BB 2013 Summary


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Reports from the year 2013

2013 - what a great year!

2013 was full of some really great events and performances, even despite the presence of one or two longer term injuries. Though we didn't know just how good it was going to turn out when the season kicked off on 20th April with a sunny day in Oxford, along with many other morris sides as a part of the revitalised Oxford Folk Weekend. After some past financial difficulties the Festival is enjoying something of a revival, and the gleaming spires of Oxford witnessed some excellent folk related activity over the weekend. We certainly had a good day dancing at the Oxford Castle, the Ashmolean Museum, and some stints in Cornmarket before finishing at Gloucester Green (not the bus station bit), transformed for the day into a hub of activity with music, dance, craft stalls, and general bonhomie all around. Tour leader for the day Will did a great job, and didn't let the day's lack of swords get in the way of doing our Sword Dance (though it got a bit sticky). And the first BB lucky lottery of the season produced a £10 win - a good omen for the season?

On 4th May we joined Pilgrim Morris in Guildford for their annual Summerpole celebration - carrying a giant striped pole around town before planting it in the Castle grounds. Apart from incorporating the first procession of the year, the day marked David's first full dance out with us which passed without any serious mishaps. And at lunchtime he revealed a hitherto hidden powerful singing voice - an asset the team can usefully deploy when called upon for a turn in future, allowing the rest of the team to slope off to the bar. This was followed on 19th May by another trip to Brighton, to join Brighton Morris Men for part of their weekend of dance. Apart from being a good dancing day, the day was also notable for the debut of a new dance for 2013, Winnersh Triangle, thankfully completed without too many mishaps.

And then it was time for BB's first US trip. Each year one side from the UK is invited to join around 16 high quality teams from the USA and Canada at the long established Marlboro Ale, held over the Whit holiday weekend, and based at Marlboro College, Vermont. This year 9 BB dancers, plus Sue, Bob and some partners/families made the trip, to be greeted by typical English Bank Holiday weekend weather – “Occasionally it’s wet here at this time of year” they said to us on arrival, “and occasionally it’s cold, but this is the first year it’s been both”. Hmmm. Undeterred however by a bit of cold and damp, we thoroughly enjoyed the weekend – not dissimilar to an English morris weekend but with a few key differences. Firstly, the Ale is a strictly invitation only event and the dancing standards were extremely high. Secondly, every now and again when all the teams are together, they just love to break into massed dances. There was even a massed dance workshop on the Friday evening of arrival – unfortunately missed by most of BB who had retired jetlagged long before the first massed foot up. Thirdly, there were plenty of young people around for the weekend, and while most teams danced Cotswold there was an all teenage group performing Manx dances to an exceptional standard.

Dancing on the Saturday was in nearby Brattleboro, culminating in a massed stand in the town centre, and followed in the evening by contra dancing back at the college. On Sunday the teams split up for tours of 3 or 4 teams on yellow school buses, visiting various local towns and villages, before another final massed stand at Newfane - a small picture postcard American village with white clapperboard buildings and a verdant village green. The final part of the weekend was the Sunday evening ‘Feast’ – an elaborate meal after which teams are invited to do party pieces. Fortunately nowadays BB have a good stock of these and got a great reception for our Men in Black / Gangnam spot – amongst the many things Americans do well is make incredibly enthusiastic audiences! We were also awarded our trophy for somehow narrowly beating Marlboro Morris in their annual ‘Aunt Sally’ challenge against the visiting UK team (thanks to Jerry, Alun, and our ringer Bob). And equally bizarrely some of us found ourselves signing autographs for our very brief Downton Abbey appearance, a major talking point with a few diehard American fans.    

After the Ale weekend, some of BB were generously hosted by local dancers in nearby Amherst for another couple of days before dancing out on the Tuesday evening with local side, Juggler Meadow. After that everyone went their own ways round New England and further – none quite as far as Sue who along with partner Bob proceeded to cover a further 7500 miles by road, taking in Yellowstone Park and the Grand Canyon!

