BB 2014 Summary

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 Reports from the year 2014

Another year of rich promise for BB started with a by now annual visit to Oxford on Sat 26 April for the Oxford Folk Weekend. A smaller than usual BB side (numbers, not height) danced in Radcliffe Square, at the Ashmolean Museum, and at Gloucester Green. There was also an unscheduled lunchtime dance spot at The Bear in Alfred Street, the oldest pub in Oxford, where in an appropriate juxtaposition we chanced upon Summertown Morris, one of the youngest sides present on the day. BB's dancing on the day was marshalled for the first time by our new squire David - generally an excellent choices of dances though an unrehearsed 1 to 6 had some interesting moments.

After that a break until 29th May when we had a very pleasant evening with Mayflower Morris at the Queens Oak, Finchampstead. Next up was another trip to the Kirtlington Lamb Ale, always a great morris day, which we had missed last year. This year we even had 6 dancers for the first procession of the day at 10.00 a.m. from the outskirts of the village through the middle of it to the church. After the church service there was another shorter procession through the village, and slightly against some of the team's better judgement, both processions were led by Mark and Will. Oh well, the side got to see parts of the village (and gardens) that it hadn't done before. After more dancing round the village, we finished with Goblins (of course with added bounce) for our show spot in the school playground.

The 24th June saw us out for an evening in Windsor with Windsor Morris and a visiting US team Pinewoods Morris Men, some of whom we had met previously, in particular at last year's Marlboro Ale in the US. It was a beautifully warm evening, and the 3 teams shared some excellent dance spots, finishing at the Carpenters Arms by the Guildhall. BB's highlight of the evening was an almost flawless 10 person Jolly Jockey - not the first time it had been attempted in public but the first time it hadn't resulted in carnage...

The weekend of 12th and 13th July was our annual 'Dorset Tour', this year visiting Somerset and Wiltshire, causing the weekend to be renamed for obvious reasons 'Not The Dorset Tour'. Jerry had put together a great programme for the weekend, based (for those camping) at the Pine Tree campsite just outside Wookey, and Saturday's programme started with a dance spot on Cathedral Green in Wells, in the shadow of the imposing 13th century Wells Cathedral. Even older than some of the side. The dancers were accompanied by Sue, Bob, and (initially at least) glorious sunshine, and set off at a good pace to try to beat last year's record of 54 dances performed over a weekend, including all the then accepted repertoire of 39 dances. This meant of course bringing out some of the rarely performed repertoire including the more obscure jigs, which it has to be said caused some occasional head scratching.

After the Cathedral, and a short refreshment break at the Kings Head, dancing moved to Union Street, just outside Wells' Public Library - cue much shushing before and after dances. Next was a lunch break, followed by dancing in the grounds of the Bishop's Palace, where we drew surprisingly large crowds, possibly on account of being adjacent to the outdoor cafe. A trip to Cheddar followed, where we performed outside the White Hart and polished off a few more obscure parts of the repertoire. Included in the spot there though was the first public performance of the new (still nameless) triangular stick dance, and on the basis no one fell over during it, the dance was deemed a success. The spot there concluded with Knees Up, notable for being accompanied by some soldiers on a weekend break and in fancy dress - although after swapping their hats for some BB ones they looked more the part.

During the day the debate had been shall we / shan't we go ahead with the planned barbeque in view of the threatened heavy rain. Back at the campsite the decision was taken to carry on with it in view of the non-appearance of the rain. The Outside Capering Crew, booked for the weekend at the nearby Priddy Festival, duly joined us as planned for it - the barbeques were lit - the smoke started rising - we stood around congratulating ourselves for having decided to go ahead - and then the heavens opened. And carried on opening. The good news was that Rob's large gazebo more or less provided shelter for those under it - the bad news was that by now the party had grown to a size slightly larger than the gazebo. Never mind, the rain and smoke eventually cleared, David's meat eventually cooked, and the event was declared a great success. It was also the prelude to an evening dancing with the Crew at the nearby pub, The Pheasant, where we took the opportunity to rehearse some joint dances as well as both sides performing on their own.

