BB 2006 Summary


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Reports from the year 2006  

SPRING 2006 - A tale of figs and beer

25th February saw us appear on a bright but very cold Saturday in Cambridge at the Inter Varsity Folk Dance Festival, (IVFDF for short), a student run event hosted by different universities each year. The day featured dancing at various venues in and around the city centre, with generally enthusiastic audiences even if at some venues they were mainly other teams and hangers-on. A special mention also to our excellent organiser, 'lucky' Emma, although sadly 'lucky' Emma's efforts in choosing numbers on behalf of the team for the 17 tickets we had for National Lottery draw later in the day proved to be even more hopeless than all of our many previous attempts. The day was rounded off for us with a ceilidh spot at the Junction 24 ceilidh, and the 3 dance spot (which included our sword dance) went down extremely well with a very receptive and appreciative audience.

Saturday 18th March saw a small BB contingent once again attend the Fezheads Fig n Date Fayre, this time held in Kenn near Exeter. After 2 'sensible' dances (if Coconuts and the premiere of 'Knees Up' ("it made me laugh") can be called sensible) the day degenerated into the reason everyone was there i.e. frivolous games such as Fruit Conkers, some belly dancing, and Tim's now annual entry into the Fezheads 'Fig or Die' game, a game in which you have to eat chilli figs until you lose or are extremely ill or both in Tim's case - though he very creditably got down to the last 2 again.

On 23rd April we joined Hook Eagle and several other local teams for a St. George's Day extravaganza, though old George would have been a bit disappointed with the weather on his special day which tended to the damp and the miserable, though of course at no stage did it rain (properly) on BB, oh no. Jane was able to make this event with us, and showed that she had not forgotten how any of the dances went, unlike ..... oh, let's not go there. However our repertoire on the day did feature our rehabilitated Albemarle's Hop, and a suitably cheesy 'Knees Up', filmed in all its glory for a student dissertation - wonder what the examiners will make of it?! The day finished with Andy being presented with an inscribed tankard from the landlord of the Waterwitch for no particularly good reason, which we also found only works left handed..

The following Sunday, 30th April, we made an afternoon appearance at the Reading Beer Festival, an event featuring predominantly beer (the clue's in the name), and held at King's Meadow in Reading. At the particular time we were there, there were lots of people and no other organised entertainment, so by default we drew some reasonable audiences, who being full of beer seemed quite well disposed towards us. But we all enjoyed the event, and found we had a very friendly reaction during the afternoon. Indeed the world certainly seemed a very happy place to us through our beer tinted glasses.....

SUMMER 2006 - We go out West, and just keep on posing

Saturday 13th May saw us at the Winchester Folk Festival, a fine event with many good sides present. After some performances around the town, we took part in the procession (mainly consisting of posing for photos) and then finished near the cathedral where we danced around ex-member Mike Lyth, on a short visit from the north of England and Thailand . Later on, we somehow got a place in the show performance sets (in which we were not originally scheduled), thanks to the organisers of the spot being friendly Great Westerners. This though gave them the liberty to introduce us as ‘Berkshire Bedlam – one of the second best Morris teams in the country’ which we rather took umbrage to as we’re quite happy just being in the top 99%. The day finished well too for our young percussionist Bob who managed to find a pub in which to watch Liverpool clawing a dodgy victory on penalties from the jaws of defeat (playing a nice drum roll as Stevie G raised the trophy ....).