Our overall impressions of the weekend were highly favourable. The American teams, apart from being great hosts, took their morris very seriously – high standard of dancing, close attention to detail, great enthusiasm, and very supportive of each other and their English guests. Very occasionally we found them almost too perfect and wished one or two could have toned down the deadly accuracy and toned up the entertainment value of their dances to make a better connection with their audiences. But that’s to quibble – overall great standards, great fun, great hosts, and set in a beautiful part of America.

Safely back home (apart from Sue, still chasing bears in Yellowstone) we had an excellent dancing evening on 13 June with Customs and Exiles, at the George and Dragon, Swallowfield. With Emma ably filling in for Sue, we were able to field 2 sets for several dances. A few days later, on Sun 16th, Sue was back to play for us at Nettlebed Village Hall, at an event to celebrate 100 years of the hall, a fascinating building and where amongst other things Nettlebed Folk Club put on top quality folk acts every Monday evening throughout the year. As many of the side are regular visitors there, we were glad to join in the celebrations and were pleased to be able to do a dance with our swords which Nettlebed helped fund the purchase of several years ago.

Then Sat 22nd saw us again joining Abingdon Traditional Morris Dancers for the Abingdon 'Mayormaking' day, which we previously attended in 2009. The day is centred around the election of a 'Mock Mayor' of Ock Street. The election takes place in the afternoon - prior to this there is dancing around Abingdon before the election takes place at the Brewery Tap pub. Once elected, the new mayor (once again this year the same as the old mayor) is carried around the streets on a chair supported by poles, with the poles and chair carried on their shoulders by Abingdon Morris dancers and also their guest team i.e. this year us. The trick when carrying is not to be too tall, as it's the tall ones who finish up with the most weight while the shorter ones walk along looking innocent. At the end of the day's dancing there was once again an excellent supper provided in the 15th century grade 1 listed Long Gallery, part of Abingdon's old Abbey buildings. After the supper there were some excellent entertainment provided by way of some high quality floor spots, with Jameson once again very capably painting the parlour on our behalf, so to speak.

The following weekend we were off to Dorset once again for our 'annual' Dorset Tour - in fact the first true Dorset Tour for 3 years, having skipped a year in 2012 and gone to Devizes in 2011. Once again based at the Giants Head campsite outside Cerne Abbas, Rob and Lee had put together the weekend's programme, and were rewarded with some excellent summer weather throughout. Many of the side arrived on the Friday evening, but the weekend's dancing started on the Saturday morning with dancing outside the long since closed former smallest pub in England, the Smith's Arms at Godmanstone. The pub and immediate area were completely deserted, but while lining up alongside the road for a photo, a coach swooped by at which we waved, as you do. To our surprise it then stopped just down the road, and a coachload from the West Midlands, on their way to Dorchester, got out to watch us for a couple of dances. And then when we were on the point of leaving, a car with a couple from New Zealand stopped just opposite and we rolled out another couple of dances. We then moved on to the Wise Man pub at West Stafford for lunch before heading into Weymouth on the new Park & Ride. On a beautiful sunny afternoon we danced by the Clock Tower on the prom before some of the hardier members of the party headed into the sea, and the less hardy ones headed for the ice cream kiosks. Later on back at the campsite it was time for various cocktails, followed by barbequing (or in David's case cremating) an array of livestock and poultry, before commencing the walk (by various routes this year) down into the village of Cerne Abbas for an evening's dancing outside the Royal Oak. By the end of the evening we found during the day we had done no less than 35 different dances (out of our total repertoire of 39) and 41 dances altogether, probably a record for BB for an individual day's dancing.

The next morning after packing up we headed to the Anchor Inn at Shapwick for more dancing in the road outside, and then on to Kingston Lacy, an impressive National Trust property near Wimborne. The dancing concluded there with a couple of good spots in one of the courtyard areas, after which we had a late lunch in the self service restaurant. Rob had programmed this, for reasons best known to himself, as a 'surprise lunch', but the biggest surprise to him as much as anyone is that we weren't charged for it after our earlier displays. A good way to finish what had been a very satisfying weekend, and on finally counting up it was found over the weekend we had done 54 dances altogether, including all 39 which can be said to form part of the current repertoire. It had also been excellent practice for some of the big events still to come during the summer ...

