Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Finsbury Town Hall ceilidh

It was the official opening of Finsbury Town Hall as a dance venue.
Jeremy's been involved with it, and asked us to come and help with the inauguration.

We also danced around Jane Pfaff's maypole, and joined in with the general dancing.

There were a lot more people there than in the photo, which is Noah and Ezra sorting out the Maypole before everyone arrived.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Dancing for the BBC in Portland Place

We were asked to come and teach people some morris dancing for the BBC.
The programme was about the madness of the licensing law, which means that pubs need a special license when there's music being performed there.
Or if pubgoers have a sing-song.
Though not for them to be shouting all evening watching football.
It's part of a series about nutty laws under Labour.

Anyhow, it turns out the premise of the programme was that a pub in London used to have a sing song and what loophole could they use to get round the law.
They could get away with it if the pub was on wheels, or if they were all carrying placards.

Or, if they were Morris dancing. Morris dancers are exempt.

So, we all came in and danced a dance (wonderful place to dance, I wish I'd had my camera), and tried to teach them to do some.
Which would have been alright, but they wanted us to dance to sing-a-long songs. Knees up mother Brown, A long road to Tipperary etc.

We tried, but I think the exercise showed that it didn't work.

33 Portland Place is a great place. it felt somewhat surreal. It's like a stately home that's been used for raves and such like.

You can sign an online pertition about the licensing law here

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Humbug! Scrooge in South London

For the next week and a bit, Peter J can be seen dancing on stage, nightly, in the South London Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol.

We're talking chocolate box production, a cast of thousands, and fabulous costumes - including the jingling jacket knocked up by wardrobe. The director thought plain whites would be too pristine and we needed some green to go with the production.

I asked for a tattered jacket, and got what you see - a shirt with bells on. It's murder trying to put it on and take it off quietly, backstage. I'll bring it on tour next year perhaps!

Many thanks to the excellent James Denny of Thames Valley Morris Men, who plays a variety of squeezeboxes throughout the production, and persuaded the director to put the dance into the show.

There are more photos here.

This was a dress rehearsal. Before anyone asks, for the actual shows, I have been wearing white socks!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

AGM and Feast at the Prince Albert in Battersea

A lovely afternoon and evening in the upstairs room at the Prince Albert, just opposite the park gates.

We had our AGM, checking what sort of things to do next year, reviewing this ones, resolving to do the things we'd forgotten since last year's AGM, worked out the holes in the bagman's (my) reckoning etc...

...and then danced for the afternoon. I love the surrealness of dressing in kit for our AGM and dancing for ourselves.

We formally gave Ezra his baldrick, then feasted for the evening, with toasts to absent friends, the Queen, and the immortal memory of Cecil Sharpe; and singing till late.

Many thanks to Michael Runge for finding and arranging the pub.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Teaching the TES

"It is as if someone has snipped off the coner of a peaceful Cotsworld village green and dropped it down in this heart of city darkness," says Times Educations Supplement Journalist Stephen Jones.

We taught him some Morris one evening, and he wrote up his experience of in today's paper. Part of the story is here.

Here's a scan of the whole article - with Antony's "gimlet eye", and Ezra's skills coming in for special mention.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Ordinary Boys miss their chance

Poised for massive success, pop group The Ordinary Boys could have had it all.

We've never heard their music, and haven't seen Big Brother where lead singer Preston made an appearance.

But now, with their latest video in production, they were ready to take the next step: Morris dancing.

London Pride was booked for a part in the video, as one element of a multi-faceted performance. With our addition, their success was assured.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. One day before filming, we were told the video was "massively overbudget" and we weren't needed. We should unstrap our bells and go back to normal.

We are very sorry. Without our help, the Ordinary Boys may struggle on to some sort of fame. But just think lads. Without Morris dancing, will it really be worth it?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Meet Myrtle, Our Mascot!

The Kanssens' dog Myrtle is now the official London Pride animal.

