BB 2009 Summary


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Reports from the year 2009  

FIRST HALF 2009 - the new boys settle in, and a wide variety of events

Another great series of events for BB in the first half of 2009, with plenty of opportunities for our promising new youthful members to show what they are capable of, and to stir some of the older ones to jump as high as the new boys - with mixed success. 

The season started early with an evening at the Armaleggan Ale on Saturday 14th March, a fine evening hosted by Armaleggan and featuring good dancing from a number of good guest teams. After an excellent buffet it was time for some party pieces, and Jameson once again ably represented us with his song of the Dunns, an innocent sounding song, but secretly revealing much intrigue and conspiracy amongst the Dunn family, who seem to spend much of the day running, possibly because of the rhyming potential. Then a week later on 21st March we were at the Oxford Folk Festival for a day, which was blessed with unseasonably fine weather. A procession round town was followed by dancing outside some of the magnificent architectural masterpieces of Oxford, though it must be said the gargoyles outside the Bodleian Library were giving us some particularly twisted looks. And on a couple of occasions we had two sets of 6 dancers up, the first time BB have been able to field this many dancers publicly this century.

The next event was a St. George's Day dance out on Thursday 24th April, again this year visiting the Suffolk Lodge Residential Home in Wokingham before heading on to The Olde Leathern Bottle where we were made to feel very welcome. 

Sunday May 17th saw us in Brighton for the Brighton Morris Day of Dance. Some torrential rain at the beginning of the day (but not of course on us), forced an unscheduled start in the King & Queen pub near the Royal Pavilion, where all the sides did 1 or 2 very cramped dances before the sun came out and the day's planned schedule resumed. Our tour took us to the Basket Makers and Pump House pubs before dancing in front of the entrance to the pier, and then finally back at Pavilion Gardens for a massed stand of all the day's fine teams. Our Dance of The Little Fairies included one of our invitations to the audience at the end to 'join us through the magic arch' which they duly did, causing no little chaos while doing so plus arm-ache for the BBs holding their sticks aloft - especially for those more junior members present unused to such nonsense.

The following weekend was the Spring Bank Holiday, when we once again attended the Chippenham Folk Festival for the first time since 2004. This turned out to be very rewarding for all the BBs who took part, though it was a pretty intensive schedule by morris standards. Over the 3 days we had 2 workshops, 2 processions, an evening dance spot, a 15 minute Arena stage spot on our own, much street dancing, and in particular 2 Big Caper shows with The Outside Capering Crew. The number of available BB performers varied a bit by day, but for much of the time we had our 3 younger lads with us though they were also practising and performing with NYFTE for much of the weekend. Overall though the side acquitted itself extremely well, with particular highlights being the 1 hour Big Caper show at the Constitutional Hall on the Saturday evening (for which we had spent much of the afternoon rehearsing), and also a surprisingly good set during a Playford dance on the Sunday evenning, where everything just clicked with the 4 dances we did. The 1 hour Big Caper show was based mainly on a programme developed for previous festivals, but with some new material including the Pirates Jig from the crew followed by our sword dance where we were dressed as pirates (aaarrrhhh....). Our new boys slotted in remarkably well, including in the Finale where Alun, Mark and Will all performed some bacapipes before, in the final sequence, Alun soared over the Crew in a final leapfrog while Rob and Jerry did the same over 3 BBs each. "As good as a West End show" said one member of the audience afterwards (allegedly while fumbling for his white stick), and from other later comments it seemed like all the audience enjoyed it. Not sure about the 'green room' provided for us though - accessed by a door at the back of the hall, it could best be described as a heavily overgrown small back garden and dumping ground. Still, we didn't want to seem too precious ..... The Sunday also saw us do a shortened (40 minute) version of the show on the main Arena stage, featuring some different material which also went very well though for a variety of reasons not quite as fluent as the earlier show. All in all though a great weekend for us.

Sunday 7 June saw us again at the Kirtlington Lamb Ale, another regular event for us in recent years. A slightly depleted team got itself even more depleted when Jerry's calf muscle went during the second part of the procession around the village, though he then became a handy drum banger, Bob being off for the day being a Mabel Gubbins. Despite this the side, abetted by young Will and Mark, acquitted itself very well throughout a range of dances, except perhaps during a slightly disastrous version of Jolly Jockey sticks at the Dashwood, where there was a lot less catching than throwing. However we were able to bounce back next dance with a high spirited Knees Up. For the afternoon show spot in the playground, we were a bit worried beforehand being rather late in the schedule and with storm clouds gathering, but the threatened rain held off nad we were able to do a creditable Boggle with Swords.

