BB 2010 Summary


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Reports from the year 2010


Our first formal appearance of the season was on Saturday 17 April with the splendid wedding of John and Alison. This took place in the Grecian Temple at Stowe Landscape Gardens on a beautiful spring day, and was a truly memorable occasion for everyone there, not least John, Alison, Robert and Harrison. A silver wedding bus had been laid on to take guests from the hotel in Buckingham to the magnificent location of the gardens and the Temple for the ceremony, after which there was champagne and cake outside the temple while a jazz band played and the guests attempted to master some of the giant outdoor games provided. Later, there was a full reception back at the hotel in Buckingham, followed by a ceilidh with the Committee Band. This also featured a morris spot from BB, a singing spot from Alison's group, and then another appearance of the BB Men in Black - they get everywhere. But a truly fabulous day throughout and much credit and many thanks to John and Alison for such a fabulous day, plus a little help from the weather gods....

The next day saw a BB side (but without John who was mysteriously engaged, or more accurately not engaged any more) at the Oxford Folk Festival, where the fine weather continued and we had good dance spots in Cornmarket and at the Oxford Castle.

On 8th May we did a spot at the Oxfolk ceilidh, where Belshazzars Feast were the band, and then the following Sunday we were off to Brighton again for the second year in a row at the Brighton Morris Day of Dance. This was another excellent day, using several good dance venues around the town, before doing a version of Coconuts at the massed stand for which we were able to rope in Emma in Windsor kit ("never seen this dance before, have you luv?").

Tuesday 25 May saw us at the Plough, Little London (which as always was just that bit further away than you think it's going to be) for a very pleasant evening with Mayflower, followed by the customary courtesy sandwiches. Then on 4th of June a small but select side was off to Harrogate for Flag and Bone's very first weekend all of their own. The highlight of this for BB, apart from the dancing in some wonderful locations on Saturday and Sunday, was Saturday night's themed 'Cabaret' evening. This included a competitive dance display during which 3 pairs of BBs performed some tango routines which had been taught to them in previous weeks by Andy, who unfortunately though perhaps wisely couldn't be there. So we had Simon and Jerrie, Will B and Jeannie, and Lee and Jamie, all strutting their stuff with a lot of smouldering, languorous draping of legs over other legs, and the occasional descending skirt (should have worn tighter elastic, Jerrie...). While perhaps not being of the absolute highest quality, it evoked the biggest laughs of the evening. And Sue wearing both a black wig and Paul's dress (yes really) was also a fine sight.

Sunday 13 June was the Windsor Day of Dance, assembling at the Jolly Cricketers at Seer Green and then moving on to the Chiltern Open Air Museum where Windsor had organised a very fine picnic. This was followed on 17 Jun by an evening with Hook Eagle at The Cricketers, Hartley Wintney, before the following Thursday's annual pilgrimage to the Red Lion, Avebury, for our now traditional midsummer dance out with Holt Morris, followed by some fine singing in another nearby pub. This was the precursor to a BB Dorset Tour, a welcome return having missed a year in 2009. Rob and Mirian had arranged another good itinerary, returning this time to the traditional base of the Giants Head camp site near Cerne Abbas. Saturday's dancing started in beautiful weather in Dorchester but then hit an immediate snag, with the planned train trip down to Weymouth having to be cancelled due to a problem on the road/rail bridge on the line, temporarily blocking both road and rail routes to Weymouth. Instead the itinerary was hastily rearranged and we drove on to West Bay where we found some good locations to dance and later to swim. Saturday evening had a barbeque back at the campsite before the customary part walk, part slide (eh, Simon?) down into Cerne Abbas to dance to a small but select audience outside the Royal Oak. This was followed by the legendary 'gloworm walk' back up the hillside to the campsite - the legend being that there are actually any gloworms within a 20 mile radius. Sunday's dancing was at the Sir Walter Tyrell pub at Brook, on the edge of the New Forest, where our lunchtime audience gradually drifted away as 3 pm approached, kick off time in the England v West Germany World Cup game. Should have stayed and watched us, shouldn't you?!

