Well, we have a great deal
of fun for one thing and for the last 80 or more years we have been
performing one of the oldest of English traditions, Morris Dancing. Very
little is known about the origins of this custom, but as a ritual and a
form of pleasure we know that it dates back at least to the 15th century
and is perhaps much older. There are many theories answering the questions
why we do it? where did it come from?, why is it called Morris dancing
anyway? and above all, which one is Morris? these are documented well and
in detail elsewhere on the web.
|Morris dancing has been traced all over the English Midlands and further North, but it is particularly associated with our own Cotswold area, where the most evolved form of Morris was, and still is, to be found. Here it is performed generally by six men and a musician, accompanied in most cases by a fool and sometimes a beast. The men wear a colourful costume or "kit" often based upon white, the old sacred colour.|
|They also wear
bells, wave hankies or sticks so say to ward off evil spirits. It was
invariably a men's dance with very strong ties to the Whitsun time of year
with fertility and encouraging crops to growth very much in mind.
In the past, most Cotswold villages had their own individual dances and tunes, but by the end of Industrial Revolution the tradition had almost died out, as the Victorians had introduced many other pastimes and sports. Fortunately, there was a great revival of interest in Morris Dancing in the early years of this century, led by Cecil Sharp who was the person mainly responsible for collecting and noting the dances we perform today.
The Gloucestershire Morris Men today perform throughout the spring and summer months, dancing each Tuesday night (see this year's programme) at some of the wonderful countryside pubs we have scattered about the county. As well as dancing we also enjoy playing music and have many singers to ensure the evenings are rounded off in the pub in true fashion. In additional we perform at various fetes, shows and other functions including TV and Radio..yes Morris dancing on the radio..riviting stuff! Over the years we have formed links with many other Morris sides in England and also other dance teams within Europe. Each year we attempt to visit some of our friends either in the UK or on the occasional trip to either Germany, France, Spain, Austria or Belgium. One year we will eventually manage to organize a return visit to friends in Russia...one year! We weren't far away in 2006 when visiting Poland. We're always open to new suggestions and would be delighted to be invited to pastures new.
Our Dancing Year
Our Morris dancing year has certain traditional events which are perpetuated from year to year. The year starts on Boxing Day with dancing in Cheltenham before joining the Gloucester Mummers for a performance outside Gloucester Cathedral. On the first Friday of March we have Ladies Night, a formal dinner/dance dedicated to our wives, girlfriends or partners. Once upon a time Easter Monday represented our first dancing tour of the Spring but in recent times this has been replaced by our first evening of dance on St Georges day. Strange as it might appear we had no May Day tradition until 1999, so whilst other Morris sides were out at the crack of dawn on May morning, we were normally tucked up snug and warm in our beds! Were we sensible or what?. However, 1999 saw us rising up before dawn and dancing whilst the sun rose on Painswick Beacon, a custom which has continued and now become tradition.
Towards the end of the Summer either the first or second Saturday in September we have a memorial day/weekend of dance in Cheltenham in order to remember those men, sadly no longer with us, who have kept the side alive throughout the years. In particular this day is dedicated to Pat Snelling, a gentleman, a fine dancer and the main stay of the side for many years