Beat and Bells

The rhythms of the world will be sounding in Shrewsbury this summer, when prizewinning local morris side, Shrewsbury Morris (that’s us!), host an exciting range of dancers and drummers from across the globe for a day of ‘Beat & Bells’.

Zulu Tradition will be coming all the way from KwaZulu Natal in South Africa to headline the event. This young group of Zulu singers and dancers will bring a heady mix of African harmonies and high-energy, athletic dance, all traditionally costumed and with exciting drum-rhythms. They have performed at Buckingham Palace and the British Museum for Mandela Day and are in demand for events around the world.

They will be joined by Kayobi Taiko, experts in the dynamic and ancient art of Japanese taiko drumming. Kayobi have performed in festivals around the country over the last few years, making a truly awesome sound.

Pateley Longsword are a stunning group of longsword morris folk dancers from Yorkshire. They are renowned for giving audiences tradition with attitude, bringing a real vitality and freshness to their dancing. Many of their dances feature longswords, as their name suggests, bringing a thrilling flash of steel to their daring performances.

The line up is completed by performances from Shrewsbury Bull and Pump Morris, Shrewsbury Cloggers and The Shrewsbury Lasses who, between them, bring an exceptional range of traditional dances from around Britain, as well as many newer dances they have choreographed themselves and taught around the country. A familiar sight around Shropshire, they have been performing for nearly 40 years and Shrewsbury Morris expect to carry on proudly dancing in Shrewsbury for plenty more years too.

This is the third annual free day of music and dance Shrewsbury Morris has organized for the town and this promises to be as lively and colourful as our previous events.

‘Beat & Bells’ is in The Square in Shrewsbury on 6 June from 10 until 4pm, and in the evening why not come along to our Summer Ceilidh, held jointly with Squeezing Shropshire – all the details are here!

An Exciting Time to be a Shrewsbury Morris Dancer

We don’t often blow our own trumpet (well…..not very often anyway) but right now is a very exciting time to be a member of Shrewsbury Morris. If Ray and Bev are reading this then of course it’s always an exciting time to be a member of Shrewsbury Morris! :))

So far 2014 has been a very good year. We’ve danced in great locations around Shropshire, visited the Lake District for The Morris Federation Day of Dance, enjoyed our traditional walking weekend, had lovely articles written about us in the local press, won several social media awards, danced in a pantomime, taught new members, increased the size of our team, hosted a major Drum, Music and Dance event in our own town, danced for charity, danced AND worked simultaneously at two major UK folk festivals, been sponsored for the first time, judged competitions, supported local business, hosted two Open Evenings and been invited to dance for Parliament…….and I haven’t even mentioned Christmas yet…..it’s coming though!!

Our most recent dance out at beautiful National Trust Dudmaston, for their Orchard Day was a great success, attended by a lot of team members which was great because everyone could get a chance to dance but, over three 45 minute dance spots, so could people get a chance to rest between dances (the advantage of having a big “squad” to use Premier League parlance :))

We were watched at each spot by a very enthusiastic and appreciative crowd and, as usual attracted some very lovely comments. Halfway through the afternoon we were asked to judge the produce competition, during which we were interviewed by our friends at BBC Radio Shropshire. With our “GBBO” heads on (yeah right!) we judged apple pies, chutney, apple cake, sponges and also decorated apples (well it WAS Orchard Day!) What a Morris Dancer knows about cake judging you could write down on the back of a very small postage stamp but it was done, we got out safely, it was a lot of fun and it got us a massive shout out on local radio so…..result!

So, to the present moment. As I type, the team has just finished hosting what we think were two very successful Open Evenings attended by some 16 new people overall. We hope, and think that a good proportion of them will come back and join us as most of them seemed to enjoy the events and the hospitality. If you’re reading this, and think it’s too late…it isn’t. Just give us a call and ask to come along to one of our practices on a Thursday night from 8pm at Sundorne School, Shrewsbury. We’d love to see you.

We are back at practice now with a vengeance as we are looking forward to (hopefully) dancing for Parliament on Monday December 8th. This follows a very kind invitation from our local MP Daniel Kawczynski who is keen to host us there. The team is very excited about this chance to represent Shropshire Morris Dancing and looking forward to it immensely. Details are still being finalised but we’ll publish further news about this wonderful opportunity on here, our FB page and our twitter account.

Just prior to that however, we have a busy weekend because on Sat Dec 6th we are holding our annual Christmas Ceilidh at Sundorne School, Shrewsbury from 8pm. As always, there is a fancy dress theme and this year it’s Frost and Fire, so plenty of dressing up opportunities, although it’s not compulsory!

