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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Graham Bradshaw Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke? (102* d) RE: Folklore: When did morris dancing become a joke? 02 Apr 09

Let me declare where I am coming from first. I was a member of Earlsdon Morris in Coventry, who danced NW Clog, between 1975 and late 1980s. I never saw it as a joke and had a great time. Most of the members were of a similar age - 20s and 30s - although there were a few lads in their teens. Most of the current make up of the side is the same blokes who are now much older, apart from a few sons in their 20s, and they are struggling for members.

Now, let's rewind back to the 1960s, when I first discovered folk music in my teens. I wasn't really aware of morris dancing as the big revival was yet to happen. I DO remember going to watch the local side (Thames Valley I think) on Boxing Days, and had a fairly neutral opinion as I remember. However, I think there was an implicit opinion around that they were all 'a bit strange'. There was a bloke at the local folk club who danced in a morris side, who was probably in his 40s, and I think there was a general feeling that 'they were all blokes in their 40s who still lived with their mums'.

Now, at the time I guess this was probably a euphemism for 'suspect homosexual'. Remember this was a time when it was still illegal, and not really referred to very much in conversation.

There were a few sniggers about Morris dancing then, and this carried on into the general public when the big revival happened a bit later (mainly in the 1970s).

However, as a counterpoint to this, I can remember my grandmother and my great-grandmother telling me about morris dancing in their village in Wiltshire. I guess we are going back to before the First World War. At that time, my great-grandfather was leader of the village silver band, and he and his sons played cricket for the village team (and I believe one of them played for Wiltshire when they still had a County side). A lot of the cricket team were also in the village morris side. It was apparently a GREAT HONOUR to be chosen for the morris side, and there was great competition for places. According to my grandmother, they wore their cricket whites as a uniform, with a straw hat wound with flowers to adapt it for its alternative usage. In those days, people wouldn't have been able to afford a special kit. Remember that the only clothes they had was their weekly work wear, and a Sunday best suit for Church.

Back then, there was definitely no thought that it was a joke. Quite the reverse.

I suspect this crept in during the post-2nd World War period, when most people had no experience of MD, and regarded it as weird.

And, as with all these stereotypes, the media perpetuate them.

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