“Didn’t we have a loverly time, the day we went to Swanage?” (sorry, now you won’t stop humming it). Actually, we had a great time. Swanage is one of our favourite festivals and it marks the end of the majority of our dancing season. Being towards the end of the year, it’s like a big party and everyone has fun. We did have to avoid the roadworks on the sea front, which left it a little crowded along there, but we’re used to that. The Procession even went off quite well – we got in Zig Zags twice, which we often don’t get to do at all. Funny how the little things can make you inordinately happy.
We even got the weather for it this year. Perhaps a little muggy, which tires out the muscles quickly, but a little light breeze, not too much direct sunshine and (practically) no rain – the few drops were more like the clouds complaining it was too humid than real rain. Weather can have quite an effect on a Morris dancer, let alone the musicians, who really don’t react too well to rainfall.
We’ll dance in most weathers, although very wet can be dangerous for clog dancers as we have no grip on slippy surfaces. Border and Cotswold, with their soft shoes, generally get on better and can often be seen braving torrents of water to entertain the more waterproof members of the crowd. Chippenham Folk Festival has often flirted with some very damp weather in May – we were once first on the stage (before they enclosed it in a tent) at 11am after they had swept off the worst of the water. We gave up dancing later that day, soaked through, and retreated for tea and cake (and a tumble dryer).
Wind poses different problems. Heavy rain will make us take our hats off (straw isn’t waterproof and goes a little soggy in the wet), but if it gets windy we keep them on as long as possible and tie them down a little more firmly. Swanage can often blow up a strong breeze, being beside the sea, which can make some dances a little more interesting. As we have quite long, though fairly heavy, skirts, they can blow around and threaten to trip us up. Hoops get blown left, when we should be going right, and long hair doesn’t help visual acuity. But we keep going – some Border sides have a little more trouble with their spectacular top hats filled with feathers and flowers and an adverse windage factor.
Occasionally we have pulled out of a festival or had an event cancelled on us due to bad weather, but no-one considers cancelling for good weather. In some ways, that can affect a dance even more adversely. Sun overhead, little or no wind and high temperatures can make for some very uncomfortable conditions. Lots of drinking water on hand helps, but sometimes you only discover how bad it was afterwards when the sunburn shows up and you glow red for the next week.
We do a Christmas dance out each year, for charity, in Bath, and you would think this would qualify as our coldest event (thermals, long sleeves, fleeces etc required). But the coldest event we attend? Cheltenham in February. Bring the hot water bottle and arctic gear!