This is always a really fun event, there is a terrific band (Pump Action), some great calling from Bev Langton and is always well attended so book early. There’s currently an Early Bird offer of only £6.00 per ticket which represents tremendous value we think, so call the number on the poster attached and book early for a great fun evening. But be quick because the Early Bird offer ends on 31st October.

So there you are, we’re approaching 2015 at breakneck pace, are excitedly expecting our new dancers, are planning another big event to host next year in Shrewsbury, we’re constantly raising our profile in many different ways, are looking forward to new sponsorship from local business and working towards 2016 when we will celebrate our 40th birthday :)))))

So you see, it really is an exciting time to be a Shrewsbury Morris Dancer!! Call us, it could be you enjoying the bright future with us! Beware, you might need shades though :)))

Dancing Dayz at the Day of Dance

Last year we (and Shrewsbury of course) had the serious privilege of hosting The Morris Federation Day Of Dance (it’s actually their AGM but it’s a damn fine excuse to hold a huge Morris houlie too).

It was a great success and one of our guests that day, the delightful Belfagan Women’s Morris Dancers from Cockermouth in Cumbria were chosen to host this year’s event in the beautiful Lakes town of Keswick…walking boots on Shrewsbury Morris!!

We had been looking forward to this all year so it was with great relish that we made our collective ways (or not) through the varying degrees of backed up motorway traffic to Keswick on Friday 26th September. We had all decided to stay in different accommodation so the hardier souls camped or motorhomed, those with rugged tastes stayed in the town youth hostel and the lightweights and comfort seekers stayed in B&B (hello blogger!! *note, and webmistress!).

Those who were lucky enough to be retired or on a career break (as my wife calls it) had legged it up the M6 early enough to avoid the traffic, checked in chez comfort and were checking out the Keswick ale houses by 4pm……it should be said at this point that we are NOT a boozy side but there are certain things that need to be reconnoitred early in order to inform the later arrivals of their location and suitability (that’s my excuse anyway). Actually I fell asleep (lightweight again) so missed the later arrivals!!

By 10pm we were all in location and in various states of tiredness etc and looking forward to the weekend’s dancing.

After breakfast on the Saturday (during which I had to pose in Morris kit for some overseas visitors to take photographs!!) all the visiting teams (some 30 of them) met up at the central location for the day, bought our super duper laser guided badges and filled up with coffee, tea and biscuits before splitting up and heading off for our first dance spots.

We were starting our day by the town underpass with the delightful Carlisle Sword and Clog team, many of whom were already known by some of our members, so it was a good beginning to the event for us, along with Ripley Green Garters too. We then had a hysterical dance set in Museum Square with Pately Long Sword before a less than hysterical forced march down to the riverside of the spectacular Derwent Water for a spot on the Landing Stages with the lovely Westmorland Step & Garland Dancers. It did get easier after that with us wending our way gently back to the town, stopping to dance with the super Strictly Clog (who boast the Morris Federation President in their ranks) in Hope Park on the way.

An elongated lunch break allowed us to rest a little and get some fuel on board after a very energetic morning and was for me a chance to get round town to put human faces to Twitter names, having been talking online to Keswick tweeps all the week before.

In the afternoon all the visiting teams got a chance to showcase a particular dance in front of everyone else in a massed spot which is always an enjoyable (if a little nerve-racking) experience.

It had been a lovely day’s dancing, our musicians were, as always superb, all the dancers put everything into the performances and danced well and I think we entertained a lot of people judging by the crowds and the smiles on lots of faces.

The evening saw us enjoy a wonderful team meal in Sienna’s in Keswick, which had a brilliant restaurant upstairs with superb staff and fabulous food (you know, the sort you take mobile phone pictures of and post on Facebook/Twitter/insert your choice of social media platform?)

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Sunday morning of the Day of Dance always sees some teams stay and dance in the morning before leaving for home and this was no exception. Our hosts (who did a brilliant job the whole weekend) had organised a really nice dance spot at a well known local tourist rest place called Rheged and a good few teams had stayed overnight and rocked up there to put a good finish to a fine weekend. The teams rotated around the real estate until finally all converging on the large downstairs hall area where representatives of all the teams were involved in a final “massed dance” called Greenhams (I think) – anyway it was great fun.


A great weekend, we had super fun, it was lovely to meet lots of other teams dancing different styles of Morris and the weather was pretty good to us all.

