A good day out was had by all …

Subject: Multicultural Frome – Thank you!
Date: 10 November 2019 at 20:01:49 GMT

Wow! What an amazing day! 
So, we had 25 countries represented today- that’s pretty good going!
800 people came today and what a beautiful feeling there was – colourful, happy celebration! 
Thank you so much to everyone who took part, making the effort to bring everyone together through music, talks, info, food, games, crafts, dance!
See you soon!
Best wishes Lenka and Azeema

MWS Tunebook

At the Newcomers afternoon yesterday, we were asked about what tunes the band played. Mostly they are traditional tunes from the Morris and British folk traditions. In upgrading our current Tunebook, some examples of the current dances music has been uploaded, and this will be enlarged and updated soon … for anyone wanting to join us, or join in with us when we Dance Out. As ever in this tradition, “the dots” are there for guidance, not a strict transcription of what we play.

Newcomers Came!

Four ladies joined us today on Saturday afternoon … the first since we moved to Bathampton from our previous venue in Batheaston.

We did some demonstration dances with hoops and with sticks, and taught a traditional dance, “Hindley” which we dance to the tune A Hundred Pipers. We started teaching the two basic dance steps we use, “Single Stepping” and “Ranting” (also called a polka step), and then learned the chorus of this dance, followed by four different figures. We put this all together successfully by the end of the afternoon … and we also drank tea and ate cake!

We look forward to meeting them again …

Dancing on the side of a hill, and other hazards

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Well, that was fun! We’ve just had our first pub dance out of the year.  We were invited along by Somerset Morris, who had been temporarily kicked out of their practice hall due to the general election (it’s other alter ego is as a polling station). Our host pub was the Bird in Hand in Saltford, a great family pub down by the River Avon. We’ve only had one dance out so far this year, at the JMO Day of Dance in Bristol – we’re not one of the sides willing to get up at the crack of dawn to dance in May Day. This night gave us a chance to reacquaint ourselves with the vagaries of outdoor dancing instead of in our nice comfy practice hall.

P1180258As is normal, we had part of the car park cordoned off for us – which didn’t stop the usual customer deciding that the cones weren’t meant for him and he could park in the space at the top that had so conveniently been left when the rest of the car park was almost full. Luckily, one of Somerset Morris got to him before he’d even switched off the engine, and he moved the car off our dancing surface.  Now, we’re used to dancing on all sorts of surfaces that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes surrounded by varied hazards.  This car park appeared relatively benign. Until we started dancing.

A wall at the top of the slope had a set of steps down on to the tarmac delimiting one side of the space.  Cars lined the other side, so not much room off the arena allowed for overspill. Not usually a problem as most of our dances, being North West processional in style, are danced in a rectangular shape which fit nicely into the shape provided.  That is until we got to the final figure of one dance – Butterly Brick – where we all line up across the dance area… In which case our line ended up wider than the dance space available and Dr Mrs Wilkins ended up dancing on the bottom tread of the steps.  Well we are adaptable, but we don’t usually practice for these sorts of circumstances.

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Wearing clogs we need a hard surface to dance on.  The best is usually based on wood of some sort – we once had a particuarly bouncy surface at Beckington on a makeshift stage based on railway sleepers with plywood on top – as it has some give in it. More often than not we dance on tarmac, concrete or some other paving surface.  Acutally dulls the sound of the clogs slightly, and we often end up with aching feet by the end as there is very little shock-absorbancy in the wood on tarmac combination. So this car park is well within our usual limitations.

What we don’t usually specify is exactly what counts at flat. The tarmac was flat – it hadn’t got any potholes, gravel or even the frequently danced-around manhole cover – so that was fine.  What we don’t define is what angle of slope is acceptable.  I mean, we don’t go out with an inclinometer to check it’s acceptable. We usually find out as we’re dancing.  The first couple of dances are fine and we have enough puff to laugh about going uphill.  Towards the end of the evening we do tend to find ranting backwards uphill a little more troublesome.

So, if you see a morris dancer kneeling on the ground peering at a spirit level, then it’s probably Mrs Wilkins checking the angle of the slope is within acceptable limits.

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To Busk or Not To Busk?

imageAre we Buskers? Could Morris Dancers be defined as buskers? As a side we rarely collect money. We only do it regularly at Christmas when we collect for two named charities. For this our local Council requires us to be licensed to collect on behalf of these charities and have letters from them acknowledging we are collecting in their behalf. If we were collecting for ourselves we would not require this licence. Buskers in the city (collecting for themselves) are not licensed or controlled in any way other than through an informal arrangement. So, if we’re not collecting money, just dancing for the pleasure of our audience (and ourselves presumably), do we count as buskers? The OED gives a few options. My favourite is “a keen-witted impudent person” or “one who obtains money and property from a ship by pretending to be a pirate”. As we haven’t raided any ships lately dressed as pirates, I don’t think these definitions count somehow (though there has been some impudence noted around the Mrs Wilkins practice room at times…). The relevant definition is “a person who performs music or some other entertainment in a public place for monetary donations; an itinerant entertainer or musician”. So we sort of count. We occasionally collect money, we usually dance in public places for entertainment, and some of us are more itinerant than others.

There are a lot of buskers in Bath for quite a small city – it’s profitable given the number of tourists. A growing number of them now use some sort of amplification whilst they play. Admittedly they do often play in quite noisy places, but their music just adds to the noise and is not always appreciated by all the passers by. As a Morris side we do not use amplification, although we have discussed it for some of our city-centre dance outs so the dancers can hear the music they are supposed to be dancing to. I haven’t seen many sides using amplifiers – occasional electric guitarists or solo musicians use them through necessity, but they’re usually only loud enough for their side to hear and not turned up too loud. But turning the volume up to 11 seems to be a growing habit with our city buskers. This caused a bit of a problem in September when one busker using an amplifier in Kingston Parade on a Sunday evening was so loud it interrupted Choral Evensong in the neighbouring Abbey (see Bath Chronicle for story and aftermath). There were calls for licensing of the buskers, or at least that their amplifiers required some sort of licence/permission for public use as granted by the Council. I’m not sure whether this situation has advanced any in the last couple of months, but i will be watching to see if there is any alterations in the local rules. With the Morris Federation AGM’s Day of Dance being held here, any change in the rules could affect any of our visiting sides. The odds are that there won’t be any alteration to the rules – this is local government after all (unless they can charge for the licence…).

imageSo what brought on the Busker Question? We were involved in a project run by Low Profile. They invited various groups to propose themselves for their Picture in the Paper project. The picture would be published in the local newspaper, but it would also be part of a sequence of photos that are to be put on permanent display in the new ICIA Arts Centre at the University of Bath. I proposed Morris Dancers as one of the groups. They weren’t picked, but buskers were. Perhaps they thought that there were so many buskers in town that they would get a good group of them. Mrs Wilkins the Secretary suggested to them that we could be classed as buskers – sort of. They didn’t object, and probably just as well they didn’t. The photograph was taken on Remembrance Sunday, 9th November (not our choice), and we were the only buskers that turned up. Although we tried to persuade them to change the title of our group, they stuck with Buskers, so there we are. We are, officially, now Buskers. Regardless of whether we’re impudent, pretend pirates, itinerant or entertaining for money in public.

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