The following weekend we were down near Exeter for one of the highlights of the 2010 Morris calendar, Great Western's 40th birthday weekend. This was based at the site of the Village Hall at Christow, which provided ample room for camping and a spacious hall for various of the weekend's events - just as well it was spacious with close to 40 fine teams assembled, including some who had reformed just for the event like Paddington Pandemonics, Downes-on-Tour and several other illustrious blasts from the past. Friday evening consisted of a getting-to-know-you-again reunion and scratch band ceilidh, and was followed on Saturday by 4 separate bus tours using 7 buses to various charming parts of Devon. BB's tour, which included 7 Champions, Muddy River, Iron Men and 7 Gilders, and one of the many GW sides on tour that day, went to Newton Abbot, the Rising Sun, and River Dart Country Park - all good dance venues, especially in the great weather the weekend was blessed with. After the tours finished it was back to Christow for tea and cake, and then a chance to dress up in whatever was appropriate to the secret letter each team had been given. BB had been given the somewhat challenging but ultimately suitably macho letter X, and chose to include a reference to Xmas in our evening attire which for the BB boys was Men in Black outfits (yes, again). Respect to Paul though for going that little bit further and producing the full Santa Claus outfit, though this confused one small child who was marched up to him to relay his Xmas wishes. That ultimately confused Paul more than the child, but fortunately Paul was able to defer to Elf Sue standing nearby to sort out the actual detail of the child's Xmas list. After wrapping ourselves round the hog roast, the evening was then taken up with a series of spots from most of the teams - some musical, some dramatic, some funny, some slightly weird. We came on towards the end to do Men in Black in a tiny space, which nevertheless went down a storm after an initial false start when not enough space had been cleared. The evening was topped at the end though by a truly fantastic spoof film which GW had put together, featuring the antics of the 4th Emergency Service ("Police, Ambulance, Fire or Morris?") assembling a team of dancers to perform at short notice at a village fete. Several members of GW had been asked to contribute short clips of themselves supposedly answering an emergency morris call from various locations, but with no real idea of what the whole thing would look like and on the evening, only Pete Merrett, who had spent much of the previous weeks putting it together, knew what was to be shown. The result was an outstanding film which must pass swiftly into Morris folklore!

The next day, all sides danced at various locations around Exeter before assembling at the Exeter Quays where an excellent pizza lunch was provided, and then a massed stand at the Piazza Terracina nearby. A truly memorable weekend, excellently organised as ever, and great fun to be a part of. And a special mention too for our boys, especially Alun, squires-for-the-weekend, who made an excellent job of organising the team and choosing dances. A lifetime's morris secretarial duties may be in store (please) ....... 

After this there were no more events in July, but plenty of practice as we got ready for our season's highlight with another appearance at the Sidmouth Folk Week from 30th July to 6th August. This was a week long series of performances at one of the leading UK Folk Festivals, and a Sidmouth invitation remains one of the top accolades for any Morris side. Our week started with a reception for the booked teams at the Blackmore Marquee, followed by a procession along the promenade and through the Market Square - the first of several opportunities to check whether all the summer practising of posing had finally paid off. Our first performance was during the afternoon in a showcase for several of the booked teams, where we rolled out the 1-6 dance and the first of the week's performances of Coconuts (not to be the last). Later on we made the first of our appearances at the dance display area at The Hub, the performance centre for the Festival, centred on the Ham and Port Royal area at the eastern end of the Esplanade. Which included the second outing of Coconuts (amongst other dances) - one could sense Simon's concern as he saw his carefully harvested coconut stock dwindling in front of his eyes ....