She's turned up to one practice, and appears to tolerate Morris - and there are some would say that's as much as we can expect from anyone. And it's about time we had a beast.

Is it a a dangerous warping of Morris tradition, to have a female animal? I don't know, but a more serious objection would be that she's better looking than any of us.

(I should say, those bells aren't attached. Yet)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Morris Dancers for Blue Peter

- as part of a 200 child conga.
It was to launch the Blue Peter Shoe Biz appeal, they had all sorts of children doing it from stilt walkers to scuba divers to ballet dancers and Morris dancers.
Noah and Ezra joined in with Ilmington Traditional Morris's junior side.
They all got Blue Peter badges, some of us adults being envious. Noah's Headteacher said in his permission email how proud he was of the gold Blue Peter Badge he'd got...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Morrising at Wndmills?

I read Don Quixote over the summer (it's the classic text on the Mid Life Crisis, chaps), and was interested to see the poor old Knight victimised by a Morris man.
"During this conversation, it unluckily fell out, that one of the company anticly dressed, being the fool of the play, came up striking with his morrice bells and three full-blown cows' bladders fastened to the end of a stick. In this odd appearance he began to flourish his stick in the air, and bounce his bladders against the ground just at Rozinante's nose."
"The jingling of the bells, and the rattling noise of the bladders so startled and affrighted the quiet creature, that Don Quixote could not hold him in; and having got the curb betwixt his teeth, away the horse hurried his unwilling rider up and down the plain, with more swiftness than his feeble bones seemed to promise."
(Part 2, Chapter XI, "Of the Stupendous Adventure that befell the valorous Don Quizote, with the Chariot or Cart of the Court or Parliament of Death.")
Sounds a pretty clear morris dancer, in a translation of a Spanish book written in 1615. Unfortunately, the copy I was reading - Wordsworth Classics - doesn't say who translated it or when.

There's a copy of the book online (the Ormsby translation), which describes the attacker as in a mummers' dress with a great number of bells."

There's plenty of Spanish versions, picking an early edition we get:
Estando en estas pláticas, quiso la suerte que llegase uno de la compañía, que venía vestido de bojiganga, con muchos cascabeles, y en la punta de un palo traía tres vejigas de vaca hinchadas; el cual moharracho, llegándose a don Quijote, comenzó a esgrimir el palo y a sacudir el suelo con las vejigas, y a dar grandes saltos, sonando los cascabeles, cuya mala visión así alborotó a Rocinante, que, sin ser poderoso a detenerle don Quijote, tomando el freno entre los dientes, dio a correr por el campo con más ligereza que jamás prometieron los huesos de su notomía. Sancho, que consideró el peligro en [que] iba su amo de ser derribado, saltó del rucio, y a toda priesa fue a valerle; pero, cuando a él llegó, ya estaba en tierra, y junto a él, Rocinante, que, con su amo, vino al suelo: ordinario fin y paradero de las lozanías de Rocinante y de sus atrevimientos.
Which Babel fish translates as :
"Being in these talks, it wanted the luck that arrived one from the company, that came dress from bojiganga, with many bells, and in the end of swollen a three wood vejigas of cow brought; which moharracho, arriving itself at Don Quixote, began to use the wood and to shake the ground with vejigas, and to give great jumps, sounding the bells, whose bad vision thus it excited to Rocinante...
What's a "bojiganga"? It seems to be an old word without a modern English translation. But the Spanish definition is "Compañía teatral ambulante del Siglo de Oro, de pocos integrantes, que representaba comedias y autos", which seems to translate as a "small travelling theatre company which puts on comedies ("and cars").

So I guess that's more of a mummer than a morris dancer...

Strike the sticks quietly at McGlynn's

No pictures of the men this time. With only seven men, no one had a spare hand to take them.

The Queen's Larder was, as usual, busy but indifferent, with more enthusiasm from the diners outside the restaurant next door. We persuaded a French lady to join in Bonny Green Garters. She looked surprised.