2 weeks later we were off to Exeter for the legendary Great Western Whit weekend tour. Overall this was a fabulous event, with a packed programme of interesting places to visit, evening entertainments, and some fine dancing throughout from GW and the other sides (Windsor, Black Adder and Glory of the West) plus some great hospitality from our GW hosts. Events started on the Saturday with dancing in Exeter city centre and later at The Quay, where one of GW’s dances involved crossing the river Exe by bridge and returning by ferry while still performing the same dance (though some of them looked a little jaded on their return). Saturday evening featured the GW Whit Tour ceilidh, while the Sunday involved a coach tour visiting several of the delights of South Devon (including a slightly chilly beach and very chilly sea at Blackpool Sands ) with a lunch break at the Seven Stars at Totnes - nice lunch but no pud provided, so Jerry, Lee and Jameson took matters into their own hands by ordering their own, causing a near riot as most of Great Western attempted to grab a spoonful. In the evening there was a communal South Sea Islands themed party in Ashburton with various home made entertainment. Earlier in the day Black Adder's Sarah had mightily impressed by being able to jump into her shoes from a standing position, so one of the evening's entertainment spots was a member of each team trying to do the same - Lee battled bravely for us and came close to succeeding (but its much harder than it might sound). After him, Dave Brassington from GW, after much over elaboration, managed to do it quite spectacularly and apparently spontaneously, but we later found he had spent the entire afternoon practising .... Some of the spots took their cue from ‘South Pacific’, with Windsor washing their men right our of their hair in a variety of interesting bath robes and towels, before we recycled the cockney dance dressed as sailor boys to the tune of a Life on the Ocean Wave. We more or less looked the part thanks to Bob (honorary cabin boy for the spot) doctoring some plain white T-shirts to look like sailor outfits, coupled with Jerry’s web sourcing of suitable hats and other vaguely Caribbean gear. The dance also had some extra features such as the staggering hay on the side (including Jerry being spectacularly seasick in Mike Boston’s lap), before finishing by Bob climbing the horizontal rigging (made by the rest of BB lying down flat), giving everyone a good kicking along the way while ‘climbing’. You had to be there, really ….  After our turn, Black Adder performed a dance in a communal pink outfit that was part elephant, part octopus, but was very entertaining anyway, and then GW, also as sailor boys though with an American slant, hammed their way through a spirited rendition of Nothing Like a Dame (and indeed Quinton was absolutely nothing like a dame though the lipstick was good).

The Monday saw us at Topsham for more dancing for all the sides, including birthday boy Simon being hoisted aloft by GW, and some of GW being physically danced on top of (using a dance board) by most of Black Adder (not quite hard enough though - really stamp those clogs next time ladies). The day finished in a minor gale outside The Lighter on Topsham Quay, after which it was time to head back temporarily to real life in Berkshire - though just a few days later we were heading west again to join Holt Morris at the Holt (village) music festival. After a particularly uninspiring period of weather (and very wet May) it was good to have the first truly hot day of the year for this, which turned out to be a very pleasant event, with morris being performed before the event and during the afternoon on an outdoor boarded area in between the various musical acts taking place in the main marquee. As usual it was good to see our friends from Holt, who are always excellent company and fine dancers, and there were also a number of other attraction on the large playing fields, with some of BB being particularly attracted later on by a hay cart ride (because it was free, chaps and chapesses?).

The next weekend (Sunday 1 June) we were once again at the Kirtlington Lamb Ale. We were somewhat depleted at the start of the day when our planned side of 6 was reduced to 5 when Lee (or ‘Lobster Boy’ as he is now known) found he was suffering badly from sunburn from the day before, particularly on his legs, and decided he couldn’t make it. Nevertheless the 5 who did go carried on as best they could, including doing a somewhat depleted procession (though you will be reassured to know that we posed wherever we could) and performing ‘Knees Up’ later in the day (now firmly established as John's all time favourite dance) as the show spot to a somewhat bemused audience. To his credit, Lee did appear later in the day, mainly so he could pick up Jameson to accompany him to Manchester where Jameson was being filmed the next day in University Challenge as a member of the Reading University team, where his knowledge of the Green Cross Code apparently came in very useful (watch his episode in autumn 2006 to find out more....).

On Thursday 15th we were at The Bell at Aldworth again with Old Speckled Hen and Rockhopper for a fine evening’s dancing and the customary sandwiches from the pub, and then the following Thursday (22nd) it was our annual trip to the Red Lion at Avebury around Summer Solstice time for an evening of dancing and later singing with our friends from Holt Morris again – as usual a good time was had by all,  especially as most of the solstice nutters had cleared off by then. Some particularly fine singing this year, with Andy doing us especially proud.

Finally in June, on the weekend of 24th/25th, a select contingent set off for the Four Fools Folk Festival, at Chorley, near Preston . The Saturday’s dancing consisted of quite a lot of precinct and not much pub, but the Sunday on the main site was better – although Paul had to leave early, the side was joined for the day by Mike Lyth who was very welcome and showed he could still trot out all the old standards - though posing opportunities were a little limited.

