BB 2011 Summary


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Reports from the year 2011


BB's year started on Sat 26th Feb with an appearance at the IVFDF festival in Bristol. Although reduced in numbers the side acquitted itself extremely well and enjoyed a fine days dancing with some other good teams, including one dance with the passing Outside Capering Crew, in unseasonably mild and sunny conditions despite several weeks of near freezing temperatures immediately before. After spending the day in Bristol, with some slight changes of personnel we went on to the second ever Armaleggan Ale at Cumnor, outside Oxford, another excellent evening of dance and later on of song, with fine contributions from several of the assembled musicians and singers.

The next event was on Sun 17th April in Oxford. This was a much slimmed down version of the Oxford Folk Festival which had to be put on hold this year for financial reasons. However a bunch of local enthusiasts had arranged a full weekend of dance in the City Centre and at the Castle, and although once again somewhat short of numbers BB enjoyed a fine day on the Sunday culminating in performances at the Castle.

And then on to a somewhat unique weekend on 14th / 15th May - a combination of attending the Joint Morris Organisations Day of Dance in Sheffield on the Saturday, and a stag weekend for Jameson. An unlikely sounding combination, but one which turned out very well with plenty of incidents! The weekend started on Friday evening when most of the team met up in Wokingham to travel up to Sheffield together by minibus. Arriving at the Travelodge just outside Sheffield around 10.30 pm, we were delighted to find the bar open - in fact until 3 a.m. though none of the side were ready to take advantage of this. On the Saturday morning we travelled together into the City Centre for a Day of Dance, performing in several spots around the city with some of the other 62 teams who were there on the day. Our last spot in the afternoon was in the Peace Gardens - probably a mistake, in hindsight, owing to the proximity to the dance spot of a large fountain. Ordinarily this wouldn't have been a problem, but with being a bit of a special weekend spirits were running high at the same time as the level of spirits in the bottles of Jameson's whisky were running low, and the temptation to run through the fountain and then throw in other members of the side proved too great. Suffice it to say several of the side got thoroughly soaked, including Jameson at the end of the Coconut dance despite his best efforts to resist. Much credit incidentally to Tim during the day who despite being unable to dance due to injury, did a great job in whipping up enthusiasm from the crowd wherever we went as well as collecting much money on behalf of the JMO to help fund the day. 

After this it was back to the hotel to change before going out to dinner at Piccolino's Italian restaurant in Millennium Square - well, all except Simon who had a bit of trouble raising himself from his bed once back at the hotel, the last session at the Brown Bear being largely to blame. There was a running gag during dinner where every member of the team took it in turns to provide something else for Jameson to wear, which had to be put on over the top of anything else he was already wearing. By the end of the meal, much to everyone's amusement he was wearing (in no particular order) a tutu, fairy wings and wand, a lovely pink shirt, a nice moustache, a Superman cape, a tie with backward print, a smart bowtie, a large clowns tie, a cumberbund, a nice belt, an Aussie cork hat, a Viking helmet, a silk scarf, various headbands, handcuffs, a ball and chain, and a few other sundries, including the rubber truncheon which was seriously abused during the evening. But he carried it all off with a certain panache.

The Sunday was a more low key but no less enjoyable day as we headed for home via the edge of the Peak District. The minibus's first stop was at Bakewell (home of tarts so particularly appropriate for Jameson) where we had a good dance spot outside the Tourist Information, and then a bit of free time to enjoy the various pastries. Next we moved on to Matlock, where we danced in the large and impressive municipal park (Hall Leys), initially to no one but then to a small but reasonably enthusiastic audience. And then in the afternoon before returning home we had a good walk which provided some commanding views over Matlock and some of the surrounding attractions.

Altogether an excellent weekend - but could Jameson and Emma's actual wedding itself 3 weeks later live up to this? Of course!

The wedding weekend started on the Friday evening (3rd June) when the first campers arrived at the base for the weekend, Trevelyan School, Windsor, where Emma is a teacher. The guests were a mixture of family, friends, and morris hangers on from Jameson's 3 current sides (Berkshire Bedlam, Hammersmith and Rumworth), and Emma's 3 current sides (Oyster, Windsor and Capering Crew), plus many other assorted morris friends from many other fine teams. On a fine clear evening, early arrivals were greeting with soup, bread, cheese and some very fine beer which Emma's father Peter had a significant hand in - not literally, fortunately, but via the excellent quality hops used in their brewing in which he is a renowned expert.