Congratulations and thanks to the fabulous Belfagan Morris for organising such a brilliant event which went like clockwork and for looking after us all so well. No doubt they had a houlie of their own afterwards to celebrate the end of a long year of preparation….and we know what THAT’s like!! :)))

Marketing & Heritage…ing

It’s a busy period for us at the moment and it’s not over yet as we have dancing visits to come at Prees WI on Thursday 9th October and at NT Dudmaston for their Orchard Day on 12th October.

However, back up the days a little and Saturday 20th September saw something of a double header for us as we danced for Shifnal Farmer’s Market in the morning and then went on to dance at the Ironbridge Heritage Day Festival in the afternoon.

The Shrewsbury Morris bandwagon rolled into lovely Shifnal at 9.30 on a dull but warm Saturday morning and we did what we do best on arriving early at a dance venue….we got coffee!….and breakfast :)

We received our usual warm and friendly welcome from the Farmer’s Market staff (most of whom we know from Twitter anyway) and had a quick explore of the varied stalls (more Twitter buddies) on display as the rest of the team arrived.

Once we were all in place we began the first of our two 45 min dance spots and enjoyed a really good morning of energetic and fun dancing with a fair old crowd watching us and being very appreciative (not all Twitter friends…oh OK, some were!)

Just as we finished our second dance spot and were taking a break a lovely lady (@lajina on twitter) turned up with free, warm, just cooked bhajis – perfect timing! Whenever you present a Morris side with free food they never fail to disappoint with their appetites and this was no exception as the bhajis quickly disappeared as though they were going out of fashion!

Unexpected lunch devoured, we said our goodbyes to our market friends, mounted up and made our way to beautiful Ironbridge, where we had been offered free parking at The Station car park, not an area of the town that too many of us were familiar with but which looks extremely interesting and well worth a further visit. But this was dance business so we crossed the Ironbridge itself and amused ourselves for an hour amongst the many stalls and activities going on, before starting our first set right outside the Tontine Hotel in front of the Ironbridge – a great place to dance!

A very large crowd gathered to watch us and they were extremely lively and appreciative which always energises us a little more. The same happened at our second spot in The Square 45 minutes later which was marvellous for us. We even had some children joining in and had to pose for photos with them afterwards, which of course we were more than pleased to do, even though we are very shy and retiring (*coughs*…*splutters*)

All afternoon (in fact all day) our dancers and musicians were brilliant and I think we entertained lots of people on a pretty spectacular Heritage Festival Day. The feedback given to us by some of the spectators was really lovely and most kind which is always great to hear.

A tired but very happy Shrewsbury Morris made our way home with the applause and encouraging cheers still ringing in our collective ears….

…..and at least it didn’t rain :)))

Festivals, Pubs and Heritage Days

Blogs eh? You wait for one for ages and then three come along at the same time…bit like Morris sides. Truth is I’ve been meaning to blog lately and then time just sneaked up on me.

So, what’s been going on in the world of Shrewsbury Morris? Well, in a nutshell, during our annual summer break we divided our forces at the end of August and were proud to be able to support two major UK festivals at the same time. Our seasoned festival organisers and their helpers carried out their usual fabulous work at Towersey and a small but perfectly formed team, backed by the amazing Barbara Cole on melodeon performed for Shrewsbury Folk festival around town all day, ending up at the festival site in the evening for the final dance spot. Both groups of course did Shrewsbury Morris proud in their respective locations and roles.

As September arrived the team came back together again for two very nice performances in the local village of Baschurch on Thurs Sep 7th, one for the residents of Millington Close and the other just down the road from there at the New Inn. It was a lovely, balmy evening which saw a bit of rust shaken off sticks and hankies as the Shrewsbury Lasses and Bull and Pump Morrismen went through their repertoires for a very appreciative audience in both locations. We were even treated to tea, cake, sandwiches and a lot of kindness from the residents in Millington Close….and we’re always up for that!

Our most recent dance out saw us performing on Sat 13th September for the Heritage Day of the Lord Hill’s Column in Shrewsbury followed by a short trip across town to the Flax Mill for their Open Day. We had a great surface and space to dance in outside the Shire Hall in the morning and, although spectators were a little few and far between we had a great time there, even joined at one stage by Shropshire Army Cadet Force!! The Flax Mill was, as always, great although we didn’t get to dance inside this time around.

This coming weekend (Sat 20th Sep) we are dancing in Shifnal for the Farmers Market in the morning and moving on to dance for Ironbridge Heritage Day in the afternoon which should be brilliant.