Two dances into a show at McGlynn's, we were asked to stop by a man whose children were trying to sleep.

What made this more ironic, is we'd only just said goodbye to some very high-spirited and intrusive children who should have been in bed long before. Since those kids were the only audience we'd got, we tried to involve them - but their parents called them away for some reason.

Anyway. after we got the request to stop, we finished the dance we were about to do - a graceful and subdued Balance the Straw to Jeremy's muted but soulful sax.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Second Bloomsbury tour

Hot on the heels of the Ecology centre, another visit to Bloomsbury.
We went back to the Queens Larder and danced for the tourists and people eating out, and for possible new member Chris.

Then off to McGlynns, a quiet pub in a side street.
Perhaps just a bit too quiet...
We were joined for the second dance by loads of kids who just appeared from nowhere and joined in, then ran off almost as quickly.
And then, ironically we were asked by a local to be quiet as he had just put the baby to sleep. Just as we were about to do what would have been quite a noisy stick dance.
So we did dance it, but ...v.e.r.y...q.u.i.e.t.l.y.... very gentle taps of sticks...

And then we called it a day and enjoyed the pleasant evening air.
Another neighbour, coming by told us that there were more morris dancers due on Wednesday, so maybe baby will need ear plugs

Gillespie park Ecology Centre

A lovely afternoon at the Ecology Centre, perfect weather, an appreciative audience, and just enough men to make up a full side.
And Jeremy brought our bells back from the Prince's trust do too.
(which was aparantly very good)
Even though it's just around the corner from the Aresenal's new Emirates Stadium, Gillespie Park feels like it's right out in the countryside.
A friendly dinosaur joined in and posed for pictures

Unfortunately we missed John Hegley and Rob Newman but enjoyed some of the other acts.

The press were there too, Andy, a local photographer was taking photos for the Islington Gazette.
I'm sorry, I've lost the paper I wrote your site down on, Andy, so if you chance to read this, contact me and I'll edit it in.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Would you trust this woman with your bells?

This is Holly Davies, from the Prince's Trust.

Look at her bag -- she is carrying ALL our bells.

Apparently, she's persuaded a group from her office to learn Morris and put on a public performance for charity, this Thursday at Cecil Sharpe House.

Either that or she's just stolen the bells of an entire Morris side for a dare... we'd better make sure there's at least one of us at the show on Thursday, just to make sure.

It's all for charity - helping disadvantage youth (which is what the Prince's Trust does).

It's therefore firmly in the revived Morris tradition. As we all know, Mary Neal started the revival with a side of disadvantaged girls in London. And here they, are, courtesy of New Esperance.

Holly caught us as we finished up another successful but exhausting Canal Festival outing - our third year at an excellent festival.

As usual, my photos are just of cute baby owls. Oh, and some dejected men, stripped of their bells. Luckily, Peter's done us proud - see below.

Oh yes, and anyone else want to challenge the Islington Boat Club to a canoe race next year?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Islington Canal Festival

We've been coming to the canal festival for a few years now, it's an enjoyable afternoon, dancing by the canal side. The weather held off, after an unpromising start to the day, and it was nice and sunny, no doubt due to the power of the morris...

We fitted in between the likes of African drum and dance, Pearly kings and queens, Tragic Roundabout, and the amazing pedal powered machine that saves the world.

We all gave our bells up at the end to lend them to the Princes Trust, who are doing a fund-raising show at Cecil Sharp House - the senior managers have all been persuaded to learn Morris Dancing for the show...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Thames Valley Day of Dance

We'd been invited out for an evening in the leafy lanes of Croydon, as guests of Thames Valley Morris Men, along with Northwood Morris Men, Blackheath Morris Men, and Old Palace Clog

There wasn't a full side of London Pride, but we still managed to do some dancing. It was a lovely evening and good to meet the other sides.

Lovely fish and chips too at Mr Chippy, courtesy of Thames Valley.
Many thanks to them for inviting us, and especially to James Denny for organising it all.

