NEWS

EASTER WEEKEND EGGSTRAVAGANZA


BY JONATHAN NIBBS

Holt Morris Side at the Easter Weekend Extravaganza

Despite the vagaries of isobars, fronts and troughs, we managed to entertain both ourselves and intrepid punters at The Hall, Bradford-on-Avon on Good Friday and Easter Saturday, whilst eliciting a degree of satisfaction from the organisers.

We were gratified to have Trombone Trev in full regalia, along with us for our openers of the season, and were delighted with Jan’s and Wayne’s contributions on their debuts. May they be integral to the longevity of our performance spectacle.

Here they are with most of the rest of us on Easter Saturday.

NEW MUSOS JOIN THE RANKS!


BY JONATHAN NIBBS

Holt Morris Musicians

In line with our new 21st century, enlightened recruitment policy, we take great delight in welcoming Tania Perry (violin) and Jan Flanker Windsor (melodeon) to the ranks of our long-established musician cohort, along with newly multi-purpose Bryan Baker, still raising a leg or two in the dance, and now melodionising. Here they all are in informal assembly.

THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS: A REVIEW OF HOLT MORRIS IN 2023


BY PETE SMITH

That Was The Year That Was: A Review Of Holt Morris In 2023

Bradford on Avon Roots Festival

Each year, in late January, the organisers of the Roots Festival invite Holt Morris to bring along a bit of dancing and wassailing to the event. Once again, a large and cheerful crowd gathered in the foyer at the Wiltshire Music Centre to encourage a bumper 2023 apple harvest. A bit of toast, a sacrifice of cider, and lots of noise must surely have helped. And, as ever, we rounded off the performance with a sip or two of the golden nectar.

Yorkshire Tour

The early May bank holiday weekend found most of the side “oop north”.

We had been invited by Richmond on Swale Morris to join in two days of dance, on the Saturday at Barnard Castle, the Sunday at Richmond. An early Friday morning departure and 6 hours of travel found us all at the George Inn, Piercebridge, a few miles north of Richmond: a spacious and welcoming hotel situated on the river Tees (see picture below).

The George Inn, Piercebridge.

First priority for all was a beer and, after settling into our rooms, we walked through the village to the Fox Hole pub for a jolly meal. A party celebrating at another table discovered that we were morris dancers, and wanted to see a dance. So we stepped into the garden in the gathering gloom, danced “Shepherd’s Hey” and then, led by Mr Nibbs, got them to join in. Back to our digs for a nightcap and bed.

After a good breakfast, Saturday morning found us catching a bus to Barnard Castle. With more than a nod to Mr Cummings’s ill-advised covid dash to this very town, and his outrageous fibbing thereafter, too many jokes were made featuring allusions to opticians and eyesight impairment. It was with relief that we disembarked onto the wide streets of the town.

Following a warm welcome from Black Sheep Morris, we enjoyed dancing at various spots around town, meeting new sides en route. We were reunited with young Mr Dave Lawrence, now of Richmond on Swale Morris. Lunch was taken at the Well Inn, where the beer was good but the welcome lukewarm. We did a bit more prancing, and then found our weary way back to the bus stop and our hotel.

Showered and spruced, taxis took us to the Crown Inn at Gainford, and Dave joined us for our evening meal. Although there was a bit of singing (including, of course, Lass of Richmond Hill), we were a bit knackered and subdued. Still, Oxford United won 3-0 thereby ensuring League One survival, which was good.

Sunday morning found distraught morris men populating the breakfast room in a state of shock. The breakfast chef hadn’t reported for duty (it later transpired that he had overslept after a tiring and emotional night out), so we had to make do with toast and cereal. Our fabulous driving team motored us across to Richmond on a very grey and drizzly morning, where we reported for duty inside the castle walls (see below).

Richmond Castle.

We danced at the castle and then at two other spots around town, with varying amounts of wetness accompanying our progress. There should have been another dance spot, but the rain became a bit too much, leaving us stranded in the Ralph Fitz Randal, a Weatherspoons pub serving cheap but excellent beer. Mr Tunnicliffe, acting as our resident expert, offered advice as to the best choices.

The afternoon was rounded off with a lovely cuppa and cake stop at Dave and Karen’s charming home, perched on the hillside and overlooking the edge of town.

At Dave and Karens Home.

That Sunday evening, we dined in at the George Inn, including a complimentary drink from the pub to compensate for no cooked breakfasts. All tired, but all happy with the weekend… except one. Mr Alfie Windsor, who had meticulously organised everything for us, had fallen very ill from a stomach upset and had missed Saturday evening and all of Sunday. He was recovered enough to travel home with us, and traffic conditions on the bank holiday Monday were OK so we made good time.

Many thanks, Alfie.

Bradford on Avon Green Man Festival

By mid-May, Holt Morris were on the road to another festival. Travel time: half an hour maximum, because this is our home festival organised by Alfie and chums various. About 35 dance sides attend the event which fills the town with colour and sound.
It’s always an enjoyable day, heralding the arrival of summer and made even better in 2023 by good weather. From processing with Jack in the Green to Lamb’s Yard to rounding off the day with “Signposts” outside the Tithe Barn, we did 14 dances, met friends old and new, and consumed light liquid refreshments.

Wimborne Folk Festival

Early June. Cars various set out early from Wiltshire to get to the first dance spot in good time. Your correspondent was lucky enough to travel in Mr Tunnicliffe’s splendid MGA Coupe, which alone made the trip worthwhile.