The fun doesn’t stop there as the following weekend we are travelling up to the Lake District to dance in Keswick all weekend as Belfagan Women’s Morris team host The Morris Federation Day of Dance.

Then it’s all hands to the pumps to prepare for our Open Evenings on Thursdays Oct 16th and 23rd at Sundorne School from 8pm and to get ready for our Christmas Ceilidh and our performance in Parliament on Monday Dec 8th which we are all just a little excited about!!

It’s a great time to be in Shrewsbury Morris – why not come and give it a go with us in October? We’d love to see you!

Dancing for Folks Sake

Last year, Shrewsbury Morris Dancers put out a small but perfectly formed team to represent them at The Shrewsbury Folk Festival. Thanks to some brilliant support from our amazing musicians the larger team was able to split (unusual for us) into two and while some of us danced at the Shrewsbury Festival the others fulfilled their regular teaching and workshop commitments some way away at the Towersey Festival.

Well, gluttons for dance punishment that we are, we’re coming back for more cos we LIKED it at the Folk Festival. This time however, Shrewsbury town centre gets to see us all day before we return to the Festival site in the late afternoon to complete our day’s dancing. How lucky is Shrewsbury town centre?! :)))

Both the Shrewsbury Lasses and the Bull and Pump Morrismen will proudly represent Shrewsbury at one of the most prestigious festivals around and we can renew our friendships with many of the other teams dancing there.

Our dance schedule will be:

St Alkmonds Church/Butcher Row: 1045-1130 dancing with Chinewrde Morris

Shrewsbury Square: 1130-1215 dancing with Kickin’ Alice

Procession through the town from The Castle to The Square from 1300-1330

Shrewsbury Square: 1400-1445 dancing with other teams after the procession.

St Mary’s Church: 1500-1545 dancing with Shropshire Bedlams and Appakella

Festival site: 1600-1645 dancing with The Ironmen and Severn Gilders Morris

We hope you’ll come and watch/support us – we’re so looking forward to it.

It’ll be great!

Drum, Dance, Fantas-tix!

It didn’t look good on Saturday morning (19th July 2014). The forecast for torrential rain was accurate and it was doing just that as a band of gazebo putter-uppers, table fetchers and general helpers from Shrewsbury Morris assembled in Shrewsbury Square to prepare for the long-awaited Drum, Dance, Dyna-mix day of free entertainment. The idea, spawned from the highly successful 2013 Morris Day of Dance, was the brainchild of our leaders Ray and Bev Langton and a dedicated Working Group had spent six months planning it all. The aim was to create a day of free, varied entertainment for Shrewsbury to enjoy to go with all the other brilliant events that take place in our town.

….anyway, back to the rain. With cagoules and even bin liners as clothing much in evidence the stage at least began to take shape. We had magnificent help from our good friends at Shropshire Council who gave us power and a stage, from The Busk with Karen Higgins supplying two super gazebos for storage and St Chad’s Church kindly letting us have tables to hold food, water and kit (Morris teams and bands definitely do NOT travel light).

John, our sound engineer and member of our superb band, busied himself setting up the musical and sound side for the visiting musicians and before long the “arena” had been built and we just had to wait for our visitors…….still raining……now 9.30am….kick off due at 10am.

Then, at 9.55am il stopped pleuring and the sky actually got brighter. We always say that the sun shines, not necessarily on the righteous but most definitely on the Morris!

As our guests sorted themselves out, we kicked the day off with The Shrewsbury Bull and Pump Morrismen and The Shrewsbury Lasses performing their standard opening dances.
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While we were doing that some rather large drums appeared and it wasn’t long before the Square (and people’s chests) were pounding with the awesome noise created by Kayobi Taiko, Wem’s finest. I’d never seen Taiko drumming before but here’s a recommendation…you so should….it is wonderful!

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We’re thinking about doing Taiko Morris but that’s a work in progress (ahem)….back to the show…

Our delightful guests from Cockermouth in Cumbria, Belfagan Women’s Morris Dancers then charmed a growing crowd (still not raining) with their gorgeously hypnotic dancing and their wonderfully colourful and intricate outfits. Each of their dances told a story and the audience was entranced as they wove their Morris Magic on the wet flagstones of Shrewsbury Square.
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With the elements still behaving themselves, the flying feet and the wagon-wheeling hips of Kickin’ Alice took to the slightly wet wooden boards on which they dance. These had dried sufficiently for them to perform but it was a close one. However, the show had to go on and they were amazing as always as they entertained with a mixture of slow and fast Appalachian Step Dances accompanied by their super band.
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We then alternated between the various groups through the rest of the morning until our last guests, the superb Buffalo Gals Stampede had set up and were ready to rock Shrewsbury Square with their fantastic blend of old-time music, percussive dance and all round fun.

