One dark and stormy night in the winter of 2012 three friends met in a cosy Derbyshire pub for merriment and good beer. The flagstone floors were warmed by the open fire and the smell of food and an obscenely large selection of real ales tantalised their nostrils. As the icy winds whistled outside their thoughts turned to lazy summer days with idyllic scenes involving ice cream and festivals and disturbing the peace with the clash of sticks and the jingle of bells. In a moment that will go down in history (well ours at least) two words drifted into the conversation Morris Dancing and thus Makeney Morris was conceived.
Members have been, or are active members of Pecsaetan, Ditchling, Ripley Morris, Star and Shadow Rapper, Bristol Morris men and Dogrose to name but a few. These Morris dancing evangelists went forth and dragged Morris virgins (male and female) into our world until the side was made up of equal numbers of experienced and new dancers alike.
Over the coming months Makeney Morris Dancers was pieced together and was officially formed in September 2013 with practices taking place in Belper, Derbyshire.
First Few Weeks
We spent the first few tentative weeks deciding on dances, developing a style, working out who was doing what and then changing our minds again. Slowly but surely things came together. We decided on kit (we wear black with orange and white baldricks), we elected officers. We changed dances (gasp!) to suit our side.
Twitter and Facebook accounts were set up and a logo designed. We practised. Oh how we practised. Two hours a week of sweaty galleys and capers and dancing again and again (followed by a pint in the local afterwards).
Our First Dance Out
Then, after 8 months, it arrived our first morris dance out. Nerves were high. Our newly minted Squire frantically made baldricks and bell pads for us all. We joined the Morris Federation. We were to dance at the very pub in which the side was conceived. On a Bank Holiday, during a Beer Festival. Needless to say this pleased several of us. We arrived amidst biblical rain and were confronted by a crowd of a couple of hundred people. We had planned to dance just 4 dances. Hearts thumping we stepped up to dance.
The next 15 minutes was a blur of clashing sticks, disintegrating bell pads, leapfrogs, galleys, figures and lines. We went wrong. We got wet. We didn’t care. As you looked down the line of dancers all you could see were smiles. Big, beaming smiles. We’d done it. We’d created a side and got it dancing out within 8 months! The sense of pride and achievement was overwhelming. THIS was why we’d done it. This was what we had hoped for.
Festival Dance Team
We’ve danced out twice since then and as I type we’re getting ready to appear at Towersey Village Festival. We hope to see some of you there. Maybe you’ll help to calm our nerves as we dance in front of you.
We’re very proud of our side and of our individual members. We have a strong musicianship within the side from well-known local folk musicians to members of orchestras and touring bands. All of our musicians are dancers too. The talented swine’s.
But there is one thing that seems to surprise people about us more than anything else. It isn’t the black kit, the mixed side or the ‘tweaking’ of traditions. It isn’t our social media presence or how high we can jump.
It’s our age.
You see, amidst a swathe of declarations that Morris Dancing is in decline and that young people aren’t interested we formed a side with an average age of 28.
Watch Us Dance
So next time you’re in Derbyshire come and find us. We’d love to see you. We look forward to meeting new sides and seeing old friends in the coming years. We’ve only just begun but we’re excited as to what the future may bring. Check out our Events Page to see where we are dancing!
Makeney Morris dance in black, orange and white; as a reflection of the history of the area. Black for the coal that was mined, Orange for the furnaces of industry and white for the cotton from the Mills.