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.
IMG_9748

IMG_9782

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!

IMG_9892
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.
IMG_0247

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.
IMG_0986

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.
IMG_1688

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.

IMG_8667

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.
IMG_8486

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….:))))

Daze and Knights in Church Stretton

A boiling hot June day at the Church Stretton Medieval Fayre should really have seen us don armour, helmets and leather…bits and, under the tutelage of our liege lord Ray Langton, sally forth to the aforementioned town, for to demonstrate our prowess with powerful weapons of destruction whilst saving various damsels from cupcake stall owners and people who make animals out of sand in the high street (actually that’s quite clever and I’m just jealous).

So we did some of that….the sallying forth bit anyway and arrived in The Square in Church Stretton for our early morning booked spot. We found a really organised area with benches and a big space (clearly someone thought people were going to come and watch us) and we prepared.

A huge crowd actually appeared and thoroughly appreciated us and the other performers making up the morning’s entertainment. The Shrewsbury Lasses took the whole chivalric thing very seriously, flashing the odd Order of The Garter here and there and Bull and Pump Morrismen made sure that their war hammers (well, sticks actually) clashed mightily in the sunshine. They even managed to drive a coach and whole stableful of horses through one of their best dances…….more practice beckons! :) ))
IMG_7207

The Morris siege of The Square only lasted a short while however and we dispersed before it became necessary for the besiegers to catapult dodgy bits and pieces over the castle walls.

It was a lovely day for us, we had a lot of fun, danced well and entertained a great many people. I even got home in time to watch the cricket!! A medieval bonus!

IMG_7415

Arboring (a dance ambition) (with apologies to Rosie Evans)

Come see our famous Black Poplar
With flags flying high in the sun
Join in our Arbor Tree Festival
Said the village of Aston on Clun

So we gathered our bells and our bobbins
Our hankies, our sticks and our charms
The rain it poured down in Church Stretton
But had vanished by Craven Arms
We parked by the hall in the village
Bull and Pump, Lasses all fair
Our friends from Telford and Ironbridge
The Ironmen and Gilders were there.

Come see our famous Black Poplar
With flags flying high in the sun
Join in our Arbor Tree Festival
Said the village of Aston on Clun

There was dancing and singing and whooping
The clashing of sticks filled the air
St Brigit herself would have liked to see
The whirling of dresses and hair
Children and adults in costume
Speeches and poems and prayers
Even a comedy story, from
South Shropshire’s own Pam Ayres

Come see our famous Black Poplar
With flags flying high in the sun
Join in our Arbor Tree Festival
Said the village of Aston on Clun

We all processed to the car park
Fixed our banner well firm to a gate
The Lasses they danced a fine Grenoside
Bull and Pump did a Gallop for eight
The weather stayed dry which was welcome
Great fun was had to the last
As usual when dancing in Shropshire
Shrewsbury Morris had an absolute blast

We saw the famous Black Poplar
Its flags flying high in the sun
We loved the Arbor Tree Festival
Let’s go back to Aston on Clun

IMG_2753

IMG_3462

Smalls, Halls and Stalls

Since our last blog I’m ashamed to say that we’ve had three more fabulous dance-outs – so for the sake of brevity I am encapsulating all of the three into one blog……I know, terribly lazy but needs must when the devil stamps on your bells….or something like that….

First of the three was the really lovely Bayston Hill WW1 Commemoration Fayre on Sat 3rd May (Oh no was it THAT long ago?). A hot day and one that saw two brand new ladies (Sue and Beryl) make their very successful debuts in the ranks of the Shrewsbury Lasses. Brilliant to see our new dancers (men and women) doing so well so quickly. Our two performances on the school playground went well and some keen children danced alongside us imitating our moves….(sign them up quick!!) This was a nice event to do, especially given the context of the day and was clearly well supported by the local community. A good day made perfect by the fact that we also met…..Magic Kev!!….my life is complete:)))

IMG_1738

After a break on the Sunday we were (like Davey….OK, maybe too early) on the road again on Bank Holiday Monday, this time to the amazing National Trust property at Dudmaston Hall, near Bridgnorth. The lovely Nikki Hook had been organising this at the Dudmaston end for a while and being a bit of a Twitter buddy of ours we were looking forward to meeting her at last. We were firstly impressed by the fact that we had our own hut, complete with drink making facilities (no, only tea and coffee sadly!!), storage and rest area……don’t always get THAT!! The place is beautiful and we were dancing in a walled orchard where all sorts of activities were taking place around us. The day started well when Ray completed his road sweeping duties to clear our dance area and Bev then asked us all to line up…..which of course we did (you don’t argue with Bev). She then asked us…..no, actually ORDERED us to cross the dance area clearing every last stone. So, if any local police forces require any finger tip searches of crime scenes completed, who you gonna call?…..Shrewsbury Morris!

The day itself was absolutely great, we had three dance spots, huge crowds at each spot (all very appreciative), the team danced and played their little socks off, we managed to get Nikki involved in a Steeple Claydon (she’s a great sport), the men danced a ten man Upton and Ralph’s Reel (unheard of for years) and Ray and Bev led a huge Farandole (it’s a procession) at the end which culminated in the raising of the decorated May Tree. A lovely day – and we’re going back in October….get your finger tip searching rubber gloves on folks! :) )

IMG_0384

The third of our recent dance outs (Sunday 11th May) found us rather more local to Shrewsbury, in the village of Minsterley at The Rea Valley Produce Market, a super local event held in one of the largest village halls in the country. We were able to catch up with a few of the stall holders who were social media friends and the dancing, in a reasonably tight space was really good (I think small spaces are better) – in particular the lines formed by both the women and the men were really impressive, and I have the photographic evidence to prove it….Bev! (so the gruelling training pays off then?). In between our three dance spots the local stalls, in particular for some reason the food stalls…..took a bit of a pasting from the team and I think the Scotch Egg lady may have had to re-stock completely!

