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When it's autumn in Helsinki....

Well, we've done springtime (back in the spring, in case you missed our Scandinavian correspondent's first article). Now TONY SHAW updates The Donkey on morris life on the outer fringes of the Cotswolds. Surely a case of stretching the borders of border morris...

If you think the only thing to do in Helsinki in both spring and autumn is to write articles about morris dancing, you may not be so far from the truth.

Summer is a period of intense inactivity on the dance front, notwithstanding Helsinki Morrisers' appearance at a fairly large international dance festival up country in Kuopio. After the respectable, though to our ears rapturous applause had died away, what better than to pack up the back of the car and head for your family 'summer cottage', as far away as possible from those reminders of dark-nighted winter routines such as morris practices.

In the spirit of such autumnal activity we have focussed our efforts on expanding our 'border repertoire' to include more suitably colourful dance and gaudy apparel. Assisted by such doyens in visual over-the-topness Black Pig of Derby (see and hear Von Morley's home page if you dare - the link's at the foot of this page), and spurred by the comment that our Cotswold attire might be taken in winter to be an adaption of traditional Finnish army combat attire, the whites have been cast to the back of the cupboard. There has been some furious ripping of sheets and shirts, industrious application of needle to thumb, and some truly devious attempts to avoid either by raiding even darker recesses of the cupboard for zazzy old 70's shirts. And now we have a kit - of sorts.

The adoption of the suitable repertoire is taking a little longer, especially in the light of some advice from antipodian borderers - Hot For Joe of Adelaide - that instead of trying to work out other peoples' dance notation, "just get on with your bloody own".

A fortunate find in a local secondhand record shop of Rattlebone and Ploughjack, augmented by some 'down the telephone' accordion tips, led to an arrangement of Much Wenlock that we like, and more or less resembles the sounds of Not For Joe. Likewise, a dance spotted on a Sidmouth video has been adapted, rewritten and re-strung, hopefully to those Australians' approval. All that remains is to find suitable venues for our raucous renditions of 'the least civilised antics' of our forebears.

Whether historically correct or not, do have our own bear to hand - now we just need a suitable pit. Maybe the streets of Helsinki will soon witness not the parade of polar bears, as local tourist myth dictates, but a gaggle of border morrisers plus 'animal'.

The cultural capital of northern Europe this year has seen some suitably bizarre and boggling performances (a display of 3,000 assorted soggy overcoats on the main Cathedral steps, plenty of bifurcated modern dance). It remains to be seen whether Finland's own marginally Anglo street artists can top the lot!

Helsinki Morrisers
Von Morley's Black Pig page

2000 Simon Pipe, Mark Rogers, The Outside Capering Crew

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