Next day Jerry had arranged for us to dance in the morning in Lacock, about halfway home for most people, and in front of the Abbey we duly polished off the rest of the repertoire, albeit to not many spectators. Eventually we called time on the spot, and headed off for beer and coffee before a final picnic to conclude the weekend. The final tally of dances done over the weekend by the 11 participating dancers was 47, slightly down on the previous year's total, but with slightly less dancing opportunities. However all 40 dances in the 2014 repertoire had been done at least once, and the weekend was officially declared a great success, with huge thanks to Jerry for masterminding the excellent arrangements.

The following Thursday (17th) the best turnout of dancers of the season so far saw us able to put up 2 sets for several dances on a warm evening at the Queens Head in Wokingham with Customs and Exiles, who also had good numbers attending. Eventually though a rather ambitious 10 man Dance of Chance landed Paul in the gutter, and the 12 were reduced to 11 for the rest of evening. A good session though, with the Magic Arch proving popular as always these days. 

Then on the weekend of 26/27 Jul we were off to the Warwick Folk Festival, the first time we had appeared there for 5 years. Another hot weekend saw us at a range of venues around town and at the main festival site at Warwick School, a great venue for the festival with extensive grounds for camping as well as a mix of modern and older buildings used for concerts, ceilidhs, workshops, displays etc. It also has a modern swimming pool available for festival goers use which several of our party took advantage of.

Those who arrived on the Friday evening established camp on the Far Field - a good location by day, slightly less good at night if camping near the B****side Mummers. And Saturday started in a challenging way for Andy on the campsite, who contrived while getting into kit to lock his car keys in his boot where they were obstinately ungetatable. As a consequence, while the rest of the group was making its way through the campsite in kit to the first dance spot, Andy was making his way in the opposite direction through the campsite in an AA van. But notwithstanding that it was a great weekend with 2 particular highlights for us - the first on the Saturday evening when we had 28 for the customary takeaway pizzas on the campsite, with the compulsory game of garlic dip roulette to follow (splat those tents!). The second occurred a little later the same evening when, suitably refreshed with pizza, we had a late evening ceilidh spot in the Tickled Pink ceilidh in the Guy Nelson Hall. The spot consisted of 1 - 6, 10 man Jolly Jockey, Stage Coconuts, and a testosterone (and pizza) fuelled Sword Dance to finish the set, all of which went extremely well. The spots the next day also included one in Warwick Castle, which for many years had not been used by the festival but which provided an excellent location with appreciative audiences. Our dancing finished with a Fairies and a Magic Arch, which Mortimers had been primed to run through. This they duly did in fine style, but from the bottom end of the set, thereby almost running headlong into Sue and Bob, casually strolling down from the top end as they usually do. But great fun overall - when are we coming back, Sally??

The following weekend BB were in action again, dancing on the prom on the Sunday morning of Sidmouth Folk Week. Several of the team were at Sidmouth for the full week during which amongst other things they were supporting fellow Berkshire-ers Windsor Morris. However, joined by some day and weekend trippers, we were able to put on a good if brief show. Later in the day though 2 of our side put on an even better show, with Will, dancing in the double jig competition with sister Maria and musician Ollie King, coming a very creditable third. And in the single jig competition Mark, with musician Sam Mabbett, put on a winning performance with an original and imaginative jig with leaps and twists executed immaculately throughout. The judges though only placed him second, a fraction behind the winner Crispin Walker, though if only Mark had a pink Mohican haircut too there's no doubt he would have won...

And then on to another of the highlights of the season, starting on Friday 15th August - a trip with The Outside Capering Crew to Sarvar, Hungary, to perform as The Big Caper at an International Folklore Festival, along with teams from Greece, Poland, Germany, Cyprus, Serbia, Czech Republic and France, as well as 3 Hungarian teams at various times. This turned out to be a great experience, with some excellent performance venues, and we were also extremely well looked after throughout. We were also fortunate to have hot sunny weather nearly all the time except for some rain on the morning of our last full day

