique and excellent dancing and musicianship, led by John Kirkpatrick and many other very capable musicians.

And then on Tuesday Oct 4, on to a very different engagement. To cut a long story short, we had been asked to take part in an episode of 'Chucklevision', featuring the Chuckle Brothers Barry and Paul, for CBBC, the children's arm of the BBC, after one of the Chucklevision producers had come across this very website with features and photos of us doing our Bavarian dance - exactly what he was looking for, especially as he hadn't found anyone else who might be able to do it (well not this side of Bavaria anyway) despite extensive looking. So, 9 of us plus our 2 'agents' Sue and Bob (or 'spies' as Rob referred to them) headed off to the Civic Centre Theatre in Aylesbury for an afternoon's filming. CBBC had provided some interesting shorts, braces and hats for us to go with our own stuff to create a fascinating variety of Bavarian-ish looking costumes, and without going through the whole plot suffice it to say we were required to perform our Bavarian dance on stage extensively while Paul, Barry and other characters joined in.

Overall it was a unique chance for us to be luvvies for an afternoon, including refreshments with the rest of the cast and producers from the Outside Catering Van, and waiting before being called in the 'Green Room' which was distinctly not green (or actually in any way attractive) except for some of our particularly bright lederhosen. It must be said though that the luvvie bit, not surprisingly, came more easily to some than others. By the end of the afternoon we had been filmed from every conceivable angle, Jameson and Paul Chuckle had bashed each other's fingers to bits doing the sticking routine, Barry Chuckle had done his cute high kneed trot up and down the line endless times, most of the cast has disappeared down the (fake) trapdoor, and we had performed throughout like troopers. The episode was first shown on CBBC in February 2006 and again on BBC1 in March 2006 - meanwhile Morris sides everywhere take note - it don't come any bigger than Chucklevision ......

But that wasn't the end of year or this particular dance by any means - just a few days later we were at Nettlebed to perform some spots during the Phungus ceilidh, The first spot was our normal repertoire, the second one was the Bavarian dance again - same dance, slightly different profile, as to add to the frivolity 4 of us also strapped on the old water filled balloons for some cross dressing - never fails to get a laugh (normally).

The 29th of October saw us on a riverboat on the Thames for the evening, where we had been booked along with a variety of other entertainment at a private function hosted by an acquaintance of Lee's. We finished up having a fabulous night, and our spots were received extremely well by the audience who initially hadn't quite known what to make of us. However our hosts very kindly also allowed us to take advantage of the food and drink on offer - which we duly did. There was also a limbo competition, won amazingly by our own Brian who somehow got away with going under the bar in a sideways crouch every time. We finished our evening performance with The Mazurka, during the last chorus of which the boat executed a fairly fast 180 degree turn, causing our lines to drift alarmingly but in unison from left to right and back again. Nice feature actually, which we're thinking of keeping in though the future logistics may be tricky.

Sat 26th November was Bunfight Day - our annual flirtation with the side's professional and financial suicide which we usually manage to get away with somehow, this year being no exception. We had an inspired theme (thanks to Andy) of 'Bunfight at the OK Corral' which we assumed said it all really. As usual many of our guests dressed accordingly and we had a lovely selection of sheriffs, cowboys, cowgirls, squaws, showgirls, Mexicans, and many other inspired outfits. A special mention also for the Magnificent 7, made up of 4 cowboys (one with a very dodgy beard which I hope she eventually managed to scrape off) with 3 appropriately dressed dummies arranged somehow on poles between them. Great idea though it did take them 15 minutes to get through the door. As usual our band was the excellent Phungus, with Hugh Crabtree calling, who were all on top form, with Hugh in particular having an extra sardonic curl on his top lip for anyone going wrong. The first BB dance spot of the evening was Shooting, which had seemed in advance like a good idea, it being linked to the theme in a fairly obvious way, though we had not in fact practised the dance or what we would do during it at all, so the ending, when Jameson and Simon fell down 'dead' rather unexpectedly, rather threw everyone else. Anyway, after an excellent Irish, no sorry Wild West, no sorry Kansas, Bingo, it was time for the show spot of the Can-Can, performed by 8 cross-dressed Bedlams to the very lively Bad Manners version of the Can-Can. John had choreographed a suitable (?) routine, with plenty of skirt flicking up, and he had also organised a BB sewing bee the previous week to make 8 suitable skirts, while the tops were a variety of creations, which hid (or didn't hide in many cases) the usual water filled balloons. However as we had not got around to a full dress rehearsal of the spot, it quickly became apparent very shortly after we started the dance that the water filled balloons were not going to be staying in place for long for many of the side. Anyway the dance seemed to be well received, to the extent that the audience demanded an encore, though these days Hugh is trained to make them insist on one no matter what the quality of the spot is. Overall though another highly successful evening, with a good turnout - and a special credit to John for making the spot happen.

The next day was the Wokingham Winter Carnival - which always suffers from being after the Lord Mayor's show, so to speak, even though the Lord Mayor is in it. It was a bit chilly and damp. Nuff said.

Our final dance spot of 2005 was on Saturday 17th December, the St. Thomas's Day lunchtime danceout - a cold crisp clear session, but a good one nonetheless, and also featuring the first performance of our new stick dance 'Wizo The Flem' with its syncopated sticking choruses, before retreating to a nearby home for some food and a preview of the new BB DVD produced by Steve Newland from footage shot in 2005 at Weymouth and the Shropshire Bedlams weekend. Excellent, especially the interview.  

And then the very final BB act of 2005 - Thursday 22nd Dec, the annual Xmas dinner at the traditional venue of The Hideout Thai restaurant. An innovation this year was the 'Secret Santa', and within (or around) the limit of 5 there were some truly extraordinary presents, some of which are not suitable to be revealed on a family oriented website such as this (eh Tim?), though Simon's orange animal with a mind of its own (especially when let loose in his shoe) must get a special mention. An appropriately frivolous end to a truly varied and always entertaining year .......   

For full reports from 2004 go to the BB 2004 Monthly Diary 

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