Report by James Franklin , Reporter
Sunday, July 1, 2012
MORRIS dancing is one of the most distinctive of English traditions, centuries-old and still proudly practised across the country.
And among those proud practitioners, the Chalice Morris Men – celebrating 40 years of dancing in Somerset and North Somerset – is going from strength to strength, with an influx of young members.
The group had a busy weekend, celebrating 40 years of performing with a series of performances across the area, including ones in Weston and Axbridge.
The group, based in Brent Knoll, was founded in the early 1970s, and now has more than 40 members, many of them attracted after a high-profile recruitment campaign that saw it appear on ITV’s This Morning and BBC Points West.
Morris dancing is a form of folk dance, which is accompanied by music, and can often involve sticks, swords and handkerchiefs. It is uncertain when it first became popular in England, but it could date back as far as the late 15th century.
The Chalice group has performed as far afield as Newcastle and Yorkshire, and dances take place throughout the summer at pubs across the region.
In recent years the group has also branched out to perform at events such as weddings.
With numbers dwindling two-and-a-half years ago, the group embarked on a recruitment campaign that included appearances on national and local television, and introduced a raft of new members to the pastime.
Bob Cross, the former group squire, said: “We wanted to get members started young and that was a particular aspect of our requirement. We’ve now got lots of young members, which is great.”
The group now has dancers as young as 10, and all members of the group were performing on Saturday and Sunday to mark their ‘40ish anniversary’ – the original date of the group’s formation having been lost in the mists of time.
It was joined by the Foresters Morris Men, from Nottingham, the Great Yorkshire Morris Men from Pool-in-Wharfedale and the Jockey Morris Men from Birmingham for the events, which were kicked off with a performance in Princess Royal Square, Weston, on Saturday.
It was followed by gigs at The Square in Axbridge later that day and another in Weston’s Clarence Park on Sunday, where the Chalice dancers were joined by the Mendip Morris Men.
A performance in Brent Knoll on Saturday had to be cancelled due to the weather.
Mr Cross added: “We had a superb weekend with good crowds.”