Shilling for free

I did warn you that there might be a bit of an unlikely folk dancing theme developing here. So I am proud to act as a temporary (unpaid) shill for a film about morris dancing. Here’s most of the press release:

Despite rumours circulating earlier in the year, Morris Dancing (yes Morris Dancing), is very much alive with thousands of participants across the UK and is the subject of the hilarious film Morris: A Life with Bells On, premiering exclusively on Blighty (Sky channel 534, Virgin Media 206) on 29th May at 8pm.

A film that will have even the most cynical viewer reaching for their white handkerchiefs, Morris: A Life with Bells On is directed by Lucy Akhurst and stars Charles Thomas Oldham (who also wrote the screenplay) as Derecq Twist, along with Sir Derek Jacobi (The Golden Compass), Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End), Ian Hart (A Cock and Bull Story), Dominique Pinon (Delicatessen), Sophie Thompson (Eastenders) Harriet Walter (The Young Victoria), Aidan McArdle (The Duchess), and Greg Wise (Sense and Sensibility).

Described as This is Spinal Tap meets Calendar Girls, the film follows the fortunes of an avant-garde Morris team in their struggle to push the boundaries of the venerable, ancient dance. Set around the country pub The Travellers Staff, the docu-style comedy proves that Morris is not just an innocent pub pastime involving hanky-waving and bearded men with staffs, but also that it has its politics-laden, ultra-competitive side too.

The Millsham Morris men and their leader Derecq Twist are determined to achieve Morris perfection. But Derecq is also preparing to set the Morris world alight by performing the ultimate dance within the Morris firmament, the legendary Threeple Hammer Damson. As if this is not enough, he is in addition pioneering an innovative, daringly freeform brand of the dance dubbed “Extreme Morris,” drawing the anger of traditionalist elements within the Morris community. When Millsham unveil their creation in competition, the Morris Circle – the governing body of Morris in the UK – bans Derecq from future competition. Totally devastated by the decision, Derecq embarks on a global odyssey through tragedy and triumph, which gravely tests his passion for Morris.

I am impressed beyond words by the concept of extreme morris.

They embedded some clips with the press release. I’m not sure how well they’ll work here.

It looks as if it will be funny. (Don’t blame me if it isn’t. I haven’t seen it yet.)

The other clips are basically “DVD outtakes”, of which I’m not the world’s greatest admirer, so I’ve skipped them. If there’s any demand I’ll post them. I’ll have to put one of the publicity pictures, though, because it looks as if it came straight from the school of Zoolander Morris….

a publicity show for the film

I think this is Dereqk..

Give the public what they want

Nothing brings visitors here like a reference to Morris dancing. Which is borderline weird given (a) that I get mercilessly mocked (even by other blog contributors) for loving Morris dancing and (b) that I know very little about it and rarely get a chance to even see any.

One thing I do know about Morris dancing is that the old idea that it came from Morocco and/ or Spain (i.e “Moorish”) is widely agreed to be a fiction.

I’ve never been wholly convinced by the “fiction” viewpoint. Ok, the past is always fictionalised. But, people always moved around the accessible world, so any concepts of ancient cultural forms being somehow distinct is absurd.

So, I’m – partly just for the sake of argument – going to dispute the “not at all moorish” idea, here.

There’s plenty of archaeological evidence of trade with the Mediterranean before the Roman invasion. I can easily imagine pre-Roman Brits – let alone medieval villagers – being so impressed by the marvellous otherness of Phoenician traders that they recreated what they remembered, in their own idiom. After the crusades, there must have been many ex-soldiers who had absorbed a fair bit of North African culture in their travels.

Flowing white clothes, streaming coloured ribbons, male-only dancing, the ways in which percussion sounds are generated – it all seems pretty damn “North African” to me. Credit where it’s due, I think.

(Plus in your faces, BNP, with your ludicrous attempts to co-opt traditional English cultural forms into your racist project, as if English culture was somehow NOT formed through constant migrations and invasions.)

Here are some you-tube clips of North African men dancing in a way that could go on as Morris dancing without rehearsal.

Iraqi men dancing

Kurdish man dancing

And here’s an American Morris group, acquitting themselves well enough at the art to show that nationality doesn’t matter anyway.

Give the public what they want

Based on the top Google searches that brought stray readers here today, there would be zillions of visitors to any post that referred to:

* morris dancers or morris dancing
* schwarzenegger
* adam curtis or charlie brooker
* quiche gay
* chip 666
* fine art
* castle with a moat or fairytale castle
* Viking names
* 5 fruit and veg a day

These searches do actually reach posts – usually from long ago. Sometimes I have to search this site myself, to find any post relating to a weird search term, because the idea that some particular searches brought anyone here seems inherently unlikely.

If we’d known that we’d hit the popularity motherlode with these topics, maybe we should have had the foresight to make the target posts more interesting.

I’m taking the opposite tack and using these words – nay, even tagging with them – just for the comedic satisfaction of seeing the number of hits go through the roof today. I.e., a day when there is no actual content in the post.

So, sorry, if you came here because of one of these search terms. Just think of yourself as taking part in a non-peer-reviewed experiment with the nature of internet “popularity.” Without any analysis of the results, either. But then, this experiment won’t give rise to any spurious pseudo-science or pseudo-consultation in the media, so it’s all good.

More morris dancing for me

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?

From cotswold morris dancers site

From cotswold morris dancers site

I picked this picture at random from cotswold morris dancers site. Here’s a link to the Morris ring.