The next morning, 4th June, was wedding day, and in perfect weather the dance teams assembled in Windsor for pre wedding dance spots. This was without Emma who was at home not worrying, but initially with Jameson, celebrating various 'lasts' as a single man (last foot up, last galley, last RTB, last slight mistake etc) before he disappeared with best man Malcolm and ushers Jerry and Roy back to Wokingham to brush up a bit and comb his hair (not a long task). The ceremony was at St. James Church Finchampstead, and coaches had been laid on to transport the dancers from Windsor. Despite Jameson's worrying about road closures, adverse weather, people getting on the right coach, drivers losing their way etc, everyone arrived in plenty of time, and the church was packed with over 200 guests with more watching by CCTV coverage in the Church Centre next door. Emma looked lovely in her wedding dress, Jameson told everyone he looked good in his suit, and the ceremony went without a hitch (except for the lifetime one for J+E) - apart from the one time Canon Ken, who was otherwise superb, slightly lost his place and couldn't remember what bit came next. Exiting to a guard of honour of swords, sticks and handkerchiefs, there were a series of photographs before more dancing at the fantastically convenient Queen's Oak pub nearby (the only pub with that name in the country). Jameson and Emma joined all of their various teams in dances before disappearing in a vintage car to the reception (a shame their budget didn't run to a modern one). The reception was held back at Trevelyan School, and after a Pimms and champagne welcome, there was an excellent buffet supper, with 250 guests miraculously squeezed into the main hall, now beautifully decorated for the occasion. To keep it in the morris family, the catering had been done by Andrew Hogg of Redbornstoke with help from the rest of Redbornstoke plus some other halves and members of Bedfordshire Lace. They had danced with the other teams in Windsor in the morning, but then raced back to the school to prepare the food and set up the dining hall splendidly, missing the ceremony in the process! Great effort on all their parts, but most especially Andrew - and good to see the Morris Federation President, Barry Goodman, resplendent in a bright red bow-tie that almost certainly offended some local bylaw, sweating along with the rest.

After the dinner there were speeches from Emma's father Peter, who entertainingly compared hop nurturing to the upbringing of daughters, then well chosen words from Emma and then Jameson, and then a contribution from best man Malcolm. Apart from his own observations (not all favourable to Jameson, especially the resurrection of the plunger incident), he had been helped in this by genuine contributions from absent friends from Flag & Bone and Great Western, who recounted fictitiously what happened when Jameson tried to join them (turned down in both cases, apparently). There were also some splendid guidelines from Terry Dix on how to be a Witchman, which included a number of useful tips (never join a team which begins and ends in 'H'......).

After the speeches and the clearing of the hall, Jameson and Emma took to the floor for the first dance to the excellent Stocai, specially brought together for the occasion, with who else calling but Nick 'Mr.Marvellous' Walden. The interval spot brought forward those stalwarts of BB weddings, the BB Men in Black, to once more strut their stuff, this time with a record 16 dancers (including drummer Bob). And there was an unexpected bonus for the audience at the end as Jameson, Alun, Mark and Will M seamlessly went into a Charleston routine, the outcome of just a few sessions of frantic practice, but flawlessly executed on the night. And as the BB boys exited, Chris Rose called back Jameson and Emma to be tied together and be over-the-peopled to Jerry's melodeon by an alarming combination of 7 Champs dancers in various attires (including Lee) before a quick cake cut and a return to the ceilidh.

A truly fabulous day, and truly a marriage made in Morris heaven - the place where only decent teams are allowed to perform, there are no massed dances, no overdone costumes hiding underdone dancing, no out of time bass drummers, and everyone dances like they were 21 again (in years not stones).

Next morning all the teams returned to Wokingham for dancing in a fairly quiet Market Place - well quiet until the entourages of 6 Morris teams arrived. Due to an injury to one of their side the previous day Jameson was dancing with Rumworth, but BB performed creditable versions of Wheel of Fortune for 9, 2 sets for Wizo, and a big Coconuts to finish proceedings. After this, fond farewells before everyone dispersed apart from a few hardy souls who returned to Windsor to help Jameson, Emma, and Emma's parents put the school back together again.

And he did look good in his suit.