Thursday 13th July saw us at The Cricketers, Hartley Wintney, along with Mayflower and Fleet, for a very pleasant evening of dancing in what is always a great setting. Jane joined us briefly, but sadly not with fiddle, on account of having done a Wayne Rooney and fractured a metatarsal (though I don’t believe Wayne also had a pregnancy to carry around as well while recuperating). This was followed by the Windsor Day of Dance on Saturday 15th, in the middle of a particularly hot spell, involving some good venues around Windsor before some of the side finished off the day with a trip on the Windsor Wheel, a temporary ‘London eye’ type structure in Alexandra Gardens alongside the Thames. Strangely though Jameson, who gets vertigo going up stairs, didn’t join us for it .....

Then on 22nd / 23rd we were at Warwick for what has become a biennial appearance at the Warwick Folk Festival. This is always one of the highlights of the season for us, with a good mix of teams taking part and good dance spots around the town on both days. After starting on the stage at the campsite on Saturday morning, we went into town where we took part in the BBC local radio’s ‘Big Dance’, an attempt to break the world record for the number of people simultaneously doing the same dance up and down the country. For 15 minutes we followed the choreography being demonstrated on a show stage, along with about 500 other people, many of whom were other morris dancers or festival goers. I think it would be fair to say we put our own interpretation on the dances, but nevertheless had a good time and later found out the attempt had been successful – so we are all joint world record holders now, and a photo of Simon and Yvonne grooving away made the BBC Radio Coventry website. In the afternoon we had a good spot outside The Roebuck, but then the heavens opened, and we had to spend the next 2 hours in the pub waiting for a break (though Jameson briefly cheered himself up by finding a nearby garage to get some much needed brake fluid, as you do in the middle of a Folk Festival). Anyway, there’s only so much Morris Charades anyone can stand so eventually even though the rain hadn’t quite stopped, we made our way to St. Nicholas Park where the rained off procession would have finished,  and performed to a bedraggled and bemused group of Japanese tourists who had merely being trying to shelter from the rain, though I think they enjoyed us, especially one of them who joined in enthusiastically throughout. After our customary Warwick pizza, it was off to the ceilidh with Jabadaw, where after Flag and Bone did the early evening spot we did the later spot, performing the same set we had done earlier in the year at IVDF i.e. Wheel of Fortune, Swords, and Fairies, all in swords kit, which always gives fantastic opportunities for posing, eagerly seized by several members of the side. As far as we could tell it went down well again and we had some good feedback – though we noted Sally Wearing couldn’t stop laughing throughout – you’re supposed to swoon with admiration, Sally, not laugh your head off ..... 

The Sunday featured more dancing in town, finishing at The Zetland, a fine venue on the Sunday when the street outside is closed to traffic and the crowd brings the best out of most of the sides, though we possibly established a record for the most sticks ever dropped during Jolly Jockey Sticks, and another one for the most coconuts broken during our Coconuts dance, much to the chagrin of Simon and Yvonne who knew they had the doubtful pleasure of replenishing the coconuts stocks (yet again) before the next outing.

A particular mention here too as the season draws on of the fine contribution of our melodeon player Sue, and drummer boy Bob, who support the side tirelessly throughout the season, and consistently produce excellent and uplifting music for the dancers to perform to, despite frequently only getting a nano-seconds notice of the tune they are required to play for the set that has just formed and is waiting expectantly. We would be totally lost without them (and are only occasionally lost with them)! Nice too to have Jane join us for the Warwick ceilidh spot despite her broken foot and dodgy shoulder - I'm sure the 10 minute spot has fully justified the extra months of pain which will have been caused by taking part .....

AUGUST - DEC 2006 - Big Capering time - and the Russians move in .....

Early August saw us off on another unusual escapade, even by our own usual high standards of unusuality. During the earlier part of the year, we had been working on developing a joint show along with our good friends The Outside Capering Crew, to be called ‘The Big Caper’, with a view to performing it in larger venues where we felt there would be a suitable audience and where the 2 sides together could sustain a longer show with more variety than either could manage on its own. The challenge was to find a blend of existing dances and routines from both repertoires that meant the sides could perform complementary and in some cases joint dances without losing their own individual identities. In August we had a chance to put it to the test, when The Big Caper went to Belgium to take part in the Ka-Dans Festival, a festival spread over several days based in and around the town and castle of Torhout, and featuring a number of different performances in a variety of settings from ourselves and other visiting sides from Mexico, Hungary, Argentina and a more local Walloon side.