Sunday lunchtime saw most of the team dancing on the seafront (except Lee and Jameson, off with 7 Champs, and Jerry with Windsor) where we finished up sharing a good spot with Nonesuch. Then after another display at the Hub, most of the team decamped to the Jig Competition in Blackmore Gardens to support the excellent representation from BB - Sue and Will B plus Sue and Alun in the solo competition, and Will M and Mark dancing in  NYFTE colours in the double jig competition. It must be said all our dancers and Sue did exceptionally well, and in particular Will M and Mark were unlucky not to be placed in the double jig results - but the stars on the day were Will B and Sue in the solo jig, who won the best new entrant prize and finished 3rd overall - a great performance and well deserved result. Monday started with running a workshop for one of the youth events, followed by an afternoon performance at The Hub and then a joint show in Blackmore Gardens with Hammersmith and Nonesuch. In the end this was a turn and turn about display, though we did manage to get the other teams to join us through our Magic Arch at the end of Fairies which they all did with great relish.

Tuesday was a big day for us, starting with running a workshop in the morning at the Bulverton Marquee, where we had several sets up doing 'Dance of Chance', followed by the challenge of solving the 'Dance of Stance' puzzle, which all seemed to cope with adequately. Then after a couple of performances at the Hub, including at last an outing for the Glorishers A-team, we did our own impromptu performance on the seafront before a excellent spot in the Market Square with Chinewrde and Sciorr. Finally, after a very sociable team meal at the Cricket Club, it was off to LNE at the Bulverton, with The Committee Band, where after an earlier spot from Hammersmith we had a terrific reception for Men in Black, done this time with the all the 12 BB dancers present on the day, and with Sue and Bob cowering in the wings, waiting for the train crash that never happened ....... In fact it went exceptionally well, after some slight difficulty with timing at the beginning where we couldn't hear the music, loud as it was, over the enthusiastic reception of the audience as we put on our shades (think Beatles at Shea Stadium, 1965). Even the shooting sequence went nearly perfectly all the way through this time, which has to be a first. Great reception at the end and afterwards - but after 3 performances during the year, culminating in this one, that may have to be it for BB's MiB?! We'll see!

Wednesday was a day off (just as well as the only rain of the week fell during the morning - see? it never rains on ... etc ....), and we had to say goodbye to some of the side, although several assembled in the afternoon at Lee and Paul's rented house for afternoon tea and some of Lee's excellent scones (baked following some considerable help from the absent Linda, so basically all he had to do was pop the mixture in the oven and hope the middles didn't sink too much - which they didn't). We still had plenty of numbers for Thursday's dancing, starting with a lunchtime set at the Hub, though the numbers were reduced by 1 more when Malcolm spectacularly pulled a muscle in his back, rendering him somewhat unable to stand up unsupported for a while. Despite this, there was a successful set at the Anchor Gardens, along with Nonesuch, and then another set at the Hub. Then on to the Friday, the last day of the Festival, where we had a 15 minute spot of our own at the Hub in the afternoon, followed in the evening by the highlight of the torchlight procession. With reduced numbers, it was decided to do the procession in Men in Black kit for the 6 dancers with Sue and Bob also in suitable outfits, although with Malcolm's continuing limited mobility the only figures we could incorporate from our MiB dance were the Monkey Walk and Boxes (Whirlygigs being out on account of the flaming torches we were carrying). This was a suitably bizarre way to end what had been a fabulous week, which left those in the huge crowd who had some idea of what we were doing suitably amused, and everyone else either amused, puzzled or in some cases scared, especially with the 'no photographs please' mantra we kept repeating, the antithesis of our normal posing processions. As always there were huge crowds all along the Esplanade to see the procession go by, and then head down onto the beach for the ritual dousing of torches on the rocket signal, followed by the usual spectacular end of festival fireworks display. A great week for all those there, some exceptional performances, a high standard of dancing throughout, some great social occasions, and lots of good memories for everyone to bring back home with them. Well done to all the BB dancers, musicians, partners, families and other supporters for everyone's contributions!