Just a few days later it was back to more conventional morris duties, with a night out with Mayflower at the Frog and Wicket in Eversley. A very pleasant evening, with good dancing from both sides, and at the end of the evening the presentation of wedding gifts to Jameson and Emma, who had been a little preoccupied the previous weekend to hand them over.

Then Saturday 25th June found us in Devizes, Wiltshire, for the more-or-less annual Dorset Tour, renamed this year the not-the-Dorset-tour on account of not being in Dorset. Instead, Jerry had masterminded a great weekend based at an excellent campsite just outside Devizes, at the bottom of the infamous Caen Hill flight of locks on the Kennet and Avon canal. After torrential rain overnight on the Friday the omens weren't too promising for weekend dancing but this is BB after all, on whom legend still has it that it never rains, even when it does. So after a climb up the hill from the campsite, the 12 dancers present started the dancing in the puddles at Devizes Wharf, though as the day wore on the sun came out, and the rest of the weekend was beautiful. After dancing by the Market Cross in town, we were invited across to the Pelican Inn, busy celebrating its 57th birthday. After performing one dance for the delighted landlady (but no-one else) in the rather cramped side garden, one of the locals organised a whip round inside the bar amongst people who hadn't been watching, and duly presented us with £5.60 - more money than we usually get from people who have actually been watching so there's a lesson for us there somewhere....

In the afternoon we had 2 good spots in The Brittox shopping street, before returning to the campsite for Pimms, G&Ts, nibbles, and a cake brought by Sue's Bob in honour of her birthday. This was immaculately presented to her with lit sparklers on top - but these were tough to blow out, as Sue quickly discovered. Later on we trekked across some fields to nearby Rowde and the Cross Keys pub - an inspired choice from Jerry, as after some good dancing outside, including a Coconuts with a few locals and other halves, we made our way to the big function room at the back of the pub. There, we were served various splendid food, after which the tables were cleared away and we were able to use their skittle alley. Everyone was divided into 2 teams according to birthdays, and after each team had won one game, the third deciding one came down to a nailbiting finish where Roy, on behalf of the second half of the year, needed 8 or more with his 3 skittles to win the match. The first ball scattered 5 - a good start. The second knocked down 2 more - good, but not good enough, and the remaining 2 skittles were frustratingly a little way apart from each other. But Roy matter-of-factly took aim, nonchalantly bowled - and the last ball of the evening caught the extreme edge of one of the skittles, and knocked it directly into the other one - both down and a victory!

The next day we moved on to Lacock, a charming rural village not far from Chippenham owned by the National Trust and untouched by modern development, where we had an excellent day of dancing and picnicking (and the odd game of morris stick cricket) in glorious sunshine - in fact it turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far. Again with a big number of dancers we were able to put up 2 sets for several dances, and developed for the first time competitive Jolly Jockey Sticks where the 2 sets competed to drop the least number of sticks (2-1 on the first attempt, then a narrow 1-0 on the second in front of the National Trust tea shop). The weekend concluded with a high spirited Knees Up, which ended with Jerry wrestling young Mark to the ground for some alleged misdemeanour - you just wait Jerry, in a few years he'll be bigger than you......

Next up on the 7th July was a good night out with Customs and Exiles, once again at the Frog and Wicket at Eversley. But our next event came at the end of July with a short trip to Bricquebec in Normandy, along with Windsor Morris, and based at the very large house there belonging to Cherry and Peter from Windsor. For this, BB managed to field 9 dancers plus our 2 musicians, helped though by some of the family ties between the 2 sides. Our dancing took place on the Saturday and Sunday at a number of different places, all of which had been very ably organised by Peter. The teams started with a good reception on the Saturday morning at the Bar du Port in Carteret, helped by some decent sunshine and dodgy translation of dance names into French (many thanks, Google translator). In the afternoon there was more dancing at a wooded garden in Brix before another fabulous dinner chez Cherry courtesy again of Peter and Ralph. This was followed later by a completely incomprehensible game of Uno with a lot of people, far too many cards and several rules very few understood e.g. exactly when it was possible to do the "snappity wap-wap" play popularised by Will M. Next day we set off for a working windmill at Fierville-les-Mines, dancing to an initially sparse audience, but including a tour and explanation of the windmill's inner workings - very interesting though the work was a bit of a grind. Most people then headed for the kite festival on the beach at Barneville (very impressive) before afternoon performances outside a local biscuit factory - it didn't sound that promising but turned out to be a major local attraction. We seemed to go down well, to the extent we were plied with cups of tea and free boxes of biscuits - very Windsor-y sorts of gifts but very welcome nonetheless. Overall a very successful trip, with the team's favourite dance names for the weekend being 'La Vieille jeté jusqu'à', 'Sucer Le Singe',  'Roue de la Fortune', and probably favourite of all 'L'autoroute du diable!'. Nous sommes impatients à l'autre visite!

