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Dome deal at last - but why did so many miss out?

Morris performances have finally got underway at the Millennium Dome in London after months of prevarication by the attraction's management. But many teams have been left asking why they were excluded, after originally being allocated slots. Some turned down attractive bookings for a Dome invitation that was later withdrawn.

The Morris Federation has been given three weekends to bring dancers to the much-criticised tent, while the Morris Ring and Open Morris each have two. The original plan was for dancing to take place every weekend through the summer.

It's more than a year since teams were first invited to bid for the chance to perform in the Dome; but talks abruptly broke down and organisers simply failed to respond to any approaches, causing immense frustration.

The breakdown co-incided with a mocking article in the Evening Standard on 1 November, 1999, under the byline of Stewart Payne. He wrote that Dome organisers had promised "the very coolest of Cool Britannia... They never said anything about morris dancers."

Just when people thought it safe to consider a visit to the Dome, wrote Payne, came the news that "those cheery, beery chaps with their bells, breeches and hankies will be there."

The article ended with the words: "Be warned."

Payne also quoted an un-named Dome spokesman, who said: "We are very hopeful that we will be able to include Morris dancing as part of a range of entertainment. This is a uniquely English folk tradition and it is a part of our heritage. One of our functions is to celebrate that heritage as we look forward to the next millennium."

The deal - agreed at the end of May - came too late for some teams, whose slots had already passed by.

The organisers of the Dancing England Rapper Tournament, held in February this year in Greenwich, managed to get sword teams into the Dome at the last moment. A group of musicians from the Gloucester International Pipe and Tabor Festival performed in the Dome on June 7, taking with them dancers from Gloucestershire Morris Men and The Outside Capering Crew. Afterwards, festival organiser Steve Rowley was told they'd provided one of the most effective groups of wandering performers.

Federation president John Bacon has told The Donkey: "The Morris Ring, Morris Federation and Open Morris have been negotiating for some time with regard to the possibility of performing the morris at the Millennium Dome during the summer and autumn.

"This is an excellent opportunity to improve the image of this unique English folk dancing tradition and every team is looking forward to the opportunity to perform."

2000 Simon Pipe, Mark Rogers, The Outside Capering Crew

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