This is another of the Wednesday evening dance outs, only it is on Thursday this week so the Richmond-on-Swale Morris Men can join us and, hopefully a couple of other sides as well. The Four Alls is a welcoming pub and Ovington claims to have one of the tallest village Maypoles in the country.
We have known Yorkshire Coast Morris for many years but have not had chance to dance with them for a few years now. It is also 22 years since we last danced at a Scarborough so it will be really good to get back together with both at what should be one of the largest gatherings of Morris we have been at for a while.
Blacksheep's full name is Blacksheep North Dales Morris so we like to get out into the Dales from time to time. This year we are going to be in Upper Teesdale starting at the Langdon Beck Hotel at lunch time and then working our way down river calling in at the High Force Hotel (about 2.30pm), Bowlees Visitor Centre (about 3.15pm) and Middleton-in-Teesdale (about 4pm). Our final stop will be at the Strathmore Arms in Holwick (from about 4.30pm)
This was the first of our Wednesday evening dance outs instead of weekly practice. The Bay Horse is a welcoming pub where we have danced many times over the years. Unfortunately, this year there were few customers so our audience was one man for the first few dances. After he had gone back inside, another local man appeared having taken his dog for a walk. The dog, a Siberian Husky, was completely unfazed by the bells, clashing sticks and melodeons and his owner got quite excited by the dancing and came back for our last dance after taking his dog home.
Last year Kern's Day of Dance was effectively rained off as the rain got steadily heavier throughout the morning and continued well into the afternoon - the lunchtime session at the John Duck became a fantastic afternoon indoor dance and music session. This year the weather was much better and we were able to dance at all of the planned dance spots before the rain came at the end of the afternoon after dancing had finished. The first couple of spots were quiet with people passing by but this gave us a chance to sort out a few gremlins before moving on to the Market Place spot. Here the dance area was surrounded by an appreciative crowd and the impressive buildings. It really helped us to lift our performance as well as giving chance for a bit of repartee. The Palace Green spot in the afternoon was impressive with the cathedral and the college buildings for backdrop. With the much bigger and more open space the audience seemed thinner but there were plenty of people about who stopped to watch. The massed dance displays were also at the Palace Green (with some cracking performances to watch) and the day ended with a massed Greenham. Many thanks to Kern for a great day.
We have been to this small festival several times over the years but, because of the way the Festival dates and the English school holidays work, it is five years since we were there last time. It is a very relaxed Festival starting early Saturday afternoon with music and dancing outside at the campsite (where most of the visitors stay). Everyone joins in and as well as doing some demonstration dances, Blackheep dancers and musicians had plenty of opportunity for renewing friendships and joining in the traditional French dances and music. This session was followed by a dance exchange workshop. Again, Blacksheep were there learning some of the French dances from other parts of France and also teaching some English Morris. The Saturday evening Bal followed the format we remembered - a buffet supper followed by dancing. This year Blacksheep were asked to do a cabaret spot, fortunately early in the evening so we were able to get out of kit and relax for the rest of the night. The Sunday morning market in the town centre was the site of the next session with a scratch band playing for more French dances and Blacksheep in full kit picking up several spots throughout the morning. As the weather was good, the lunchtime picnic was held in the local park and here, instead of a dance exchange, there was a food exchange with people bringing and sharing their specialities - the Blacksheep contribution being fruit cake. Finally, there was another Bal during the afternoon and into the early evening. This had one of the top bands playing and they had an excellent range of dances where everyone could join in, including all the kids. The band was so good they had to do three encores!
After the weekend the Blacksheep party split up with one family heading for Versailles to meet up with other family members coming over for a few days and the rest moving to Falaise on the edge of the Normandy "Swiss Alps" for a few day's holiday.
Belfagan and Blacksheep hold day's of dance in alternate years and 2015 was Belfagan's turn. Their Day of Dance coincides with the Georgian Festival held in Cockermouth so, as well as the hordes of Morris folk there are scores of people in Georgian costume manning stalls, doing dance displays or simply parading through town. As this was the first "real" dance out of the year it gave us chance to try out some new dances and for our newest members to get the feel of such an event. As always, Belfagan were very welcoming and their refreshments were every bit as good as we remembered from last time!
After we left the Evergreen Scholl we moved on to the Kirkley Lodge Carehome where we had been asked to do some demonstration dances for the residents as part of their St. George's Day celebrations. Although the weather was warm and sunny, there was no where to dance outside so we joined the residents in their large social room. After they had all settled into their chairs with their choice of drink, we did a selection of dances ending with participation Greenham - only none of the residents could get up and dance so we gave them brightly coloured hankies to wave and twirl as we did the dance. It was quite clear that if some had been a few years younger they would have been up with us! Tea and cream scones followed and a chance for a bit of chat. Another rewarding session particularly as one deaf blind lady said it was one of the very few social events she could enjoy because she felt the dances.
The Evergreen School is a school for children aged 2-11 with various disabilities and degrees of severity. The staff had helped the children prepare a number of activities to celebrate St. George's day including a play about St. George and the dragon. To help things along they asked Blacksheep to come and do some demonstration dances as part of the play and then to teach the children some Morris dances. In all there were two performances at the morning assemblies and then three teaching sessions with different class groups. The children (and the staff) were fantastic and they all took part in the dancing enthusiastically. The morning ended with us having lunch with some of the older children. it really was a memorable session.
The Blacksheep Winter Party is nominally our Christmas Party but it never coincides with Christmas or the New Year. This year it was hosted by Roy and Karen and it was the first for our three newest members. There was the opportunity to delve into the Blacksheep archives, view photographs spanning the last 25 years and do a bit of pruning of the paper. Everyone contributed to the food and drink and with a bit of music, party games and the chance to just sit and chat it was a great evening.
This was the annual get together with the Richmond-on-Swale Morris Men for a social evening of song and party pieces. This year it was held at the Bishop Blaize in Richmond, which served a substantial cold supper, had a good range of beers and was able to provide a room to accommodate all of us. A very good evening.
Black Sheep North Dales Morris dancing in Barnard Castle town centre and at The Bowes Museum with invited Morris Sides:
Belfagan from Cockermouth, Cumbria
Durham Rams from Durham City, Co. Durham
Harlequin Morris from Darlington, Co. Durham
Kern Morris from Durham City, Co. Durham
Locos in Motion from Sadberge, Co. Durham
Richmond Castle Clog from Richmond, N.Yorks