The following Sunday (31st July) several of the side were at Sidmouth for dancing on the prom at lunchtime and again in the early evening, sharing a spot with the recently formed Fools Gambit, a fine young side which amongst others includes our own Will M, Alun and Mark. But sandwiched between these spots was one of the (morris) highlights of Sidmouth Folk Week, the annual jig competition. This featured entries in the double jig from Will B and Alun, accompanied by Sue, and in the solo jig from Jameson, also accompanied by Sue. Will and Alun performed an excellent 'Go and Enlist' jig and were somewhat unfortunate not to be placed in the top 3. Jameson, however, excelled himself with a smoothly flowing 'Nutting Girl', beautifully played by Sue, and they deservedly won the prize for the best over-40, and second place overall. This was greeted with rapturous applause from the audience, but a few seconds later there was even louder applause as the fully merited winner was declared - none other than Emma, accompanied by Mark Rogers. We think that under the circumstances Jameson probably didn't mind being beaten by a girl - though it must have made for an interesting car journey home to Wokingham that evening.

That was it for the side until the August Bank Holiday weekend (Sat 27/Sun 28) when there was another Towersey appearance. This consisted of a number of spots on the 'Market Place' outdoor stage, and a Saturday lunchtime ceilidh spot. All of the dancing seemed to go very well, a particular highlight being 2 sets for Jolly Jockey Sticks in competition with each other to drop the fewer sticks. To help things along, the crowd in the small grandstand on one side of the stage had been encouraged to cheer for one set, the crowd on the other side for the other set, and bizarrely this resulted in much cheering all the way through. The weekend though suffered throughout from intermittent showers, something which miraculously we normally manage to avoid, but we were well and truly caught out during out last dance on the Saturday. As we assembled for Knees Up, dark clouds were heading towards the site at a vast rate of knots, but our announcer optimistically told the audience the clouds would part and move either side of the stage when they reached us. Foolish boy - just a few seconds after we had started, down came the hardest rain of the weekend, causing much of the crowd to flee to shelter. Some hardy souls though stayed, and we gamely carried on with and finished the dance - completely drenched.     

Then on Sat 3rd Sept we were again at the Wallingford Bunkfest - as always a great local event with large crowds in town and on the main arena at the Kinecroft. Our Bunkfest actually started the previous evening with a spot at the Hekety ceilidh which went very well, followed on the Saturday morning with a rehearsal with the Capering Crew of the Big Caper show we were performing in the afternoon, all excellently orchestrated by Roy. After this we had good dance spots at the Dolphin, on the Kinecroft small stage, and in the Market Place, before the Big Caper on the Kinecroft Big Stage. This was the first (and last) Big Caper show of the year, but as with all the recent ones went exceptionally well throughout. Timed precisely to 45 minutes, the show passed without mishap and the audience certainly seemed to enjoy it. We were helped considerably by the very professional staging at the Kinecroft, including good facilities backstage and a great sound system which meant our fine musicians could be properly appreciated. A great event, and a pity there are not more obvious venues for us to perform the show given the way it has developed since first being performed in 2006 (and it wasn't bad then!). Once all the self congratulation was complete, (it took quite a while), many of the side headed back to Sue's for our annual Chunkfest - a highlight of the year's social calendar, consisting of tea, cakes, and pineapple chunks with evaporated milk, with Sue's parents once again helping put it together. Possibly the only time during the year this particular mixture happens, but always very welcome. Later John appeared with his new flag on a stick, designed to help identify locations when camping or at festivals. Not really designed for back garden use though, especially when there are telephone wires passing fairly closely overhead, eh John?

24th September saw us with other Morris Federation teams at the Federation AGM weekend, based at The Fleece, Bretforton, near Evesham, and including short tours of the Cotswolds. A fine day's dancing, including a Broadway appearance (but in rather than on).