The next 2 Thursdays were dance out nights - firstly, on Jul 4 with Alton at The Cricketers, Hartley Wintney, and then on Jul 11 at the Queens Oak with Fleet and Mayflower. After that we were into Sidmouth practice mode for the following Thursdays, and a full Saturday on 27 Jul. This was a particularly intensive day with 3 hours of practice in the morning at a hall at Wokingham Methodist Church, followed by 2 hours of dancing out on a hot afternoon in the afternoon in Wokingham Town Centre as part of the Wokingham Sunny Saturday entertainments. Sweaty or what?!

But then it was Sidmouth time. And what a week it turned out to be - one of the most challenging but ultimately most rewarding weeks for BB in its 36 year history! Dance spots, show spots, processions, workshops, a Big Caper show, the Morris Party, and 2 LNEs were amongst the highlights of a truly exceptional week, for the most part accompanied by warm sunny weather. The week started for us with one of the first events of the week, a stick dance workshop at the Bulverton Marquee at 9.30 on the Saturday morning, ably led by Jameson. We had a surprisingly large number of people for this, who fairly quickly got to grips with Wizo the Flem though Laughing Cavalier was a little more of a challenge. After this we had a lunchtime reception for all the teams in Blackmore Gardens, followed by the first procession of the week, from the end of the Esplanade along the seafront, through the Market Square, and up Fore Street and into Blackmore Gardens. Once there, we started the afternoon dance show with Wheel of Fortune and Cavalier. Next we were along at The Hub (at the Port Royal end of the Esplanade) for the first of several appearances there during the week along with some of the other excellent dance teams - and then before we knew it that was the end of our first day commitments. Wow - where did the day go?

Next day, Sunday, is the traditional day for dancing on the prom for visiting morris teams as well as the few booked ones. We shared a spot by the York Steps with variously Windsor, Capering Crew and Fools Gambit - initially with large numbers of people watching though these reduced after a short but definitely wet shower of rain. That was the end of the formal BB commitment for the day, though many of us went along to Blackmore Gardens to watch the jig competition, where Mark did an excellent solo jig in Fools Gambit kit. After that David was in a double jig as one of Offspring, Alun and Will danced a double in Fools Gambit kit, and then the BB kit was being aired by Mark and Will, doing Go and Enlist accompanied by Sue. All of them did exceptionally well, but the most exceptional of all were clearly Mark and Will in their double jig, who deservedly came second overall - a great result.

Monday started with another early morning workshop, this time on hanky dances, where Jameson first of all taught attendees (plus several of BB) Winnersh Triangle. Most of the attendees got it in the end (though some of BB were still struggling) before moving on to Schrodingers Hat, another tricky dance to learn in a short space of time. After this we had another lunchtime performance at The Hub before sneaking off behind the childrens playground for some much needed Big Caper practice before the show later in the afternoon. Practice was interspersed with a short spot for us in the afternoon Blackmore show, after which it resumed until a sharp downpour ended it just as we had more or less finished. And then back to Blackmore for the actual show, which somewhat to our surprise went extremely well, despite the limited practice time, and despite also the unfortunate state of Jameson's knee which meant his participation was severely curtailed. Nevertheless he was able to do a highly entertaining 'Ugly Duckling' dance with Simon Pipe - anything where Simon gets slapped about and dumped on the floor will always be entertaining...