On the following Saturday, 13th June, we were invited for the first time to Abingdon Traditional Morris's 'Mayor's Day' traditional event - one of the first Morris Fed sides to be invited to this prestigious event, and certainly the first featuring female musicians, though Simon and Jameson have both been regular attendees (as spectators) over the years. The day, blessed by particularly sunny weather, turned out to be great fun - featuring amongst other things a 'mock mayor' election - an election taking place every year for one of Abingdon to be elected as the new 'Mayor of Ock Street', voted for by members of Abingdon Morris and the residents of Ock Street. Although the post these days is symbolic, over 200 people vote, and the new mayor traditionally is charged with keeping the current civic mayor up to scratch. After the election takes place, visiting morris sides (this year Saddleworth Morris, Chipping Camden and ourselves) take turns to carry the new mayor from pub to pub on a type of sedan chair. And it's pretty heavy too. Other features of the day were dancing in a variety of places around Abingdon, including the magnificent open vaulted County Hall, where we put on a pretty good set in front of a good audience of the other morris sides and locals. Throughout the day, we moved from one place to another by a walking procession led by the 'Ock Street Horns' - a huge pair of ox's horns which we can testify easily stops traffic when their carrier steps out into the road to lead the procession to the next spot, which happened frequently throughout the day. Overall we very much enjoyed the dancing, of which there turned out to be quite a lot (we managed 30 dances during the day, 21 different ones, which we think is a record for us for one day). We also thoroughly enjoyed Abingdon's fine hospitality during the day, including a tea which was a proper tea (sandwiches, pork pie, loads of cake etc), and an excellent supper in the imposing Checker Hall, one of the remaining parts of Abingdon Abbey. During the supper there were various musical entertainments, and Jameson once again sang of his friends the Dunns before the whole day was dunn and everyone dunn and gone home.

SECOND HALF 2009 - another packed programme and a bit more telly ....

Following the events in the first half of the year (see 2009 diary for more details), and our traditional summer solstice evening out at Avebury with Holt Morris on 18th June, July saw us continue on our travels. First up was the Icknield Way Day of Dance in Wantage on 4th Jul, which included some good dancing around the town, and a show spot in the inspiring surroundings of the walkway next to Tesco. Then a sunny evening out with Jackstraws at the Cricketers, Hartley Wintney, on 9th July was followed by a damper evening on the 16th July with Mayflower at the Old Wheatsheaf, Frimley Green. On Saturday 18 Jul we were in Windsor for one of Windsor Morris's well organised Days of Dance, followed in the evening by a guest appearance at Cecil Sharp House for a spot during the Paula Woods birthday ceilidh. The spot went very well, only slightly inhibited by the rather large pizzas we had unwisely scoffed beforehand as we tend to do on such occasions.

The weekend of 25th/26th July saw us again at the Warwick Festival, where on the Saturday we enjoyed the sunshine, the dancing, the procession-that-never-seems-to-end, and the almost inevitable dance in the children's paddling pool at the end of the procession. With no evening spot to do, we were able to indulge ourselves on the campsite with yet more Dominos pizza, and as usual we severely overestimated the amount we actually needed, suggesting the new BB slogan - "Berkshire Bedlam - never knowingly underpizza'd". Sunday started for us with an outdoor workshop in the Market Place, where we taught Sucking the Monkey to unsuspecting members of the public (or was it the other way round in some cases?) followed by an excellent lunchtime session outside the Zetland, and a final set back at the school / campsite.