After this it was back to the autumn practice season. Not many takers for this year's October taster evening (but really well done, Sarah!), but before we knew it we were into November's Bunfight spot practices. The Bunfight this year was on 26th November, and once again another really great evening with lots of the team contributing in different ways to make it happen. Jameson was the most worried beforehand - he had a phone call at lunchtime on Bunfight day to say there was an electrical problem with lighting at the hall, and if it wasn't fixed the evening would have to be cancelled. After spending the afternoon as a nervous wreck, and rehearsing exactly what to say to everyone when they turned up ("Sorry, it's off - quiet night down the pub?") he was relieved to find out late afternoon that all was well. This year's theme was France, so inevitably there were plenty of stripy jumpers on show, many with matching dodgy moustaches. But we also had
(amongst many others) some frogs, some French flags, a Tour de France cyclist, some musketeers, an artist(e), some Resistance, mime artists, several waiters (some directly from 'Allo 'Allo) and the odd footballer. But respect to Jerry and Shirley for their very convincing Inspector Clouseau and Pink Panther outfits - for which, for added authenticity, Jerry had shaved off his 25 year old beard....  This year's band was the excellent loud and proud Tickled Pink, and once again 'Mr. Marvellous' (a.k.a. Nick Walden) called some marvellous dances. The first interval spot featured 2 BB sets doing competitive Jolly Jockey sticks, the aim being for each set to drop fewer sticks than the other one. However against all expectations, and despite not having practiced for several weeks,  rather disappointingly neither set dropped any. A swift Irish Bingo followed, after which it was back to the dancing before the 2nd interval which featured our main spot. This year we had developed further the Charleston routine first performed at Jameson's wedding, but then only by 4 dancers. This time we had 12, including Sue and Bob, and had added more choreography as well as on and off routines. It remained though fast and frantic (just occasionally a little too fast for some) but overall highly entertaining. And without having to try too hard, Nick was able to get the audience to applaud loud enough for us to come back and do it again...

The next day we were in attendance again at the Wokingham Winter Carnival, along with Borderline, Customs and Exiles, and Fools Gambit. The recent spell of fine autumn weather was still with us, giving a mild and sunny day (unlike some of the bitterly cold Carnivals of recent years) making good dancing conditions, and also bringing large crowds to the town. During the day we danced with all the other teams on and off, before the now traditional procession through the main part of town, watched by spectators packed several deep along the pavements. BB's standard of dancing was surprisingly good considering there had been no practices for several weeks while we concentrated on rehearsals for the Bunfight spot. This point was made several times during the day to foreman Roy ....

Our penultimate dance event of the year was the traditional St. Thomas day dance out on Saturday 17 December, this year on a sunny and reasonably mild day. After assembling in the Red Lion, we had 2 energetic dance spots in the Market Place, just in front of the beautifully decorated Xmas tree and just behind the not so beautiful burger van. Thanks to Mal G's generosity everyone's hat was suitably tinselled - the extra weight being given as an unconvincing reason for not getting so far off the ground. Afterwards there was a late lunch at Malcolm and Bob's, and a chance to review some footage of recent and not so recent events - an afternoon of alternately marvelling and cringing ......

Thursday 22nd saw 33 us at The Bull at Barkham for our Xmas meal, breaking a long run of Thai Xmas meals in recent years. An excellent evening, well managed by the staff at The Bull, and a well done to John and Alison for attending despite the very imminent arrival of their third child - at any moment, it appeared, though in fact it wouldn't happen for another couple of weeks. As usual the evening was enlivened by the appearance of Father Christmas, once again just after Paul had popped out for a minute. He dispensed the usual array of his Secret Santa presents, which provided the appropriate mix of fun and bewilderment, (mainly along the lines of 'what, exactly, am I supposed to do with this?...').

There was still one event to come for the year - an appearance at the Hitchin New Year's Eve ceilidh, with band Chalktown and caller Emma Wooders (never 'eard of 'er). We had 2 interval spots during the evening, and despite our relatively small numbers (just 7 of us) put on 2 good sets. Not sure we can ever forgive Emma though for introducing us before our second spot as 'the second best team in Berkshire...', a line which went over most of the audience's head, as did our riposte as we exited 'if you enjoyed us we have been Berkshire Bedlam - if you didn't we have been Windsor Morris...'.

And so on to 2012 - a year in which amongst other things we are planning a celebratory 35th weekend, organised entirely by ourselves. Oo-er. 

Reports from earlier years are also available - 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001
You can also see pictures of all events in the various Picture Galleries

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