Three lovely dance-outs, new dancers ‘blooded”, big crowds (in fact a record crowd day at Dudmaston we were told) and all in very different but very nice local areas. Good times!!

10345759_653704441376266_6597802041922830003_n

Next stop – Aston on Clun on Sunday 25th May for Arbor Day celebrations…….I promise the next blog will be on time…….or I’m not a police finger tip searcher……..oh wait! :) ))

VG at the WI

When the Women’s Institute asks you to go and dance for them, the only real question is “where do you want us”……I mean….we’re talking tea….we’re talking cake…we’re talking being looked after………*sigh*…………………………oh sorry!!….ahem…..

…and so it was when Bridgnorth WI asked us to dance for them at St James’ Hall in their lovely town at the end of April.

We have a special show, a sort of Morris Roadshow (I call it) which we have taken round for a number of years now to perform in small venues such as village halls, community centres etc. It’s compact, energetic, busy and full of music and dance (bit like us really) and it’s so much fun for us to do.

We can fit about 11 dances into it, some Morris/dance education, a bit of a sing-song and some mock interviews with team members (that’s when we all try to hide) and sometimes members of the audience.

The evening at Bridgnorth was great. We were warmly welcomed by the very cheerful and friendly women there (always a bonus when you turn up and people actually know you’re coming!) and made to feel very comfortable before we got going. We had a good number of team members available so were able to put out a nice mixture of new and seasoned team members and musicians into a nicely informal atmosphere.

Ray (Our Squire) began proceedings with our traditional Calling On song “Staines Morris” then the Bull and Pump Morris Men got things underway with a very spirited “Upton” followed by an excellent “Severn Steps” from The Shrewsbury Lasses.

IMG_7683
For our new members this was only their second dance-out ever and they coped extremely well with warm and slightly space-restricted conditions (all part of being a Morris Dancer, just got to get your Morris radar right).

The evening went brilliantly, the dancers were fabulous, our musicians were, as always awesome and the audience were really great as they clapped, even cheered in some places and joined in at the end with a communal (and, as always chaotic) Steeple Claydon dance. Bull and Pump also debuted (for most of us anyway) an eight man Shrewsbury Gallop which is when………well, you’ll just have to come and see it! :) )

IMG_7775
The legendary hospitality of the WI was very much in evidence at the end of a super evening when sponges, cakes (lemon drizzle – personal favourite of many of us….hint…hint)), tea coffee and other goodies were produced and we had a good chat with many of the WI members before returning to Shrewsbury.

If you are interested in booking us for one of these events just email bev.langton@talk21.com……but don’t forget….lemon drizzle…..OK?? *winks*

Tick VG for Shrewsbury Morris :) )

From Busk til Yawn

Quentin Tarantino would have been (almost) proud. It all started with a secret photo-shoot in a highly cool location, involved a sharply dressed young rap star, gorgeous musical divas and……..two Morris Dancers……oh well, perhaps you can’t have everything (George Clooney for example)……or maybe you can?

The truth is we were delighted and very honoured to be asked to perform for the second Big Busk to be held in Shrewsbury town centre on Sat 5th April 2014.

We jumped at the invitation to be a small part of the amazing group of, musicians, singers, dancers, drummers, magicians, animal experts, yoga…erm…practitioners, poets, readers, spoon players and street artistes who turned out in huge numbers to support the worthy cause of The Shrewsbury Ark.

It being our first dance-out of the new 2014 season we were very excited to be able to include three new men (Mike, Richard and a new Tom) in the ranks of The Bull and Pump Morris Men. The new ladies who have joined the Shrewsbury Lasses are working hard at practice and are just waiting for their kit before they join us dancing in public too, which is also very exciting.

Photo courtesy of Simon Jones

Photo courtesy of Simon Jones

We were allocated two 20 minute spots in The Square and Pride Hill which were ideal for “blooding” (or should that be sticking?) our new dancers. Large crowds gathered to watch both performances and we were delighted to find that lots of people engaged with us and came to chat before, during and after the dances. We love that!

IMG_2403

Apart from a tumble, a wardrobe malfunction and a Mexican stand-off with a group of mediaeval re-enactors (in the nicest possible way….we took their photos and they stood down) the afternoon was terrific and we were pleased to maintain the high standard of all of the some 90 acts who performed throughout the day.

The dancing and clogging was great, the musicians as always were superb, the team-work was brilliant and our new members were absolutely fabulous! It was sad that one or two of our regular team were injured and could not take part but some joined us anyway, which was lovely and we hope they will all be back dancing with us very soon.

sc

A great start to 2014, after which a tired but very happy Shrewsbury Morris piled into a Winnebago and headed off into the Mexican sunset….well…..all points Shrewsbury anyway…….and not a vampire in sight!

Shrewsbury Morris are sponsored by the wonderful (and local) Pipekit and Battlefield Printing Company.

BPG logoPipekit logo CMYK1