Newspaper Stories

Occasionally local newspapers mention us, here are some of the articles.  Well, just three so far.
From the Kingston Guardian - 30th March 2011
From the Richmond and Twickenham Times - 16th June 2010
An Article from The Surrey Comet of the Midsummer Morris - Thursday 19th June 2003
Reviving the art of morris dancing
By James Adlam
THE dying art of Morris dancing was showcased on Wednesday on Richmond and Twickenham riverside.  Five ‘sides’ (troupes) performed in what organisers say could be the last time so many Morris dancers gather in the area.

The midsummer evening of dance took place outside the Slug and Lettuce in Richmond from 8.15pm, adjourning to the Barmy Arms in Twickenham at 9.30pm.

The event was organised by Spring Grove Morris of Kingston. Their spokesman Steve Nash said: "Morris dancing has been in decline over the last ten years. The image is in serious need of a make-over as its participants are seen as a load of fat old blokes with beards.  At the same time, traditional English culture is not always perceived as being inclusive, so little backing is given by the Arts Council or the lottery fund. This may be one of the last occasions when so many sides are gathered together in Richmond."

Spring Grove Morris only make one or two appearances a year and were so short of numbers in 2000 that a new mixed side (men and women) called Off-Spring Morris was set up to keep the dances going. Even this has had limited success. Spring Grove Morris was formed in 1977 and dance in yellow and green baldrics with rosettes showing a grove and stream. Straw hats are optional. They dance the Cotswold style.

The other sides taking part this week were as follows. Greensleeves Morris Men were formed in 1926 and are based in Wimbledon. They wear black breeches, green baldrics with red and black rosettes, green armbands and green bell pads but no hat.

Thames Valley Morris were formed in 1952 and are based in Claygate. They dance in white, with medium blue baldrics with yellow piping on the edge and plus blue/yellow rosettes. Most wear straw hats, decked with blue and yellow ribbon. Bellpads are blue canvas rather than leather with blue and yellow trim on the edge.

Yateley Morris Men have existed for 25 years and are based in Yateley in Hampshire. They dance several traditions mostly from a wide range of stick and handkerchief dances from villages all around the Cotswolds. They dance in yellow and blue baldrics which feature two keys and a gate on their rosette and the whole look is finished off with top hats.

Ewell St Mary's Morris were formed in 1979 and dance Cotswold style. As well as undertaking traditional dances they also liven up their performances by doing traditional dances to untraditional tunes. Their costumes are red and white with very stylish top hats.

No-one knows the origins of Morris dancing. Dances by the Moors of North Africa are known to have spread northwards through Spain into Europe. There are written records of Morris dancing from the 14th century. In Elizabethan times it was already regarded as an ancient custom.

Most of the dances are part of a ritual to celebrate the return of spring and to encourage the fertility of crops. At one time, practically every village or town had a Morris side. The young people would be taught the dances at Easter time and then by dancing with the side at Whitsun be recognised as full members of village society.

Morris dancing survived being banned by Oliver Cromwell and was almost lost with the coming of the industrial revolution. At this time there survived only a few sides, mostly based in the Cotswolds.

Morris dancing was saved by the work of a few enthusiasts but especially Cecil Sharp, a musician and teacher.

Many Morris dancers, particularly agricultural workers, were ordered not to dance by their employers so they would black their faces to avoid recognition. There was a renaissance of Morris dancing thirty years ago but the dance has now slipped into decline.