Back at Newington Green

We had a pleasant afternoon dancing to Neville's violin in Newington Green, you might just think it a traffic island if you only drove past it, but it's got a very pleasant little park with a history

We were dancing for Islington Surestart's international festival, along with celtic, turkish and carribean groups.

It's our second time there this year.
I haven't photos of the side dancing I'm afraid, but this might be why Ezra was feeling too sick to dance after one break:

Monday, July 24, 2006

TMO Fun Day 22 July

Holland Park had a marquee, a steel band, a barbecue, the tenants and staff of Peter's project... and us.

Everyone else had a long presentation in the marquee, and emerged to head for the barbecue. This gave us a nice audience, albeit one with its mind on food, not us.

We were joined in Bonny Green by Sarah Carrot, of the Moon Carrot circus skills team (who also did a great job keeping some of the LP kids occupied). As you can see, she is very tall. She did a fine performance - not at all stilted - but I only managed to snatch a poor photo before we started....

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Monson Party - 15 July

Two of our men had birthdays recently. John and Jeremy Monson are 80 and 50. So we had a celebration in the Harpenden village hall, with music, country dancing, food and drink.

I'm sure there are more photos of the occasion, but here are some blurry ones of the birthday boys cutting their cakes, using the official London Pride Cake Sword (a nineteenth century cavalry officer's blade, I understand).

People from at least three generations had a good time, with country dancing for as many as willed, at all standards.

I will remember the sight of Peter K, partnering Noah and dancing the woman's steps. Very dainty.

At one point, a circle dance left Peter waltzing with John, both in kit. It made me wonder. How about a whole 3/4 Morris tradition, developed by itinerant Austrian musicians, and only just re-discovered? We could start with Sweet Jenny Strauss and go on from there...

Kitty and I stayed till the end, and went home on a train which stopped at West Hampstead due to engineering works (it was true, we could see they guys on the tracks).

We got in at 12.30. Alison said she hadn't expected to be waiting up for some disreputable guy to bring home Kitty from a party - at this age.

7 July - Chelsea

No photos for this one (I forgot my phone) unless someone else wants to edit some in.

A highlight of this evening was the presence of James Denny, melodeon player for Thames Valley. He pitched in to play for some dances, as we were somewhat short of numbers for the first stand at the Anglesea Arms - until Jeremy arrived.

This meant we had the pleasure of seeing John dance.

The Anglesea was a friendly place, as ever, with plenty of appreciative people outside. Another former dancer bumped into us, and passed on his wisdeom, as they do.

At the close of the show, about 100 people on roller skates shot past along Neville Terrace. We invited them to join in, but they said dancing was tricky on skates.

Some attractive American students took photos, and took a fancy to Antony.

The Surprise is in a nice secluded back street which is, apparently, afflicted with a curtain-twitcher. The pub has had a succession of landlords who have been persuaded to remove the outside benches, and the place seems depleted. The current landlord warned us we'd have to stop if there was a complaint.

There wasn't. Locals chaps joined in, and kids on bikes cycled past, mocking us good-naturedly. We put on a wider range of dances, still with support from James.

We ate sandwiches and chips and wandered home. Pretty much the definition of a good evening's Morris.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sophie Countess of Wessex Opened for us...

... though we didn't actually meet her.

Last night we were at the Summer Fete at Dolphin Square in Pimlico, the biggest mansion block development I've ever seen.

A thousand flats, and the home of celebrities including Harold Wilson and Mandy Rice Davies, it has a very nice garden which yesterday, had a marquee, refreshments and a bunch of residents enjoying themselves.

Sophie opened it at 3pm, so she was gone by our first spot at 7.30. We didn't meet her, but we did catch up with our old friend and international Morris celebrity (he's toured abroad), Bruce Clitherow.

He's in fine form!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Islington: Surestart, the adventure playground... and the robot horse

Two places to dance in Islington, on a sunny Saturday (10 June).