The day followed the usual pattern: lots of dance spots, a chaotic procession, and more catching up with friends from other dance sides. All interspersed, of course, by refreshments. No one is quite sure when we first performed at Wimborne, but we think we’ve been appearing there for over 30 years. Although many of us can’t jump and step as high as we did all those years ago, we still much enjoy the event.

Trowbridge Festival, late July

After resting for a few years, the Trowbridge Festival was back, at a new site near Southwick. A smaller event than of old, and supported mainly by local acts, but still with the same relaxed and friendly vibe.

We had been invited to dance on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which we duly did. The dance piste was a bit bumpy and Saturday was very warm (30C), but we managed to gasp our way through 2 sets on Friday, 3 on Saturday and two more on Sunday which was very wet, forcing us to dance in the beer tent and consume Kettlesmith’s excellent ales.

We were given a very kind and warm welcome by the organisers and we hope that 2023 was sufficiently successful to justify a 2024 repeat.

Bath Day of Dance

Holt Morris perform at Baths Day of Dance 2023.

Autumn arrived. Another day of dance. Our esteemed past squire, Dr. Jack Slack, had been part of the team organising a Joint Morris Organisations (JMO) regional day of dance in Bath on 7th October.

We assembled just south of Bath Abbey at 10am and, as one of the host teams, performed a very creditable “Stumbling Cavalier” show dance at the opening ceremony. There followed 4 further dance spots around the city, with new friends made en route. After uncharacteristically drinking coffee at our first spot, we enjoyed some fabulous ale at our second spot, the Huntsman at Terrace Walk. As luck would have it, this also coincided with our lunch break, so it was with some reluctance that we left and made our way to Kingsmead Square for our last two spots.

Whilst our dancing across the day wasn’t without error, the glorious architecture, the buzz around the city and the good cheer amongst the Morris sides made for a terrific if tiring day.

Pubs

We struggled to find the numbers and dates to put together a programme of local pub dance outs. Indeed, we managed only two: with Somerset Morris at the Green Tree in Bath (May) and with Hips and Haws in Castle Combe (August). Both were smashing evenings and included some after dancing socialising, singing and music making. Note for 2024: let’s do more pubs!

Holt School Junior Morris

In an effort to widen the understanding of young people in Holt about their village Morris side, and in so doing perhaps encouraging parents to consider taking up the art, we agreed with the Primary School to train some pupils to dance at the school fete.

Mr Bryan Baker coordinated a training schedule over several weeks, which involved us getting Criminal Background Checks, and encouraging some very spirited young people to turn up weekly to practice. Although attendance was sometimes patchy, the young side put on a super performance at the fete which drew much greater applause than our own efforts. Well done, young ‘uns!

Children in Need

Over the years, we have regularly turned out on the CiN Friday evening to harass the good citizens of Bradford on Avon into giving money to CiN. Before the closure of so many pubs in the town, we disturbed the peace in north of 8 pubs and restaurants, often raising between £400 and £500, over a very busy 3 hours.

We took a late decision to raise money for the 2023 CiN appeal. We visited 4 pubs: the Castle, the Dandelion, the Three Horseshoes and the Stumble Inn. We were welcomed and accommodated, performed some very squashed dancing, and raised £350 for CiN. A good result.

Mount Pleasant Christmas Bash

This event, always on the Thursday evening before Christmas, for many of us marks the start of the Christmas festivities.

As usual, we were joined by morris friends from Hips and Haws and Bell’s Angels, who helped us put on one hour’s dancing to open the evening. After scoffing some scrumptious food (many thanks to the Social club for providing this) and downing the traditional guest ale (Timothy Taylor Landlord), Bathampton Mummers arrived early and entertained the assembly in their own inimitable style.

Mr Nibbs then led the Carol singing, supported by dancers and musicians, before segueing into the Wiltshire Song/Farmers Boy medley. It’s just fabulous that this event which, in format, has been so utterly predictable for 30 years still brings so much pleasure and fun.

Boxing Day in Holt

Holt Morris first put out a side to dance on Boxing Day back in 1989. It’s happened every year since, and is a bit of a village tradition now. Since 2006, we have been aided by Bell’s Angels and, given the age of some in the side, such assistance in sharing the danceload is much welcomed.

We started at Little Parks at 10am and, whilst all of Bell’s Angels and five dancers of Holt Morris were on time, two of our number insisted that the start time was 10.30 am, and were faultlessly on time had that really been the appointed hour. We danced with Bell’s for half an hour, and were wonderfully hosted by Little Parks, with mulled wine, Guinness and tasty snacks, for which huge thanks.

By 11am, we were outside Holt Superstore for another half hour of dancing, before making our way to Ham Green. We started dancing there at midday and the viewing numbers grew once the annual boules competition ended. By 12.45pm, we were in The Old Ham Tree supping Horizon. Soon after that, the singing commenced with a rousing, if off-key, rendition of Sloop John B. Song sheets were scoured and requests made by the good folk of Holt…..at least 100 of them were inside the bar. It was very noisy. Your correspondent left the proceedings shortly after 2pm, but understands that the party continued for many hours afterwards. Excellent that this part of the Boxing Day tradition also continues undiminished.

And the rest…

In early July, a mixed Holt Morris/Bell’s Angels side supported the Climate Change baton passing at the Tithe Barn in Bradford on Avon.

We also put out a side to support the “carols by candlelight” evening at Holt School….and even managed to encourage pupils to join in a dance!