Our performances started on the Friday evening (11th August) in the market place of Torhout, where The Big Caper waited patiently for their turn as the other visiting sides performed on the impressive outdoor stage. As we eventually took our place, down came the rain – which unfortunately was to be quite a feature of our whole trip despite it having been up to this point one of the hottest and driest summers on record. Sharp eyed readers of these Berkshire Bedlam news updates will no doubt at this point be saying “hang on a minute, this is Berkshire Bedlam, and it never rains on them” – which is still true, as remember we were performing as The Big Caper ……  Despite the rain, we performed a short selection of our dances before retreating, like the local townsfolk, to the astounding choice of excellent bars all round the Market Square where we met up with our host families who would look after us superbly for the next few days.

On the Saturday we had a more formal welcome and opening ceremony, again in the Market Place, where we gave and received gifts and a welcome beer, and later performed a short set of dances. The next morning (Sunday) we were invited to attend the church ceremony in Wijnendale where each of the guest teams was asked to perform a suitable piece. For us, Lawrence played his fabulous waltz tune while some dancers performed a ‘ Rosa ’ style waltz at the front of the church, which turned out to be appropriately in keeping with the occasion.

After the morning church ceremony, the afternoon featured the main event of the week – the Ka-Dans Festival show, held in the grounds of the splendid Wijnendale Castle , with a large outdoor stage and spacious seating for the audience set underneath a huge overhanging canopy of trees. This show featured all of the international teams, including The Big Caper in a proper show setting for the first time. We put on a 40 minute performance, with some of the best dances from each of our 2 sides built into a complete and carefully sequenced show. We had also prepared a joint opening and ending, with the final dance in particular, done to the Crew’s 4-Up tune, featuring choreography put together specifically for the show including stick throwing around the Crew’s bacca pipe dancers, and 3 people (Jerry and Rob for BB, Tracey for the Crew) performing a spectacular leapfrog over everyone else to finish. We were very pleased with the overall effect, which seemed to go down well with the appreciative audience. It also provided a springboard for us to build on, as we were to do 3 more big shows over the next few days and with each one we learned a little more about what worked well.

But before any more performances, on the Monday morning we were free to enjoy a trip to Bruges . Well, I say enjoy, – normally Bruges is a fascinating city, full of dramatic and historic architecture, with its quaint canal system, and packed with interesting shops, cafes and bars. However, in the downpour which accompanied us this particular morning, it just looked – wet. Very wet. Very very wet. However by the evening we had dried off (just), ready for our next formal show, performing to a packed audience in the church at Wijnendale, where we had put together a different selection of dances since some of the audience had seen the previous day’s show. Once again this was very well received, with Simon P in particular working hard to establish a good rapport with the audience, including getting several members up on the stage to learn Shepherds Hey with us (a good chance for some of us to learn it too).

On Tuesday morning we again had some free time, and it rained. No surprises there then. It cleared briefly in the early afternoon, when we had been asked to visit another castle and dance while a long procession of vintage cars went by. We did manage some dancing before the cars arrived, but as the first one approached, so did the dark clouds. By now we were learning that once they get going, Belgian downpours are amongst the most prolific in the world, and would put most self respecting Amazonian rain forests to shame. So as the cars streamed by, in more senses than one, for the most part we could only stand and watch from under our temporary shelters. But it did clear a little later on, and most of BB were able to do a short set of dances outside the excellent café which raised the spirits if not all the clouds.