The party assembled at Vienna airport, to be greeted by 2 young interpreters who we had been assigned, Adele and Reka. Reka was to stay with us throughout our trip, while Adele had to leave on our second day and was replaced by the equally helpful Kata, and they were to prove an enormous help to us throughout in a country where English is spoken only very little. We were first taken by coach to Sarvar where we were mostly accommodated in very comfortable apartments, with 3 of the party staying in a hotel very nearby. On our first evening, we were introduced to the bar in Nadasdy Castle, the main venue for the Festival, and we came to know both the Castle and the bar pretty well over the next few days. There we met up with the festival director Peter Marko, who Lawrence had drunk Parlinka with on many previous occasions when visiting previously with other English teams - in fact it was Lawrence's connection with Peter that got us the invitation this time. And it took very little time for the party to get into the parlinka-ing mood. In fact almost before we knew it was happening some of the team had broken out into song, something BB have not been renowned for previously, but which was to prove quite a feature on the trip. David, especially, made some valiant attempts to lift the 500 year old roof off the castle, surprising all of us with his range - not his singing range, admirable though it was, but the distance he covered up and down the corridors while doing so. 

The next day started with some outdoor rehearsals for the shows we were to perform later - the rehearsals were to prove quite a feature of several of our days. The first actual performance was later in the day on the outdoor stage in the Castle courtyard, as part of the opening show of the festival. We just had 15 minutes in this first show, but laid down a good marker in it, including a vigorous sword dance, and seemed to be very well received. After all the teams had performed, each had to demonstrate a 'teaching dance' to the other teams for them to join in with - for us, Simon led a vigorous Shepherds Hey, which went down so well he was asked to teach another one and obliged with a Crew style Knees Up. More drinking, parlinka-ing and singing followed, and Will, Mark, Alun and David in particular proved determined to demonstrate there was no such thing as English reserve when joining in with the other teams.  

The next morning our first duty was to attend the Sunday morning Church service at the Calvivnist Church. "I've been to it before" declared Lawrence as he confidently led us off to the wrong church. Two minutes before the service was due to begin, while we were staring in some puzzlement at some impressively locked doors, Festival Director Peter arrived to tell us breathlessly to follow him - to the correct church. Anyway we just about made it to the right church in time, and contributed an excellent guitar piece from Andy and a song from David to the service. Afterwards in the small walled garden of the church we were offered some very welcome coffee, cake and other snacks, and after dancing 'Rosa' to Lawrence's magical melodeon tune we followed up with other dances and the first appearance of the week of Simon in his horse costume. For this, Simon has Emma and Tracey to guide and perform with him, while Lawrence and Mark provide appropriate musical accompaniment (though not sure the Calvinist congregation was that familiar with 'Steptoe and Son'). And after 2 dances on the trot even the BB neighsayers had to agree it was pretty amusing, despite the long faces.

Later in the day we had a 25 minute performance in Kossuth Square, a large square near the Castle with a fountain in the middle and surrounded by impressive buildings. Shortly before our performance started it was also surrounded by a large audience, and once again our dances seemed to go down really well, especially when we were able to inject some humour or beat up Simon, ideally simultaneously. After that in the evening we had a further performance in the Tinodi restaurant, where in our honour the restaurant's menu for the evening was an English gourmet experience featuring delights such as fish and chips, sausage and mash etc. Here we only had a small performance area, so reverted to more traditional pub spot type dances, including a Fairies dance with the town Mayor, a guest of honour for the evening, being led through the Magic Arch. After we had also eaten, we used our newly found singing voices again to launch a Big Caper singing evening, with several different people leading a wide variety of songs sung to (or at) all the diners left in the restaurant, which included most of the mayor's party, and a small group of Dutch who bravely stuck it out to the end. A couple of unforgettable songs were left in the collective memory at the end of the evening - Andy's ten ton tipper truck song, and David proclaiming (while traversing the restaurant)  "I don't want to go to Art School, Art School, I don't want to go to - Art School" (a Leyton Buzzards B-side from 1979 featuring David's uncle on drums and no tune, as we quickly found out).

The next day, Monday, after more outdoor rehearsing, we set off by coach for Zalalovo, another town about 90 minutes away, where there were more performances from 4 of the visiting teams in a large outdoor marquee with a good quality stage and sound system. These included 30 minutes from us, which again went well, and when after the teams had performed a communal meal was served, followed by some further sharing of dances between the teams. It was Simon's birthday, so all the teams joined in singing Happy Birthday to him in various languages. This obliged him to once again don the horse costume and, with some help from the rest of the Crew, engage with all the other teams - as much as you can engage in a horse outfit.


