This is almost a national emergency from my perspective. Morris dancing is in danger of disappearing, according to today’s Guardian.
Morris dancing, one of those ancient traditions that seem to be cherished and derided in equal measure, is apparently on the verge of extinction, we learn today with a plea from the UK Morris Association.
I admit to being in something of a minority but I love Morris dancing. Argh, I see that I share this passion with the leader of the tory party. This causes an automatic gag reflex and an unfamiliar feeling of self-doubt, until I realise that sharing a liking for, say, rhubarb with someone wouldn’t mean that you agreed with anything else they thought. In any case, lots of more acceptable people love it, like John Hegley who has a poem/video-of-stills on the Guardian site.
The first time I saw real morris dancers, I must have been about 6. There was an implausible May Day festival in the suburban-ish council estate where I lived. There was Maypole dancing and people were playing lutes and tabors (well some ancient instruments, anyway) and singing folk-songs. I was completely entranced. It was as if all my favourite storybooks had suddenly become magically true. The mysterious medieval child world that I tried to inhabit in random clumps of scrubland – making inept bows and arrows and concocting magical potions from weeds – was being acted out in front of me.
And, mind-blowing joy, there was a procession – troupes of Morris dancers.
They were real Morris dancers – all men, mostly half-pissed, half of them exotically bearded, dressed in brilliant colours, marvellously synchronised in their movements and doing incredible feats of strength and agility. While trailing multicoloured ribbons and waving bells on sticks.
Ludicrous, terrifying and beautiful, all at the same time. Does life get much better?
I picked this picture at random from cotswold morris dancers site. Here’s a link to the Morris ring.