Sidmouth though was by no means the end of the season. Just a couple of weekends later a small but perfectly formed BB team (well done to all who made the journey, especially Roy and Alun) was off to the moors of Lancashire for the Saddleworth Rushcart Festival. This particular rushcart is a two wheeled wooden cart laden with rushes stacked 15ft high and weighing around 2 tonnes (no steering wheel, no brakes) and pulled by Morris men (never women!) from all over the country, and preceded by a large band, over the course of the weekend festival.  The origins of this lie in a traditional ceremony performed in many villages around the area, culminating in using the cut rushes to line the floors of churches during the cold winters. This particular ceremony was revived in 1975 by the Saddleworth Morris Men who during August collect rushes, build up the rushcart, and dress it on top with heather, rowan branches and a unique banner that hangs proudly on the front (this year celebrating Florence Nightingale). The cart is ridden by a 'jockey' from the ranks of Saddleworth Morris Men (the most experienced dancer who has not previously had the honour), who rides on top of it for the duration of the weekend, with only his copper kettle of beer, frequently replenished, for company. On Saturday 21st August, starting from Uppermill,  the cart was pulled around some of the beautiful villages of Saddleworth, stopping along the way for refreshments, and for dance and music performances for the large crowds that gather and follow. The BB dancers wisely spotted that it would be easier to take hold of the 'stangs' (lines of wooden poles attached by ropes to the cart) behind the cart rather than in front where it would actually be necessary to pull (especially after finding out the cart had a rather dodgy wheel which barely made it through the weekend). Meanwhile Bob and Sue had gamely joined the band at the front of the procession, which apart from them was almost (but not quite) exclusively male - however it must be said they were made to feel properly welcome. After a sociable evening at The Waggon in Uppermill on the Saturday evening, everyone reassembled on the Sunday for the very long drag up the hill from Uppermill to St Chads Church, for further dancing and entertainment including wrestling and competitions open to all such as worst singer and gurning. We had nominated Simon for the wrestling until finding that the same extremely beefy Saddleworth dancer had won the competition for the last 10 years by the simple expedient of picking up his opposition, regardless of size, and lying on them for the requisite 2 pinfalls. Sadly we had to leave before the gurning got properly under way as we had some obvious candidates for that too, but meanwhile had enjoyed some good dancing in the area outside the church where a large crowd watched displays from all the guest sides. Another really enjoyable experience for us, and great credit to Saddleworth Morris for making the weekend happen with such a great mix of ceremony and tradition, but also great fun - and without exception they made us all most welcome throughout.

After this, the next event was another outing at the Wallingford Bunkfest on Saturday 4th September, the 7th consecutive year we had attended this festival which is bigger and better than ever after a sticky period a few years ago. We are usually fortunate with the weather there, and on another sunny day we had performances in the Market Square, on the Kinecroft small stage, and at the Dolphin, before our dance displays finished with a good set on the Kinecroft main stage, sharing dances with Ashnah belly dancers. After this all of BB retreated as usual to Sue's for our 'Chunkfest' - a very sociable afternoon tea featuring some fine cakes and a huge bowl of pineapple chunks with evaporated milk. Probably the only time every year most of eat us pineapple chunks - but well worth waiting for. After this many of the party headed off to see The New Rope String Band at nearby Didcot - great fun as ever!

A particular highlight of the season for most of the team came a couple of weeks later when for the first time ever but hopefully not the last we ran a hen party session for a lively group of 20 something girls. Tim declined to join us, having a much better event to go to, but those of us who did go found the session strangely enjoyable, as did the girls who thanked us profusely afterwards. Amazingly Bob managed to find over 20 different pieces of percussion from her magic basket so they could join in the percussion bits on Fairies before getting the bride Amy and all the guests to walk through the Magic Arch of Happiness at the end .... Aahhh …

