Old Glory Molly; "An unpretentious gem of performance art”

The following article written by David Bartlett, singer with Bury St Edmunds-based acapella folk singers Sound Tradition, first appeared on 23rd February 2024 in the Folk column of the Bury Free Press.  It was much admired and appreciated by Old Glory.

Read more: Old Glory Molly; "An unpretentious gem of performance art”



 I was very tempted to head up this report with the title WET, WET, WET! because that pretty much sums up the atrocious conditions lots of Morris dancers and performers encountered at Halesworth on what was for most people the first dance-out of the year.  Zoé-Anne Wadey - who heads up the organisation behind the Day - puts its incredible success down to just that fact!  The event happens before the start of most Morris calendars which means lots of teams are available, but the downside is that you never know what the weather is going to be.  I have been there in snow in the past (the 2018 Beast from the East – ed.), last year it was warm sunshine, but this year it was wet, windy, and very chilly too.

Chelmsford Brollies re size

Chelmsford Ladies do the Brolly dance

Oxblood Wet Wet Wet re size

Oxblood Musicians lead the procession around the Town

Kenninghall brollies re size

Kenninghall Molly gently sway away

Halesworth Day of Dance has several unique features which are probably becoming close to traditions now.  Many people in the town give it an enthusiastic welcome and it enjoys the support of Halesworth Town Council and several other local organisations (including AWD Goldsmith and Jewellers who have contributed generously to the event).   After a welcome from the town Mayor, there are mass dances in the market square (probably the wettest and windiest place in the town this year) with the dances and tunes publicised beforehand. This is followed by a procession which ends in each team dancing through an arch made by all the other people present, which is great fun.

Oxblood High Street re size

Oxblood wring out their hankies

Halesworth The Mayor re size

A welcome from the Mayor and Town Crier


After this, teams and performers disappear off to one of five venues scattered around the town. There is a lively lunchtime music session laid on by the Harbour Lights Ceilidh Band in the White Swan and a Big Strum led by Rumstrum and the Ukes of Southwold. The Day of Dance also welcomed the Suffolk Steampunk community which added a bit of street theatre to the day (https://eastangliabylines.co.uk/steampunk-in-east-anglia/).

Zoe says she started off contacting Morris sides that were listed on the Mardles website and then extended the invitations to teams listed for other big local events such as the Lobster Potty Festival and Mark Jones Day of Dance.  There cannot be many festivals going on that can boast so many participating teams and make them so welcome too.  Undeterred by the prospect of cool wet weather, around thirty teams turned up and danced despite the conditions; in Zoe's book that makes it her favourite year so far!  Most teams were smiling as they danced and it was amusing to see so many people wandering around wearing plastic ponchos from under which strange musical sounds were emerging.  It was a struggle keeping instruments dry, but still they played on!

Boudicca re size

Boudicca of Hadleigh saunter through the High Street


Golden Star re size

Golden Star of Norwich fight over who forgot the umbrellas

Halesworth Little Egypt re size

Little Egypt of Glemsford try to remember how the dance goes (Hint - it's a stick dance)

Halesworth 3 Danegeld re size

Danegeld say "Look at my Stick" ..... and my beautiful embroidered waistcoat

It is thought that the host side, Oxblood Molly came into being around 2005 and the Halesworth day out began in 2015 in celebration of their first ten years. Oxblood was the brainchild of Howard Matthews, (now living in Spain). He wrote a set of dances for his Spanish side, Allsorts which he passed on to Oxblood when Allsorts disbanded.  Every year a different badge is produced to reflect the theme of the year.  Last year a pair of 'bunny ears' were put on top of the traditional Ox head design in honour of Bernice (Bunny) Nash who was a founder member of the team and who had sadly died.  Belchamp Morris took it upon themselves to have badges made for the event helping to raise over £1400 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

The weather cleared up a bit in the late morning but it started to pour again early afternoon at which point, sadly, some people gave up and headed for home, however, up at the White Swan, dancing had moved indoors including solo broom dancing and step dancing.

Green Woman re size

A very cheerful Green Dragon / Green Man/ Green Woman

I was impressed by the cheerful way that all the teams carried on with the dancing and especially the Belly Dancers who stripped off their coats and did their routine as if there was no problem with the weather at all. The day was topped off by a lively and well attended ceilidh in the town's Rifle Hall which was run by the aforementioned Harbour Lights Ceilidh Band.


Jill Parson

All photos were taken by Sasastro (and mighty fine they are too - for more see her Flickr pages at https://www.flickr.com/photos/sasastro/favorites)

Milkmaid Molly


Milkmaid Molly’s whole ethos is to support vulnerable and disadvantaged people to enrich their lives through the joy of music and movement.

Read more: Milkmaid Molly

Frederick (Fred) Sanders - an appreciation


Fred from Neville M3Fred Sanders

Neville Parry, Squire of The Morris Men of Little Egypt has sent the following tribute to Frederick Sanders.

“It is with immense sadness and grief that we announce the passing of our dear friend and Founder of the Morris Men of Little Egypt, Frederick Sanders.  Frederick passed away at home on Monday 24th May surrounded by his beloved family.

Read more: Frederick (Fred) Sanders - an appreciation

Morris and Covid-19; Part 2 Morris Dancing for the Socially Isolated

Two weeks ago, on the 16th March, when I wrote the first article, in what now is becoming a series, no-one expected that almost immediately all Morris practices, pub nights, day's of dance and festivals would be cancelled until further notice but that is what has happened.  Even more astonishingly most of us are now required to remain in our own homes as part of the social (physical) distancing strategy.  For those of us who are feeling an urge to get back to dancing here is a way of performing the Upton on Seven Stick Dance completely in compliance with social distancing; kindly provided by Keith Graham of Colchester Morris Men.

Following the Government announcement on 16th March the Joint Morris Organisations issued a statement which confirmed that the JMO National Day of Dance planned for 18th April 2020 in Liverpool has been postponed until April 2021 on a date to be decided.

Similarly, Daniel Fox, Squire of Thaxted Morris Men announced  "the not-unexpected decision to cancel this year's Thaxted Morris Weekend due to be held on May 29 to 31.  It is the first cancellation since 1939".

Morris On!

Dave Evans

29th March 2020

“Is practice still on tonight – are you going?” - Morris and Covid-19

 I would normally be at Morris practice tonight, Monday 16th March, but instead I’m sitting at home (home working?) writing this.  As you may be aware today was the day that the Government asked us all to practise “social distancing”.  A question; “Is practice still on tonight – are you going?” was raised tonight at 6.05pm and the response to a quick email poll was rapid, which was just as well as a decision was needed well before 8pm, especially as some members cycle 10 miles or more to our practice venue.  The result of the email poll was pretty unanimous and led to some interesting comments and discoveries.

Surprised Morris Man 3

Hey, Guys, Is practice on tonight?

Read more: “Is practice still on tonight – are you going?” - Morris and Covid-19

Not Morris but ...

John Clare's Scraping

You know how it is, you're doing the ironing or cooking and you have the radio on in the background and suddenly your ears prick-up as you become aware of something familiar or interesting.  Well, there I was preparing an early supper when I heard Jon Boden's voice talking to me from the radio.  He'd put together a great little programme about the poet John Clare, the "Northamptonshire peasant poet".  He's one of my favourite poets and I even have an 1820 copy of his first book "Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery" which I inherited from my Mum.  So, Jon Boden immediately got my full attention, especially as the programme was celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of that book.

John Clare poet

John Clare, the Northamptonshire Peasant Poet

Read more: Not Morris but...