Tuesday was a day off, so our next commitment was on the Wednesday - a dance display at lunchtime at The Hub. After this we were free until later afternoon when we assembled at the Bulverton to prepare for The Morris Party which we had been asked to host. We had no idea how many people might turn up for it but in the end there were many more than we had anticipated, though this was partly because later on was to be the final ever performance from Morris Offspring. Our party started at 7pm, and early arrivals had the name of a morris team pinned on their backs which they had to guess by asking yes/no questions of others. There was also a cryptic 'spot the morris dance' picture quiz to occupy people before our games started. The first of these was a morris either/or quiz where people had to guess the right answer or they were out, then a 'guess the mystery morris person in the duvet' quiz (thanks to Laurel, Chris, Andrew, Stuart and our own Jameson for being great sports), next a morris relay race involving sticks between the legs and hankies under the chin, and finally morris musical statues. The party ended with our Russians dance followed by a mass polka - and full marks to Rob in this for doing his customary cartwheel at the start rather spectacularly across a pair of crossed swords. And we finished bang on time at 8 pm, just before Sue Swifts 'Secret Life of TED' show, and the Morris Offspring show (featuring David and Alun), which took the time up to LNE with Mr. Gubbins Bicycle. Our evening hadn't finished though, as we had the LNE interval spot, during which we chose what we thought would provide some real variety - a bell-less Glorishers done to Andy's beautiful guitar accompaniment, a high-risk 10 man Jolly Jockey (2 sticks dropped in the first chorus, 1 in the second, none in the third), and then an 8 person Goblins with added bounce in the final chorus. And a great reception at the end.

Thursday started with another lunchtime display at The Hub, followed by another procession along the seafront and through the Market Square into Blackmore. We then had one of the first spots in the afternoon Blackmore show before having an hour's break and returning to close the show with The Russians dance. In Rob's absence, his cartwheeling solo was replaced by Jerry doing some 'sword swallowing' though to the crowd's disappointment he failed to injure himself significantly. Our final spot of the day was our only appearance of the week in the Market Square, always a highlight of a Sidmouth week as it's a place to concentrate on the crowd pleaser dances.

And finally Friday, with no let up in the action. First of all was the last of our 3 workshops, with the theme 'innovation'. Jameson ran it in the style of TV's 'The Apprentice', encouraging participants to split into teams, appoint a foreman / project manager, decide what kind of team they wanted to be, and then develop a dance idea that enabled them to demonstrate their chosen style. Although this was clearly a challenge, all of the teams rose to it extremely well and there were some excellent responses. One of the more striking was from 6 younger Offspring / Fools Gambit / BBs (including Will and Mark) who swaggered through a highly innovative dance while largely imitating Jameson throughout. Not surprisingly, they were the only one of the teams to be fired... After this we  had our last afternoon session at The Hub along with several other teams before chilling out for a while at the Cricket Club (but not until we'd practiced the evening's LNE spot somewhat incongruously outside Sue's car parked on the cricket pitch). And then on to our final acts - the torchlight procession from Connaught Gardens along the seafront in front of the usual huge crowds all the way. This finished with a procession onto the beach (tricky as it was high tide!) followed by the dousing of the torches into the sea on the rocket signal, and then the traditional firework display marking more or less the end of the week. Not quite though for us - immediately afterwards we had to hurry to the Manor Pavilion where a minibus had been arranged to take us up to Late Night Extra, where we were to be the interval spot at the last LNE of the week doing our full Men in Black routine (the original MIB plus our Gangnam Style version). Midnight - spot starts - music blasts out - fantastic light show behind us - crowd going wild - first routine faultless including the shooting - Gangnam starts - crowd ballistic - dance ends - crowd even more ballistic - exit and out the back - and relax. Cocoa and bed. And happy memories of the week...

But just two weeks later we were off on another hectic weekend - firstly, on 24 and 25 Aug, another trip North to the Saddleworth Rushcart Weekend, which we had previously taken part in 3 years earlier in 2010. As before, the weekend is hosted by the excellent Saddleworth Morris Men, and mainly consists of pulling a rushcart, on which sits a different Saddleworth Morris 'jockey' each year, around the villages of Saddleworth - in particular Uppermill, Greenfield, Delph and Dobcross. The weekend finishes with a final pull of the cart up the long hill to Uppermill Church before a church ceremony, and then dancing and obscure competitions in the grounds outside. We had learned from our previous visit that there is less work involved in carrying the 'stangs' (wooden poles fed through ropes attached to the cart) which are behind the cart rather than in front of it as there is then no pulling required, just a gentle applying of brakes every now and again - and so we made a beeline for the back once again! From time to time there were dancing opportunities in the villages and at the church, and as on our previous visit our dances seemed to go down well. However those who camped high up out of Uppermill at the Carriage House pub, very near the Pennine Way, found some problems with midges on the first night leading to a lot of scratching on subsequent days...