Wednesday was the last formal day of the Festival. In the afternoon, we performed another successful show to some of the older citizens of the area. And then in the evening we had been asked at short notice to take part with the Argentinians in a show at De Panne, some 50 miles away at the coast, in a beautifully appointed theatre in the modern civic centre. The theatre was packed, with the audience spilling out into the aisles and through the doors, possibly related to the fact that entry was free. The Argentinian side was on first, and performed an excellent set (not at all a load of bolas), but despite them being a tough act to follow we felt we rose to the occasion accordingly. We had put together an hour’s show, the longest we had done, and for many people it turned out to be the highlight of our trip. By now we were all used to the format, our changeovers were getting slick, we were well rehearsed and our confidence was rising. This in turn was being reflected in the warm appreciation we were getting from the audience who seemed to be enjoying the mix of good dancing, humour, and entertainment in the show, mixed with the superb musicianship of our 4 musical maestros, Sue, Lawrence and Mark on melodeons, and Bob on percussion. And once again the final leapfrogs in the big finale were all well synchronised, with Jerry and Rob again managing to stop just short of the stage edge. And then the performing was over! – and we returned back to Wijnendale to catch the last part of the end of Festival party night with more gift exchanging and beer imbibing.

Overall the trip was a great experience, and gave all of us the chance to present and perform high quality English morris to appreciative and enthusiastic audiences in bigger venues than normal, while proving along the way that such a thing when done well can and does entertain modern day audiences. The trip was hard work in some ways, with all of the shows mentioned above needing time put aside for planning and rehearsal, which was something everyone had to get used to. But most people also managed to enjoy something of a holiday, helped in particular by the wonderful hospitality displayed by our host families, all of whom were great though I’m going to mention Valerie and Wim from personal experience for whom nothing was too much trouble. Overall all those who went thought that the Big Caper had worked well, and is something that should be continued alongside the separate identities of the 2 sides.

And that was just as well, as only a couple of weeks later The Big Caper was performing again – this time making its UK debut at the Wallingford Bunkfest. During the day on Saturday (2nd Sept) we were performing as BB, and enjoyed ourselves as always at what is turning into an excellent part of the Festival calendar. Then in the early evening, we put on a one hour Big Caper show on the main Kinecroft stage. For this we used our Belgian experiences to piece together the best bits of our shows over there, but with more patter and stunts to link some of the items than had been possible with a non English speaking audience. Once again all those watching seemed to enjoy the variety of material on offer, which included a guest appearance as an animal character from Stephen Rowley, and another audience participative Shepherd Hey. And once again the big finale worked out OK – and somehow we just kept within our one hour time slot. It was also rewarding to perform to a morris-friendly English audience who seemed to enjoy seeing something a little different. We are looking forward to being able to build further on this in 2007!

Meanwhile some other things in life don’t really change very much, like our enjoyable annual night out with Basingclog and Hook Eagle at The Plough, Little London, on Tuesday 5th September. After this, there was something of a break for BB in performing until our now traditional Bunfight / Wokingham Winter Carnival weekend on 25th/26th November. This year’s Bunfight theme was ‘Carry On Up The Bunfight’ which brought the customary array of weird and wonderful outfits – even more so this year as there is almost certainly some ‘Carry On’ film which has a connection with any fancy dress outfit anyone could think of. Amongst this year’s offerings were a mix of Caesar-themed  Romans (emperors and centurions), several Campers, a Cleo, some Cowboys and Cowgirls, someone up the Khyber, Constables, Spies, and many more. Music as always was supplied by the ubiquitous Phungus, this year with Saul on drums, and with Hugh Crabtree calling (once he had escaped from the bar at Twickenham where he had taken refuge after the afternoon’s rugby international).
In between the well called and well played dances, BB performed their ‘Knees Up’ dance as a first spot, and then after the traditional and suitably bizarre ‘Irish Bingo’ and more dances came on for their second spot. By use of just a few clothing props and a lot of imagination the audience were transported to the little town of Herrebski (you have to think about that), just a few steppes from Russia, and entertained by a Russian style dance to the ‘Hopak’ tune, featuring various cartwheels and acrobatics of sorts, lots of ‘Hoi-s’ and this year fully incorporating the dancing skills of Sue and Bob as Russian girls. Again this seemed to go down well, and the audience as is now traditional demanded an encore, helped as ever by Hugh telling them to. And in the encore we almost got the dance right much to our surprise.

Next day was the Wokingham Winter Carnival. After a thoroughly unpromising start to the day with much rain, when BB came out to strut their stuff the rain almost disappeared and we finished up having a very good day. Well, you know what they say, I-N-R-O-B-B (only on T-B-C).


For full reports from 2005 go to the BB 2005 Monthly Diary 

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