We started at Mildmay Surestart's Summer Fair, on Newington Green. The show coincided with England's opening match against Paraguay, but despite this we had an audience.

Given the football, and the fact that Surestart is the Government's programme to support young families, the crowd was about 95 percent female.

A very hot day, so we had two short performances, and lots of tea in between. There was fine curried goat, available from a woman who remembered us from a previous Canal Festival - her son was the four-year-old who was determined to join in outside the pub in 2004, remember him?

At the opportune moment, Jeremy announced "I've got another place to dance at, it's just round the corner," and managed to whip up a small amount of enthusiasm. Well quite small in fact. He cycled off with one other man - me.

I was glad I went. It was a fundraiser for the Hayward Adventure Playground, which caters for children with disabilities. When we arrived, they were being entertained by a man juggling with a chainsaw ("don't try this one at home"), and a band was warming up in the background. There was more tea, and very nice banana cake.

Pretty soon there was a suitable spot for a solo jig, and then some hanky-waving action with all the children chasing round.

And then the mechanical horse arrived. The children shrieked, but Jeremy seemed to get on quite well with it. My day was complete.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Derwentwater Primary School's 100th Anniversary

Quite a multicultural event. While we were waiting for our spot there was a band playing something that reminded us of west african music.
A bit of bopping to the music went on:

It made me wonder if Will Kemp had been dancing to Soca?

I'm afraid I haven't photos of us in action as there was only 6 of us including Nick, who was playing Melodeon and dancing in the set at the same time!

The light was fading afterwards, blurring my photos:

There was also some sumo morris:

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Audience participation at Notting Hill

A warm evening, and a nice audience in two public spaces in Notting Hill - followed by a meal at Peter K's work.

This clip gets the feel of it - Peter's residents sitting on the wall, one gent joining in with gay abandon, and three girls skipping round us, and the piercing tones of Jeremy's sax. Public Morris as it should be!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

At Thaxted

We had a lovely weekend at the Thaxted Ring meeting.
London Pride did a show dance in the square, at which the squire of the Morris Ring introduced Noah and Ezra, our two newest recruits. It probably would have gone better if I'd remembered to call the dancing, but the audience kindly didn't seem to notice.
We were actually a full side of London Pride dancing, though half of the men were in Cambridge MM kit.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Kensington Tour

Hot foot from teaching Ben Taylor of LBC to dance we were on tour in Kensington.
The power of the morris drove the inclement weather away, and even though it was chucking down when we arrived, it wasnt bad by the time we danced.

We were a rather diminished side this evening, and danced dances such as a Rosebud instead of Rose, and a Valenteeny Valentine.
And some jigs. It all went down well still.

We had audience who'd come up specially to see us before going off to Spain, where she'd seen similar stuff in her native Basque region (hi Rosario!) and Tom the photographer taking photos of us looking up at the laden clouds and phoning round to see if any more men were likely to turn up.

At the Uxbridge Arms it turns out that rumours of Linda, the welcoming landlady's departure were unfounded, though unfortunately she had another engagement that night.
Sorry to miss you Linda.

At the Uxbridge Arms

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Teaching an LBC reporter to dance

LBC reporter Ben Taylor, whose past work has included interviews with Jimmy Osmond and Sir Ian McKellen, took the obvious next step of learning some Morris.

This being radio, we made sure we were in kit, and fitted him with a baldrick. As you can see, he made a good fist of the opening steps of the Nutting Girl.

The item is pretty brisk - we were keeping Ronan Keating waiting - but it should be broadcast sometime this summer.

We are moving to practice rooms just round the corner from LBC's Chrysalis building in September, so Ben is welcome to join us there...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

At the Compton Arms in Highbury

A lovely evening despite us having to compete with football (apparantly they hadn't checked our programme before arranging the UEFA cup)

A bit of Jigging also went on:

And Ezra did one:

- a challenge for Noah now!