The weekend concluded on Bank Holiday Monday, 26 Aug, with a sprint back down the motorways to the Towersey Festival for a full day's programme there. Starting with a stick dance workshop on the Market Square stage, we then had a subsequent 3 display spots on the stage (shared with other teams including the alarmingly tall Sheffield City Giants), before a ceilidh spot in the evening ceilidh with Tickled Pink. Time for another Men in Black special spot - more screams, shouts, cheers - are we turning into the One Direction of the morris world?!

The following Saturday, 31st August, saw us once again at the Wallingford Bunkfest. Whoever arranges the weather for this does a great job almost every year - this time it was another beautifully sunny day, and we enjoyed spots on the Kinecroft and in the town. Once again there were huge crowds around, especially on the Kinecroft, and we found it difficult to tear ourselves away later in the afternoon, but the splendid Chunkfest at Sue's was beckoning again ...

Just 3 days later it was the last evening pub night of the summer, once again at The Plough, Little London, with Hook Eagle and Basingclog. Only a small BB team could make it, and its numbers were reduced further when Rob, practising his twizzles round the back out of sight, and with no one else around, accidentally injured himself by falling into a pile of beer bottles. That was going to take some explaining on the insurance form ...

It was almost 3 weeks until the next outing on Sat 21st September, in Windsor as guests of Windsor Morris for one of their days of dance. This included dancing at some of Windsor's traditional spots, including the Windsor Royal Shopping area, Peascod Street, and by Windsor and Eton bridge. At the last spot, Crispin Walker, a fine young dancer with various teams, was somehow hoodwinked into donning Alun's BB hat and shirt, and taking part in our coconut dance on the basis of around 2 minutes tuition. Extremely annoyingly, he then proceeded to do the dance pretty well perfectly, including capers that put some of the longer serving members to shame.

And then the following Saturday (28th September) was the last event of the main season, the Morris Federation Day of Dance in Shrewsbury as part of the Morris Federation AGM weekend. 36 teams altogether took part, with at any one time half of the teams dancing in locations around Quarry Park while the remaining teams were spread in groups around some of Shrewsbury's excellent central dance spots in the continuing fine summer weather. Our day started in Quarry Park, and we knew we were set for a good day when Paul lasted all the way through the first 2 by 2 of the day. All the dance spots went well, with good audiences for the town centre spots, especially in The Square, and most of the team were able to stay on for a semi-traditional Pizza Express visit later on. Some were also still around the following day for an enjoyable hike up the Long Mynd from Church Stretton, while Jerry toiled at the Morris Fed Committee meeting - though he probably didn't get so out of breath there...

Then before we all knew it, it was Bunfight time again, and once again Tickled Pink were the band, and Nick Walden the caller. Not quite a sell out crowd this time, but a very healthy attendance nonetheless, and great to see so many old friends together with a great turnout of younger attendees, helped by an enthusiastic contingent from Fools Gambit. With a theme of 'Scotland', not surprisingly there was a fair amount of tartan on show, but also an excessive amount of 'Braveheart' style body painting, some Bay City Rollers, Dr.Who and assistant, a thistle, Robert the Bruce and his spider, the Queen, a 2 person Loch Ness Monster, a single person caber, Rod Stewart, and many more dubious outfits. Interval entertainments included BB's only Scottish dance, Highland Mary (ahem..), a legendary Irish Bingo (ably run by Mark), and then later on the Men in Black and White who provided some illusory entertainment... As usual, the Bunfight was followed the next day by the Wokingham Winter Carnival - a chilly but dry day, and some good crowds in attendance at the 2 dance locations in town. There were good and appreciative audiences for all the teams throughout the day, and also in the procession around town, held as dusk approaches and followed by the switching on of the Christmas lights. The announcer had notes on all the morris teams to read out to the crowds as they processed past the Town Hall, but he had got them muddled up and Berkshire Bedlam were announced to the world with Fools Gambit's notes, i.e. as 'a young, energetic Cotswold Morris team, all under the age of 24'. In our dreams ...
Reports from earlier years are also available -
2012 2011 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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