They ran through a terrific repertoire under a hastily assembled fourth gazebo…oh I forgot…it was raining again……while their incredible dancers Jacob Jones and Dan Eccles…otherwise known, somewhat unsurprisingly as Jake and Dan and the equally fantastic girls of The Buffalo Gals Stampede absolutely delighted the big crowds that had gathered to watch them. I’m sure their enthusiasm, humour and vitality forced the bad weather to push off and the sun actually came out and stayed out for most of the rest of the afternoon.
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In a bid to entertain the town all day there was no lunch break for the hard-working performers….somewhat difficult as the gorgeous and varied platters of sandwiches from the fabulous Philpotts Shrewsbury Sandwich Shop started to arrive for everyone! Thanks Tony :)))

The afternoon ran perfectly as all the wonderful artistes went through their various paces again and royally entertained a very big (by now) crowd. Kayobi Taiko got an extra crowd-pleasing, thundering set in and The Buffalo Gals Stampede gave the Square a great show, every one of their songs/dances being greeted by thunderous applause and loud cheers and whoops. Kickin’ Alice maintained a cracking pace and Belfagan Morris did Cumbria truly proud with their grace, precision and humour.

We ended the afternoon with our traditional wind-up dance of Steeple Claydon and a fabulous day came to a close just as……guess what……it started to rain again!

By now we didn’t actually care!

Job done! :)))))

Thanks have been issued to all involved via a variety of outlets and some nice photos can be found on the links here to our facebook, twitter and, particularly our flickr pages.

If you were inspired to have a go at Morris Dancing with us, Shrewsbury Morris are holding Open Evenings at Sundorne School, Shrewsbury on Thursdays Oct 16th and 23rd from 8pm each night. Come and meet us, have a drink, meet the team (we’re really nice), see what we’re about and have a go. No experience is necessary and we welcome men and women from 16-75. It can’t hurt? :))

If you want to know more about our fabulous guests contact them at:

www.buffalogals.co.uk

http://www.belfagan.blogspot.co.uk/

enquiries@kickinalice.co.uk

kayobitaiko@gmail.com

or search for them on twitter or Facebook

Garlands and Bells in Llandrindod Wells

“Never ask for directions in Wales Baldrick” Blackadder famously once advised………

Well, we had to at one stage on our way to Llandrindod Wells Carnival on Sat 5th July and the worse thing that happened to us was getting stuck behind a lovely old red Massey Ferguson tractor as we trundled sedately into “Dod” as it’s known locally. Of course we might have called it something else if we’d been late!

Shrewsbury Morris slowly, piece by delicate piece massed in the lovely old mid-Wales spa town around mid-morning and made our way to Temple Park to join in with, as it turned out a really stonking carnival! Well organised, superbly well attended and with masses of events going on it was one of the best I’ve seen (and I come from Somerset so I’ve seen more than a few!!).

Both our dance spots were in front of the very picturesque bandstand where a nice space had been cleared. Bull and Pump were first up with their usual Upton and the Shrewsbury Lasses flourished their “Flourish” with a real….flourish for their opener. As we ran through our repertoire the sun got hotter, the crowds got bigger and our superb musicians just got better and better.

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By lunchtime we’d finished our first stand and decided to use the long break between spots to explore the gorgeous Rock Park and Pump House Hotel, a delightful old place where visitors would once “take the waters”. We followed their example but also added a pretty big full cream tea to our refreshment!! Morris Dancers eh?…..you can’t take ‘em anywhere! We also had a lovely relaxed 30mins of unplanned dancing in a super area.

Our second spot, later in the afternoon was after we had joined in with the carnival procession which wound its way slowly round the town. This was spectacular with lots of elaborately adorned floats, wonderful costumes, happy, smiling people and looking like it was raising lots of money.
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We played and walked as a band, playing our stock marching tunes and our Pipekit (one of our sponsors) drum got a good airing at last, keeping good time, thankfully as I was playing it!

The second dance spot was a cracker, the bandstand now surrounded by a huge crowd who stayed to watch us in the late afternoon sunshine.

All in all a really excellent day….and nothing to wash out of our hair at all….:))))