All My Life’s Buried Here – New Film of The Story of George Butterworth

The Diss Corn Hall will be showing this new documentary film about George Butterworth, the English composer, Morris dancer and folk song collector who was killed in 1916 at Pozières, France during the Battle of the Somme aged just 31. In the chaos of war Butterworth was buried where he fell and his remains were never subsequently identified.

The film will be shown on Wednesday 27th February 2019 at 10.30am and at 7.30pm.  Following each performance there will be a Q & A session with the director Stewart Hajdukiewicz

A trailer for the film is available at

Tickets are available from the Corn Hall box office.

Read more: All My Life’s Buried Here – New Film of The Story of George Butterworth

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".













Decorated ploughs form part of the procession (2016 photo)



There are some huge animal in the parade (2016 photo)

and even several mini-straw bears rescued from a former local pubs

Old Glory Molly carry the mini Straw Bears (2016)

The “cadging” is now licensed and benefits a huge range of local charities.


    There are 19 different dance spots throughout the town centre, not all at pubs!

    Community support  is shown by straw bear themed windows

    and the town garden’s  straw  bear sculpture.

    Look up and you’ll see a large straw bear prancing along a thatched roof

    overlooking the  main square!


Throughout the day the Straw Bear processes and dances through the town to his own tune, played "slowly with a lumbering beat" .  Two people take turns to wear the straw suit which reportedly weighs about 5 stone and dancing in it is no mean feat!  The dancing is a real celebration of morris dancing in its widest sense; local Molly Dancing is joined by Cotswold, Border, Rapper, North West, Appalachian and Sword and the performance tradition includes local school sides which has cemented the custom into new fenland generations.  Originally the event featured mainly local sides but gradually its fame has spread far and wide and this year there were sides from as far as Southport, Harrogate, Wokingham, Brighton, Sheffield, York and Macclesfield.  Local sides were also well represented with Pig Dyke Molly appearing for the 31st year plus Mepal Molly, Gog Magog Molly, Ouse Washes Molly and Old Glory Molly Dancers and Musicians plus others too numerous to mention (some of those not mentioned by name appear in the photos below).

As there are so many dancing spots, many with simultaneous perfromances it is not possible to see all the sides who appeared this year let alone get good photos of them all, especially as I was dancing with Old Glory Molly.  Fortunately Gill cruised around with the camera and got pictures of sides I was not able to see.  In a bid to show some of the sides we missed I have included some photos of sides taken in 2016 and also a couple of youtube videos of this year's event shows the procession and a second one, which shows the preparations before the procession and then some of the sides at the various dancing spots.


Minster Strays from York dancing in Market Street                 Mortimers Morris from Nottingham perform in Market Street



      Old Glory Molly perfrom the Buck, at the Boat                                  Old Glory Molly Dancers and Musicians



Wakefield Morris get airborne in the Market Place           Sussex Junction (Brighton) also get airborne in the Market Place



           Peterborough - All Up at the Boat                                          Pig Dyke Molly sway in Market Street (2017)



       The Witchmen (Kettering) in the Market Place (2016)              Waters Green Morris (Macclesfield) at the Letter B


      Tyler's Men probably got it all wrong in Market Street

The dancing continues on Sunday and the whole event culminates with the burning of the Straw Bear suit and with the Plough Service in the local church when the plough is blessed for the coming year.  Festivals at this time of year often end in fire, perhaps tying in with our primaeval desire for light and anticipation of longer, warmer days.  In Whittlesea it means that the Bear has to be made anew each year, so straw is carefully selected at the end of each harvest for the following year’s Bear costume in the same way that corn dollies were made from the last of the harvest straw to keep the corn spirit alive over the winter until ploughed into the first furrow of the new season to pass the spirit on to the new crop. 

Dave Evans,

Morris On! correspondent, January 2019


Based on an article written by Gill Brett which first appeared in Mardles Magazine in May 2016.


Straw Bear Festival programme 2019



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.








26th Jan 2019

Dance England, Nottingham Playhouse




26th Jan 2019

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

Ely, Cambs



30th Mar 2019

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

Halesworth, Suffolk



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)


Dancing for All - Molly Dance Workshops with Milkmaid Molly


Molly Dance Workshops for Milkmaid Molly Buddies

with Alison Giles from the Cambridge Molly side  Gog Magog

 October 18th, November 22nd and December 14th from 7.30 to 9.30pm

Risbygate Sports Club, Westley Road, Bury St Edmunds. IP33 3RR

The workshops are for any Buddies or potential Buddies who would like to learn new dances or anyone who would like to give Molly dance a go. All are welcome to come along and learn this local tradition.

 Information from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Gill on 01284 767476.


Gog Magog dancing in Ely on Mark Jones Day January 2018

About Milkmaid Molly

Nearly seven years ago, in January 2012, a new Morris dancing side was launched in Bury St Edmunds which filled a gap in the Morris dance family in West Suffolk.  At the time there was a good representation of the dances of the west and northwest of England with Bury Fair and Hageneth dancing the hankies and sticks dances of the Cotswold; Haughley Hoofers, with their clogs, dancing Northwest and Green Dragon’s boisterous stick-wielding Border dance.  The plan was to create a side with a different tradition to avoid standing on the toes of these well-established West Suffolk dancers. So Molly dancing was the choice, Molly being the tradition closest to home, the tradition coming out from the Cambridgeshire Fens.

Gill Bosley and Graham leading the Milkmaid Molly procession at Ely Festival

But there was another difference, this was to be a side that was inclusive: to involve people with disabilities, to have regular dance practices to learn dances and to socialise and to be able to perform alongside other Morris sides, in other words, to enjoy the whole Morris experience.  

Milkmaid Molly (named from the well-known Milkmaid Folk Club) has a membership of 12 Mollies who have learning difficulties and an equal number of Buddies who dance or play with them. Dances are chosen or created to enable all the Mollies to fully participate. The Buddies also learn more complex dances and when these are performed the Mollies provide the instrumental accompaniment with the musicians. A generous donation of £50 from the line-dance group of a previous Buddy was used to purchase more instruments which were given their first airing on 23rd September at the Bury Hub Fest in Hollow Road.

Milkmaid Molly now have regular bookings to dance every year at Ely Folk Festival and Euston Rural Pastimes and may have been spotted amongst the Morris throng dancing in Bury town centre on Green Dragon’s 25th anniversary celebration in September 2018.

Gill Bosley

Milkmaid Molly

17th October 2018



Suffolk Folk

Norfolk Folk Association