On Sunday 2nd August we found ourselves with enough BBs at the Sidmouth Festival to be able to do a lunchtime spot on the prom along with all the other usual sides there, and another later spot also on the seafront on our own. And a special mention to Alun, Mark and Will M who acquitted themselves extremely well again in the afternoon's jig competition. And then on Sunday 23rd August it was yet another bizarre event to add to the rich vein of bizarre events of recent years. In 2005 we took part in an episode of 'Chucklevision' for CBBC, dressed as Bavarian dancers, and had a great deal of fun doing it. The producer of that episode, Jack Jameson, liked us and invited us to take part in an episode of another CBBC programme he was producing called Spacehoppers. This is a children's science programme, presented by Big Cook Little Cook presenters Dan and Steve, and in this episode we were asked to be dressed in our regular morris kit and take part in a number of sequences which attempted to explain something about planets and their smells in an amusing and educational way. Filming took place at Littlewick Green on a very hot August afternoon, and with Sue and Bob providing some of our regular (but non copyright) music we did a number of dance and other sequences, interacting with the presenters, and including one sequence in which one of them moved amongst us blindfolded, detecting smells of things we were carrying, while we orbited round doing parts of our Schrödingers Hat dance. Jameson got a whole line of script at one point (fortunately without too many 'r's in it) during a sequence where everyone got to sit crammed on a bench having tea together (if this all sounds a bit bizarre, it's basically because it was). The filming took all of the afternoon, with many sequences being filmed several times, and some reshot because local people in the houses around the green had been inconsiderate enough to appear in the distance, or get in their cars and drive off. Some people, eh? We think the filming went well, but are all curious to see what the final programme looks like in early 2010!

Wallingford Bunkfest was next, on 5th September - another good day, with spots around town and on the Kinecroft Main stage, and topped as usual by the main event of the day, a well attended Chunkfest at Sue's. Local supermarkets have apparently got to hear about this now, and stock up for some weeks beforehand with the copious amounts of tinned pineapple and evap which we get through these days. Nice to see these traditions carrying on over the years .....

And then the last event of the main season, the Tenterden Folk Festival, which we went to on Sat 3rd October. Based in the Kent town of Tenterden, the festival features many morris teams from Kent, the South East, and further afield, and we enjoyed a good days dancing followed by a procession (not sure about processing in and out of the lingerie shop but it passed a few moments) and fine performance of Fairies in the show spot at the end of the day.

The end of the main dance season is never the end of BB's activities for the year though and next up on Sat 28 Nov was the annual Bunfight ceilidh, featuring this year the fabulous Committee Band with caller Nick Walden - their popularity evidenced by the first ever Bunfight sell out. This year's theme was 'Circus', and once again some great outfits were on show from some of our guests. The band played some great dance music throughout the evening, interspersed with a couple of breaks - the first one featuring (as well as the inevitable Irish Bingo) young Will, Mark and Alun performing a fine version of their 3 person jig based on the BB Boggle dance and named for the night 'Jiggle'. This also featured a unique BB musicians line up, with Jane and Bob being helped out by Emma on accordeon, covering for Sue who was off climbing mountains in Egypt. The second spot showcased the unique talents of 16 of the BB All Stars Cheerleaders, specially trained for the evening by Steph, who performed a routine based on The Cartoons version of Witch Doctor, ending up with hoisting our 3 younger lads skywards. Amazingly the audience insisted on seeing this again (possibly helped by Nick telling them to), and in order to inject a bit of variety, the second time through the routine went slightly wrong in different places from where it had gone slightly wrong the first time. But overall another excellent night, and once again a fine team effort to make it all happen and ensure everyone had a great time - aided considerably by having such a fine band and caller.

The next day saw those of us still standing after the night before out in Wokingham for the Wokingham Winter Carnival. For reasons too tricky to go into, ourselves and Borderline were the only Morris sides there, but BB performed creditably in between the showers, and had a good joint spot with Borderline in the early afternoon before heavier rains wiped out the rest of the day.

The Xmas dinner on Thurs 17 Dec saw Santa dish out the usual amazing array of Secret Santa presents, just after Paul had gone out of the room, missing Santa again for the third year in a row. A light covering of snow settled during the evening, which unknown to all present was to be the precursor to several weeks of snow and biting cold weather. Some snow was still around on Saturday 19th when we made our traditional last Saturday before Xmas lunchtime appearance in Wokingham Market Place - and at one point Jameson managed to secrete some snow in his Coconut shell, ready to splat Lee highly effectively during the first chorus of the coconut dance. The day concluded with an afternoon at Jameson and Emma's new library-masquerading-as-a-house, where everyone had a good time providing they didn't actually touch any of the books.

And so, on to 2010!    

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