"I've heard you're doing a bit of clog dancing?" I get asked by friends with a pitiful brow and worried look in the eye. "Yes" I reply, and begin to explain the importance of our cultural heritage and how we can not only support it by joining in, but that it's good fun too, great music, etc, etc.. "Ah, but at least you're not doing Morris though", I've had as a retort. It's like I'm part of a spoof of Grange Hill's "Just Say No" campaign in the eighties: "Well a couple of my friends were cloggin', so I thought I'd try it, I tried a bit of Border, North West, but now I'm a full on Britannia Coconutter, dancing at least ten times a day. My wife's left me, I've lost my job, and I've been locked up on numerous occasions for Morris dancing likely to result in a breach of the peace". It's totally bonkers and irrational!
I was wondering where this fear, or dismissal, of our own cultures came from? Is it all the "and finally" or quirky articles on the News and current affairs, or satirical banter based game / chat programmes: with people like Stephen Fry on QI saying "Morris isn't that historically significant because it's only a few hundred years old." I think the history of the past few hundred years has been the most significant period in the history of man: The Industrial Revolution, Big Empires, Colonialism, Mechanised Warfare, and the Feudal system changing to a different kind of Feudal system..... However, in essence, there is a great deal of poo pooing regarding traditional dance culture in England, not just by the mainstream media, but by popular culture in general.
In the rest of the Union, it is positively encouraged, promoted, paid for, televised and touristificated. In England, our culture has become so Americanised, we look to Scotland, Ireland, And Wales for traditional music and dance culture, and think we don't have any. At school, my daughter can do "Cheerleading", "Hip-Hop", or "Street Dance" but not Clog, or Morris. English children are being taught 20th century American dance styles, at the expense of what was once our own dance style. Rochdale has it's own dance, just like Britannia, Bacup, has it's own dance. Most towns and villages, in these parts anyway, would have had their own dances: depicting stories and culture from that place. It's sad that most of those dances have been lost. There should be funding to protect, maintain and teach about our local culture for schools. Since the Union has been devolving, the breakaway countries have been connecting more stongly with their cultural arts than ever before. It would be only fitting that we were encouraged to connect with our own.
So, the frowny questions I've been asked have done nothing but make me more resolute in my belief that Morris and Clog are the new rebellion. I feel like I did when I wore a safety pin in my torn school blazer in the days of punk. Then when you see not only the fantastic traditional Morris sides, enjoying life with good friends, dancing, drinking beer and generally having a really good time, but also, some of the new avant garde Morris sides juxtaposing Steam punk, or burlesque with Morris, I think, "Yes, this is a great way to rebel from the mundane, contrived, commercialised World of vapid pap!" This is the old new rock 'n' roll...
I was going to call this Blog, "Morris Dancing Doesn't Kill Your Kittens", but while practising in the living room............well...... I only got it's tail, but, Morris Dancing could kill your kittens..... :0)
Alex Cumming and Nicola Beazley At The Packhorse - Birtle - Bury
Join Nicola And Alex for their first ever proper gig outside of Newcastle! They're at the Packhorse in Old Birtle, Bury on Monday The 14th April
They're putting on a night of English folk tunes and songs, and for us its a chance to showcase a lot of our new material for our friends and family before our final recitals of the Folk and Traditional Music Degree.
So come along, they'd love to have your support, and come and see what they've spent the last four years working towards!!
Super Syncopated Awesome Clog Dancing For The Culturally Enlightened In And Around Littleborough
It's a great way to keep fit, forget your troubles, skill up, and perpetuate local culture and traditions. Come along and learn to clog dance this Tuesday. We're just starting a new dance, so it's a good time to start. If you've been before, and not been for a bit, come back, we love you, and you can do it, and we can help ;o)
So, Tuesday at the Con Club on Peel Street at 7PM. I just know you'll love it!
The Witch Of Westmorland
I have borrowed, for this song, the form of the narrative ballad. The ingredients are a mixture of legend, superstition, and ballad themes brought into focus by the Lakeland painter, Joni Turner. As far as i know, the female centaur is not a creature of mythology, and this role of witch disguise was suggested by the tales of antlered women with bodies of deer seen wading in the shallows of the lakes in the moonlight. There are many pleasant and hospitable inns in the Lake District.
I first came across the song by the awesome Stan Rogers via YouTube... The chords and lyrics are below, but I do it with a DADGAD tuning with a capo on the 5th fret: making it GDGCDG (which is a more difficult acronym to pronounce). Anyway, it put it in the key of G.