And then came Tuesday - Spa day! Sarvar's spa is something like what we would think of as a water park - various different pools, outdoor play areas for children, and a whole variety of different water slides and chutes. Most of the pools are outside, but there are also some inside, along with a whole series of treatment rooms. However some of the pools feature 'spa' or 'medicinal' water, and some are heated, including one almost to body temperature. Lingering too long in it can cause a severe pinkening of the skin, as Jerry in particular found out for several hours afterwards. The point of us being there was partly so we had a chance to enjoy it, but also in the afternoon to put on a performance in the outdoor display area. This turned out to be an area just outside the main doors from inside to outside, and also directly between 2 of the outdoor pools. As a result, the audience was either wandering around blithely in swimming costumes or bathrobes, or actually in one of the pools, jammed up against the side and leaning on elbows so they could see us. A quite surreal experience, and possibly why although generally still very good, not all of the dances quite reached the standards we achieved the rest of the week. The absence of any obvious sight lines didn't help either (that's our excuse and we're sticking to it). But nevertheless, great fun. And just when we thought our fun for the day was over, we were instead whisked off by coach for the evening to the town of Kormend, about an hour away, where the whole town was in festival mood on the eve of next day's national holiday to celebrate the founding of the Hungarian State. After dark there was a short river pageant, where it seemed all the inhabitants of the town had gathered to watch the brightly lit boats career by while narrowly avoiding the main road bridge, after which there was a spectacular fireworks display. Meanwhile there were various other entertainments around town, and in the grounds of Batthyany Castle a high quality outdoor stage for performances from ourselves and 3 of the other festival teams.

Wednesday was the last day of the Festival. Our final rehearsal for the forthcoming evening performance was impeded somewhat by the first rain of the week, necessitating a strategic withdrawal to a corridor in the apartments for some rather constrained indoor practice. However the rain eased during the afternoon in time for the procession around town of all the teams. We quickly discovered that unlike an English style procession, with continuous dancing, in this procession teams walked between different appointed spots on the route and then did a short dance at each spot to quite large crowds who obviously knew what to expect. Once we got the idea it seemed perfectly logical and turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable.  The procession finished up back at Nadasdy Castle where an evening gala performance of all teams then took place on the stage in the courtyard, though not before Simon's horse had appeared on stage during the official speeches for some interplay with the mayor and his magnificent moustache. Shortly after the evening had started, the rain came on again - no problem for the festival organisers who switched the performances to the equally large indoor stage in the huge marquee also sited in the courtyard for such eventualities. Our own performance once again went well, capping a week of polished and, we hoped, entertaining performances that seemed very well received wherever we went. Performances over, we repaired to the Festival Organiser Peter's private office where he joined us for more parlinka, more of Laurence's tunes, and more singing. This included David's touching and tuneful 'Tell Laura I love her', sung to everyone's surprise (probably including his own) on the spot. Then it was time for the last round of farewell drinks and goodbyes before another spectacular firework display lit up the town and signified the end of the festival.

The next morning we were back on the coach to Vienna before the party dispersed to return home or in some cases stay on for a few more days for some Austrian sightseeing. At Vienna airport we also said goodbye to our much appreciated interpreters Kata and Reka, who had been enormously supportive and helpful all week. Overall it had been a great experience, and we had been made to feel extremely welcome wherever we went. The hospitality throughout had also been excellent, with meals and transport all appearing whenever required, for which huge thanks to the festival organisers. Team spirit had also been very good throughout the week, and had resulted in consistent high quality performances and appreciative audiences - probably the best set of performances the Big Caper has achieved so far. So big thanks to everyone from BB and The Crew who took part, and particular thanks to Lawrence for getting us the invitation in the first place!

Just a week later BB were back on English soil at the Wallingford Bunkfest - always a pleasure to take part in, even if this year the timing and locations of our dance spots were not as good as in previous years. The day did though somewhat spontaneously produce a new variant on what is already a good stick dance - Tag Boggle, in which those not in the dance at the beginning can, at any time during the dance, tag those taking part  and immediately take their place, regardless of what stage the dance has reached. Despite the potential for disaster at every change of personnel this actually went very well - probably much better than it would ever have done if we pre-practiced it. The highlight of the day, as ever though, was the Chunkfest that followed at Sue's - as word has spread over the years this was better attended than ever, and the seeming inexhaustible supply of pineapple chunks was once again up to the mark....

