Dancing at the Ely Folk Festival July 2019

Ely Parade 2

  Last year 6 Hageneth men danced at Ely Folk Festival. It was a pretty close thing. Minutes before we were due to dance we only had 5 men and no musician. A sixth man arrived in time and we borrowed musicians from Bury Fair and Coton. Our musician arrived in time for the second dance.

  This year Hageneth did not have a side but Gill’s side, Haughley Hoofers, were booked to dance at Ely on the Sunday and Gill and I decided to camp for the weekend.

  It’s a great festival site at the sports ground; there’s plenty of room for tents and campervans all within 3 minutes walk of the main festival site.  There is also a regular and fairly frequent shuttle-bus into town provided by an alternating mix of large mini-buses and a double-decker bus.  The shuttle-bus system usually works well in both directions but occasionally there is a frustrating delay, sometimes when a side is due to appear at the festival dance stage.  The priority is to get all sides into the City centre on Saturday morning for the impressive parade of the festival dance sides which makes its noisy and colourful way from Ely Cathedral through the centre of the City, around the market square and back to the cathedral.

Read more: Dancing at the Ely Folk Festival July 2019

Morris Dancers protest in Parliament Square

Rochester Sweeps Protest; Photo by Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

If you’re a Morris Dancer looking for something to protest about tomorrow (23rd July 2019) and don’t fancy making a fuss about the (s)election of our new Prime Minister, and Extinction Rebellion is not your cup of tea you may wish to join the protest by Morris Dancers in Parliament Square. 

The protesting dancers mainly seem to come from Kent and are concerned about the change of date for next year’s May Day Bank Holiday from the first Monday in May (4th) to the second Friday (8th May) so that it coincides with national celebrations for the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day aka V.E. Day.  They claim this poses a threat to the Rochester Sweeps Festival which traditionally takes place on the early May Bank Holiday which has always been on a Monday since it was introduced by the Labour Party in 1978.

Eamon Andrews at Rochester Sweeps Festival

Eamon Andrews of Golden Star dancing at Rochester Sweeps Festival a few years ago

The Rochester Sweeps festival in its modern form dates back to 1980; the original, as described by Charles Dickens in Sketches by Boz in 1836, died out in the early 1900s.

Dave Evans

The 2019 Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival.

Whittlesea Festival - Part 2

The festival dance programme began at the Manor Leisure Centre at 10.30am on Saturday morning with the spectacle, music and colour of the procession of morris sides led by the Straw Bear and his “driver".

Read more: The 2019 Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival.

The (new) Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival is 40 years old

 

Background to the Straw Bear Festival

The Straw Bear is a very old fenland icon which goes back well into the nineteenth century at the very least.  Straw Bear parades took place on Plough Monday, the first Monday after Epiphany or Twelfth Night; the day when local farm workers were supposed to return to their work, ploughing the land. 

The Straw Bear dances in the Market Place, Whittlesea January 2016

As they had not been working or paid during the Christmas holidays the agricultural workers and “ploughboys” toured the locality to perform molly dances, plough-plays or sing and entertain with acts of “mischief” and would beg for money.  To avoid recognition, they would black their faces to disguise themselves as their aim was essentially to intimidate in order to obtain money: those refusing to donate would have some trick played upon them.  In her book “Fenland Chronicle” (Sybil Marshall, 1963) she recounts that her mother, had told her “very often these were real nasty tricks, and they’d wait until Plough Monday to get their own back on somebody what had done them some injury during the year” for example, they would plough up a doorway or take gates off their hinges so that the livestock escaped.

The Straw Bear is not exclusively a Whittlesea custom and some of the earliest newspaper reports date from 1880 where in Ramsey, a few miles south of Whittlesea there are reports of an “individual dressed from top to toe in straw … (who) capered before the houses … to the merry strains of the accordion”

Read more: The (new) Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival is 40 years old

Updated! Morris Autumn & Winter Tours 2018 - 2019

There may be other sides performing in the area who have not contacted us.  Contacts for morris and clog sides appear elsewhere in Morris On!  If planning to see a performance please check with the contact or website beforehand as sometimes, for unavoidable reasons, performances are cancelled or re-arranged.

 GROUP(S)

DAY

DATE

VENUE/EVENT

TOWN/VILLAGE

OG

Sat

26th Jan 2019

Dance England, Nottingham Playhouse

Nottingham

OW

Sat

26th Jan 2019

10.30 6pm Mark Jones Day of Dance (see side website)

Ely, Cambs

OM

Sat

30th Mar 2019

Oxblood Molly 5th Day of Dance (see side website) with other invited sides

Halesworth, Suffolk

BMM

Sun

28th April 2019

12.30 St Georges Day Celebrations, Rose & Crown, with many other sides from Suffolk & further afield

Hundon, Suffolk

 

Key                 TBC = to be confirmed            TBA = time to be arranged

BMM = Belchamp Morris Men (Cotswold and Border)

OG = Old Glory Molly Dancers and Musicians (Molly)

OM = Oxblood Molly (Molly)

OW = Ouse Washes Molly Dancers (Molly)

 

Suffolk Folk

Norfolk Folk Association

Admin