On Wednesday night I had the great honour of joining Chelmsford Morris (the men’s group) to find out what off-season folk dancing looked like. The blinding white suits and buckled waistcoats were nowhere to be seen. Instead, a friendly gaggle of men in jeans and polo shirts were there to greet me.
My reason for being there was essentially an occupational afterthought to a previous piece I had written about this particular club’s concerns for its future given an apparent dearth of “fit, mildly eccentric” men.
Thankfully, since writing that piece, two men have stepped out of their own doors and up to the plate (two women have also since joined).
But it all begged a question – what does the future hold for Morris dancing?
I have a confession to make. I first saw Morris dancing in the Woolshops area of Halifax. I was 11 or 12 years old and out with friends. We mocked the dancers. I felt the whole episode was rather embarrassing. In my mind Morris was consigned to those activities – like shouting about God in the middle of a street (usually atop a box) or walking around as a human A-board sign – that were early warning signs all was not quite right inside.
Invited to join in for a dance, those views formed in mid childhood began to stir.
But only briefly. Because – and this might be an age thing – I found something quite wonderful in this increasingly anti-social age that a group of guys would meet up, get some exercise, immerse themselves in Centuries-old folk culture without a care of what people thought of them and then go for a pint.
Perhaps, I thought, joining a Morris group is actually an early warning sign that all is very right inside. And looking at the club’s newest members (one is 30 years old), I think the future of Morris might be very rosy indeed.