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Bedlams plan a lovely bunch of surprises

The famously inventive Berkshire Bedlam morris team is cooking up some surprises for Sidmouth festival 2000 - and it's anybody's guess whether they'll involve coconuts.

BBs, as they're known, have been booked as an arena side after years as one of the most entertaining and innovative teams in the UK.

They're renowned for such set-pieces as their coconut dance - derived from the existing morris tradition - but in recent years they've introduced other novelties.

These have included a dance with echoes of Sweet Jenny Jones, performed to a mazurka, and another number in 5/4 time, The Dance Of The Little Fairies.

(Clearly no hang-ups about credibility there, then).

Now they're seeking inspiration for new material, ready for Sidmouth - and also stunts for the festival's morris party.

The party's being moved from its usual haunt at The Balfour Arms to the Anchor gardens, just off the Market Square.

In the past couple of years, attendance at the party has been down, but that may be because of competition from other events. In 1999, it clashed with a performance at the Manor Pavilion by Brighton-based Stepback, which combined morris with various kinds of clogging.

Having a venue away from the town centre hasn't helped, but the BBs will have to produce a compelling package of morris-related diversions to hold their audience at The Anchor, where it'll be easy for people to drift in and out.

Should they be looking for prizes to bribe the crowd to stay, though, they're well provided for: the BBs have a lovely bunch of coconuts.

The big drawback with the team's coconut dance is that the props generally last only for a season. Which means buying fresh ones every year, messily cutting them in half, and finding uses for all that coconut flesh.

"You can get a sack of them for 7.50 from New Covent Garden and you get quite a lot, if you happen to need a large supply of coconuts," says Malcolm Graham, who long ago found the appeal of coconuts had palled.

"The pain is eating the coconut flesh. It gets really tedious.

"After a while you have to give them to your friends, or make coconut ice cream, or have coconut parties. You could probably curry them."

There's thought to be no truth in speculation that the BBs will shortly be introducing The Dance Of The Leftover Christmas Turkey (with coconut sauce).

Links:  Berkshire Bedlam

1999 Simon Pipe, Mark Rogers, The Outside Capering Crew

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