And then November’s practices saw us rehearsing our spot for the Bunfight on 27 November, which turned out to be another great night. For once, we hadn’t had to worry beforehand about whether we could fill the hall, thanks to the excellent early publicity from John, and thanks to Jerry having lots of young relatives and friends who still like the morris world and ceilidhs and haven’t got to the bitter, twisted and cynical stage yet though it will come, as it does to us all. Plus I guess having the Committee Band with Nick Walden calling again helped considerably, in fact doing their penultimate ever gig. Great outfits as usual from all the side, and many of the guests, though particular mentions for Paul’s tights, Lee’s Star Wars family, our Bob's Spacehopper, and Sue and her Bob as the Martians from the Cadbury’s Smash advert, though they seemed to find stripping the willow particularly difficult later on. And well done to Will for doing his jig in bear feet, after 2 sets for the Mazurka had just about avoided too many collisions. And then, after the traditional Irish Bingo, it was time for 16 of us (including Sue and Bob this year) to perform our carefully rehearsed Smurfs dance, a faithful rendition of the fabulous Britannia Coconutters nut dance, done to a recording of their tune which even had inbuilt applause at the end - fortunately. But as usual our efforts seemed to go down very well with our audience though we noted no cries of encore this year. But a fabulous night as always, and great to see a full house all enjoying themselves. And after such a fabulous evening, what better way to follow it up than with a day at the Wokingham Winter Carnival. The weather was fine, though bitterly cold, and we had a good day's dancing with Borderline and the Exiles before joining the procession through the usual large crowds followed by a dive into The Lord Raglan to thaw out.

And finally, the following Saturday, what was to turn out to be the last dance event of the year - the Big Caper show along with the Outside Capering Crew at the Haddenham Festival. Overall this was probably one of the best Big Caper shows the teams have ever done, really showing the benefit of the afternoon rehearsal immediately beforehand, as for the most part the show was fresh in everyone’s memory. This meant in particular that the joint dances, the interplay between the two sides, and all the changeovers between dances, worked pretty well as planned throughout. Of course, there were some unscripted challenges along the way, not least during the sword dance when Jameson's calf muscle seized up, just as Jerry's had done at the same point in the same event a couple of years earlier. Though he got through the dance, he was unable to take part in the subsequent ones, causing some hasty replanning. But great credit to Alun and Will B for covering during the jig sequence in the jig medley, and Tim for stepping into Goblins – both without any rehearsing. Jameson did eventually limp out for the finale, which also went extremely well again, with all leapfrogs perfectly synchronised and executed. Of course though this wasn’t the end of the challenge for the evening as we were left one short for the Men in Black spot during the Oyster Band ceilidh – until Bob stepped faultlessly into Jameson’s place despite never having danced it for real before. A fabulous performance from him/her and all the side – and one which left Hugh Rippon, caller for the evening, rather lost for words.

Thursday 17 Dec was the annual Xmas meal, once again at the Thai House in Finchampstead, on a suitably cold Christmass-y evening with swirls of light snow in the air. And once again for some reason Paul missed Santa distributing his Secret Santa presents. The usual depths had been plumbed for this year's offerings, with one of the stand outs being the yodelling flamingo Paul received. And good to see almost all the team there despite the weather.

Our very last event of the season should have been our traditional St. Thomas Day lunchtime dance out on in Wokingham Market Place on the last Saturday before Xmas, Saturday 18th. But early morning brought heavy snow all around the area, and by mid morning it was clear play would have to be abandoned for the day. Would this mean the end of an unbroken run of over 30 years of Berkshire Bedlam in Wokingham on St. Thomas Day? Mindful of this proud record, Jameson and Emma trudged through the snow up to the town centre in order to claim another year of presence, and so the unbroken run continues (despite no actual dancing this year). Though they also took the opportunity to have a pint or so in the Red Lion while watching the snow - which spookily stopped at exactly 12 noon, our normal time to start dancing - obviously fate wants the side to carry on again in 2011 .....

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