So the good news is, after a hiatus (should that be an hiatus?) the Wytchwood drummer is back on his blog. Wytchwood have had an interesting summer, with various pub dance-outs, a trip up the surprisingly quiet M6 to Sandbach, the Fed day of dance at Shrewsbury and a quite sublime day driving around the villages of the Cotswolds. Oh, and a few of us motored down to Wallingford in the old charabanc to spend a pleasant weekend with our new bestest mates Beltane Border Morris. But for various reasons, the blog ain’t got done. But we’re back now. So all’s well.
The last big thing on our summer schedule was our own Day of Dance, in Bewdley, to coincide with the harvest fair. After our Chief Day Of Dance Organiser left in July, the job fell to me, as someone with time on his hands. A frantic month of work was ahead of me, if we were to have a day worth remembering. Actually, I’ll let you into a little secret. Apart from a few e-mails to the sides concerned, a little package containing map, schedule and local tourists spots (pubs, mainly) and a couple of meetings, the Chief DODO does bugger all really. Everyone rallies round, the sides turn up and dance, are thanked and go away again, and everyone’s happy. Ian, our musician, kindly did the dance rota, we had three willing volunteers to act as marshals and money collectors (more later on that one) and Liz had a brilliant idea of baking some biscuits for the Great British Dance Off at the end. In the end five of the ladies (this isn’t intentionally sexist, just none of our men do baking) made more than enough biscuits and even I couldn’t eat any more at the end.
After, I think you’ll agree, the most glorious summer since ’76, the weather had taken a turn for the worse, but the good news was, that after a week of cloudiness and drizzle, the forecast was sunny spells. I’d got some posters to put up around the town, so although we weren’t due to begin until 1015, we arrived in Bewdley at the unearthly hour for a Sunday of Just After Nine. I stood at the bandstand on Severnside South putting the first poster up, turned round, and there was a vision in… Well, have you ever gone to bed after drinking a bottle of whisky and smoking twenty fags and dreamed of Barbara Cartland in a mini skirt, fishnets and a beard? Just me then? I think you get the picture. In fact, here is a picture, why should we be the only ones to suffer?
A Vision in Pink
Yes, our old mate from Bunnies, Bedcote and several other Morris sides beginning with B, Phil Watson had arrived to help with the marshalling and money collecting. Stuart the Squire then turned up, and after a brief chat, I went off around the town distributing my posters. Bewdley is a fine Georgian town, overlooking the River Severn, with a history as an inland port and centre of commerce. As I wandered up Load Street, I tried to imagine what it must have been like in its heyday in the 18th century, full of bustling costermongers, muleskinners, coopers and teamsters. Actually, I’ve no idea what I’m talking about; I’m just reading it off a museum leaflet. Bewdley is a good place to visit though, if you’re ever in the area. Especially when there are over a hundred Morris Dancers in the town. Hurrah!
I arrived back at the bandstand at around 10ish, to find most of our side, but few others. The stall-mongers (is that right, or does it just mean a seller of stalls?) were crowding in on us but the side were doing an admirable job of fending them off. We’d invited ten other sides, so I had another look around town and found more than a few dancers wandering around, disgorging from cars and vans, sitting in tea shops etc., so I gathered them up, and by the time I arrived back at about 1020, we were ready to go. Stuart said a few words of welcome and everyone eagerly ran off to their first dance spots, apart from those who were at the bandstand of course. Actually, I call it "the bandstand"; in fact the bandstand was removed in about 2003 but the name seems to have stuck and there is still a rather nice circular pattern of slabs which is perfect for dancing on.
We were outside the museum and Civic Centre first, with Old Meg and Shropshire Rapper. Two lovely sides to start off with and we spent a pleasant 45 minutes gathering a fair sized audience. It was then time to leave, and go off to St Georges Hall, where there was virtually no audience at all. Bewdley, for all its charms, has very few open spaces to dance in; we’re limited to the Riverside really, and a fairly large pavement area outside the museum. We really needed four spaces to dance in, so we decided on the hall, but it’s a bit off the beaten track and a struggle to attract the only passers-by who are on their way to and from the car park. It was an experiment that didn’t really work; I’m sure we’ll get over it. In fact, by the end of the session, we had about twenty people watching, so we didn’t do too badly. We were with Silhill, a great bunch of people from around Solihull, the posh side of Birmingham, and danced turn and turnabout until it was time for lunch.
I don’t know what you think about the Wetherspoons pub chain, they seem to be all over the place now, offering cheap and cheerful food and drink; a good selection usually, of real ales. Some seem to me a bit too cheap and cheerful, with big tellies showing football and kids all running over the place, but they are a good stand by in towns you don’t know, and if nothing else, they seem to do a good job keeping the price of beer down across town. It’s only my opinion, of course, and what does that count for? Anyway, the one in Bewdley is better than most in my humble opinion, and it was to here that we retired for some well-earned victuals. It’s set in the George Hotel, a Tudor building in the middle of town. My family stayed there in fact, for our wedding. I tried to imagine what it must have been like in the 18th Century, with its bustling ostlers, barkeeps and bootblacks. Nah, I didn’t really, I just had a couple of pints of mild and a burger and chips. Lovely.
In the afternoon, we were at the Bandstand (remember, not really a bandstand) with Nancy Butterfly and Clerical Error, all the way from North Wales. A great session in the (by now) fairly warm autumn sun. A good audience too, even though the road was still open and the odd car kept disturbing them. Phil did a great job, all in pink, directing traffic and pedestrians alike whilst rattling his collecting tin.
The last session of the day, we were supposed to be up at St Georges Hall again, with Shropshire Rapper, but we scratched that venue, and the Rappers went up to Severnside North, whilst we stayed on Severnside South with Aelfgythe, Bellyfusion, and Silhill. Aelfgythe are an all-girl border side, whilst Bellyfusion are, well, belly dancers. All those girls! I didn’t know where to look! My wife did though - at me, so I wandered over to the railings and looked down at the River Severn. An old Severn trow river yacht was moored below, its crew lounging on the deck. The Bo ‘sun watched as longshoremen and stevedores manhandled barrels and sacks onto the shore for the tally clerk to check and note in his register. I woke up with a start. I must have imagined it. The biscuits had arrived.
Something like what I imagined. Probably.
All sides met up back at the bandstand for a last dance when biscuits were served. It was a glorious ending and a very happy one. Stuart thanked everyone for coming, cheerio’s, hugs and kisses were exchanged, and whilst my wife nipped home to look after our dogs, I helped host a bit of a session in the Arches, my favourite pub in Bewdley, where they serve the best pint of cider this side of Hereford. Tunes were played, songs were sung. A very convivial end to a memorable day. Thanks to all the dancers and musicians from all sides, to Phil, Steve and Lucy, for marshalling, collecting, selling badges and keeping the traffic of Bewdley flowing, to the delicious biscuit makers and all of Wytchwood as ever, for their help and support. And a special thanks to the public, who bothered to watch.
Well, that’s all in the past now, merely a dream. Last night we had our AGM when Stuart, after three outstanding years as Squire stood down. Joe Muggins here is now the Squire, and looking forward to new challenges in the coming months. Next dance-out is, I believe, Blists Hill in December. I’ll keep you posted.