On Sat 20th September a somewhat reduced team was guests of Windsor Morris, along with Ditchling Morris, for one of their days of dance. The day started with a visit to the Thames Valley Adventure Playground near Maidenhead for some dancing and a presentation of a cheque from Windsor to them. Next it was on to Marlow for an appearance at the Marlow Carnival in Higginson Park, the highlights of which local radio station Marlow FM were broadcasting live. However during the morris displays it was 'back to the studio' so that the local population could be spared the sound of a morris music in case it provoked riots in the streets. Before leaving the Carnival, Simon decided that he really needed to have a go on the Rodeo Bull ride. The ride operator's eyes lit up at this prospect, and with Simon seated the bucking function was swiftly turned up to maximum, with some spectacular consequences.... Next was some dancing beside Marlow lock - and it's always entertaining to see the looks on the faces of the unsuspecting crews as their boats rise in the lock to be greeted by 3 fine Cotswold morris teams rather than the usual gongoozlers. The dancing concluded with spots outside the George and Dragon near Marlow Bridge before heading back to the Shire Horse for welcome end of day refreshments.

That marked the end of the main dance season, so the next event was the annual Bunfight on 29th November, this year featuring the excellent Steamchicken as band, together with by now our regular Bunfight caller Nick Walden. This year's theme was 'Comics', which gave plenty of scope for some broad interpretation.
It turned out to be another super-heroic evening, with a fine display of costumes on show, some reaching new heights (or widths) of impracticality. Interval entertainments included the as yet unnamed triangular stick dance, the now traditional Irish Bingo, and then later on the Men in Coloured Ties, who injected some sartorial elegance as well as a spot that left the audience bemused and entertained in equal measure. And any resemblance of the spot to one of the routines of the Japanese group 'World Order' was in the end fairly coincidental.




The next day, Sunday 30th, was the Wokingham Winter Carnival, with the theme of 'The Magic of the Movies', and once again the weather was kind to the event, being mild with patches of sunshine. Along with 3 other local teams plus Fools Gambit we had a good dancing day in the 2 dance locations, outside Boots and further down Denmark Street. The day was particularly notable however for our participation in the procession. Earlier in 2014, the film actor George Clooney had bought a house in Sonning along with his new wife Amal. Being almost local, we therefore thought that it would be nice if he could attend the Wokingham Winter Carnival, particularly with the year's 'Movie' theme. Since he seemed unlikely to attend in the flesh, we therefore arranged the best lookalike we could find to take part in the procession. And so it was that Paul as George, Tim as Amal, and John as their chauffeur in his appropriate looking black Mercedes duly paraded around town, flanked by the rest of BB in Men in Black dark suits and sunglasses as minders. John looked every inch the perfect chauffeur, with appropriate hat and earpiece, Tim looked every inch the perfect wife in a fully authentic outfit plus dark wig, and Paul looked as many inches as he could (helped by a booster seat) leaning out the rear window of the car with his coffee cup, in homage to the real George's recent coffee adverts on TV. It seems unlikely we actually fooled anyone, but a few people did find it amusing - which was good enough for us!   

Thursday 18 Dec was our annual Xmas meal at The Hideout in Finchampstead, where for the umpteenth year in a row Paul somehow missing Santa turning up to distribute this year's Secret Santa presents, which included some fine examples of the 5 genre. And then on to the last event of the year, the St. Thomas Day dance out in Wokingham on Sat 20th December, preceded by meeting as usual in apparently the only pub in Wokingham without any beer, The Red Lion. On another bright and mild day we drew the traditional small crowd - just as well as not all the dances went too well. A Dance of Chance with some confusion over the top and bottom of the set stood out, but not quite as much as an over ambitious Tag Boggle, which had seemed like a good idea but tragically wasn't. But the day (and dance year) finished with a fine Fairies, and then a social afternoon which included marvelling over Bunfight spots of the past - the good, the bad, and the 'why on earth did we do that?......'.                              
    

Reports from earlier years are also available - 2013 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
 

Forthcoming Events - 2015  

 

2015 programme coming soon in our Future Event Listing!

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