The Witch of the Westmorland Archie Fisher G C G Em7 Pale was the wounded knight that bore the rowan shield G D7 Em C D Loud and cruel were the raven's cries that feasted on the field G C G Em7 Saying beck water cold and clear will never clean your wound G D7 Em C D There's none but the witch of the Westmorland can make thee hale and sound G C G Em7 So turn, turn your stallion's head til his red mane flies in the wind G D7 Em C D And the rider of the moon goes by and the bright star falls behind G C G Em7 And clear was the paley moon when his shadow passed him by G D7 Em C D Below the hills were the brightest stars when he heard the owlet cry G C G Em7 Saying "Why do you ride this way, and wherefore came you here?" G D7 Em C D "I seek the Witch of the Westmorland who dwells by the winding mere" G C G Em7 And it's weary by the Ullswater and the misty brake fern way G D7 Em C D Til through the cleft of the Kirkstone Pass the winding water lay G C G Em7 He said "Lie down, my brindled hound, and rest ye, my good grey hawk" G D7 Em C D And thee, my steed, may graze thy fill for I must dismount and walk G C G Em7 But come when you hear my horn and answer swift the call G D7 Em C D For I fear ere the sun will rise this morn ye will serve me best of all." G C G Em7 And it's down to the water's brim he's born the rowan shield G D7 Em C D And the goldenrod he has cast in to see what the lake might yield G C G Em7 And wet rose she from the lake, and fast and fleet went she G D7 Em C D One half the form of a maiden fair with a jet black mare's body G C G Em7 And loud, long and shrill he blew til his steed was by his side G D7 Em C D High overhead the grey hawk flew and swiftly he did ride G C G Em7 Say "Course well, my brindled hound, and fetch me the jet black mare G D7 Em C D Stoop and strike, my good grey hawk, and bring me the maiden fair." G C G Em7 She said "Pray, sheathe thy silvery sword. Lay down thy rowan shield G D7 Em C D For I see by the briny blood that flows you've been wounded in the field" G C G Em7 And she stood in a gown of velvet blue, bound round with a silver chain G D7 Em C D and she's kissed his pale lips one and twice and three times round again G C G Em7 And she's bound his wounds with the goldenrod, full fast in her arms he lay G D7 Em C D and he has risen hale and sound with the sun high in the day G C G Em7 She said "Ride with your brindled hound at heel and your good grey hawk in hand G D7 Em C D There's none can harm the knight who's lain with the Witch of the Westmorland"
I keep having a go at singing it, but I am a really rubbish singer. I either need someone to teach me how to sing, or get someone in our band of merry folksters to sing it
Super Awesome Clog Dancing For All Ages And Abilities in Littleborough - New Dance Week
It's all gathering pace. There's a cloggin crew that's pretty much got Sam Sherry's Hornpipe sorted, and there's a new dance being started this week: Pat Tracey's Old Lancashire A Routine
Helen posted about how us cloggers will clog on and work on both dances: for those who need a bit more practise on Sam Sherry's Hornpipe, and those rip raring and ready to go and start learning Pat Tracey's Old Lancashire A Routine. Anyway, Helen put's it more eloquently here.
Sam Sherry's Hornpipe - Littleborough Cloggers Initial Clog Dance In The Bag
Well, after about six sessions, Littleborough clog dancers (Soon to have their new name unveiled), have pretty much got Sam Sherry's Hornpipe nailed. There's a good solid crew of dancers forming here, and a bright cloggin' future for the Boro. Helen and the dancers have worked really hard and got to the end of the dance last night. I was thinking that there should be something to mark the end of learning a dance: like ringing a bell, or throwing a pie into the river, or just some sort of ceremonial acknowledgment that something has been achieved. Anyway, well done everyone, you now have "a" dance in your repertoire. With a bit more practise and polish, there's a crew of you in there that could take that dance on the road
I can't wait to see what the next dance is going to be...
Any road, I'm really pleased and optimistic for the cloggin' future of Littleborough after all I've seen over these past several weeks. It's just a case of practise and polish, and then you can take these dances on the road, showing others what you can do, perpetuating our cultural heritage, and having loads of fun
THE INSIDE STORY with Brian Finnegan
Brian Finnegan (Kan) shares the secrets behind his precise and fluid playing style.
Suitable for Advanced players. High D Whistle required.
A Big Whistle Festival event.
May 2014 4pm
£1 Weekend Ticket Holders
How to book
ONLINE Click the Book Now link next to the event.
BY PHONE Call The Met on0161 761 2216.
IN PERSON From the ticket office at The Met.
Please note: Bookings online or by phone include a one off transaction fee of £2.50, added at checkout. There is no transaction fee for bookings in person.
Learn more by visiting these websites...
ADVANCED ACCOMPANIMENT AND RHYTHM TECHNIQUES with Ian Stephenson
Kan guitarist Ian Stephenson leads a unique masterclass focussing on traditional music.
Suitable for Intermediate - Advanced players. Own guitar required
A Big Whistle Festival event.
Learn more by visiting these websites...
How to book
Last night, we danced with Rossendale Clog Heritage at the Lancashire Evening at Shawforth Chapel. A great time was had by all, as you can see from this great fun performance by Rossendale Mummers.
I'm pleased to let you know that this fine bunch of performers have agreed to take part in Littleborough's Rushbearing Festival this July - so you can see this (and other) great pieces in our village!
The Littleborough House Folk Group
This will be the second meetup of the Littleborough House Folk Group. I can tell it's going to be a great little group, there's certainly lots of knowledge and lots of cool instruments and a real progress made at the first meetup. So, if you wanna be in on the action, join the discussion group on this site and come along to the meetup.