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Marathon dance is triumph of Will

They made it: six dancers and two musicians who undertook to recreate Will Kemp's morris dance from London to Norwich have all survived the journey. But as JON WELCH has reported in the Eastern Daily Press, one ended up going to hospital.

A nice hot bath, a nice cold pint and a trip to casualty...

They were the "delights" awaiting a hardy bunch of morris dancers after an epic journey from London to Norwich.

The dancers had been recreating the famous journey of Will Kemp, the Shakespearean clown who jigged his way between the two cities in 1600*.

To mark the anniversary, morris clubs from across the eastern region decided to re-enact Kemp's extra-ordinary "Nine Daies Wonder", starting from London's Royal Exchange on April 15.

They reached Norwich on Saturday, dancing through the city and in Chapelfield Gardens, where artist Mark Goldsworthy is working on a wooden sculpture of Kemp and his morris men, commissioned by Norfolk Contemporary Art Society.

The dance took the form of a relay, with different morris sides each completing a leg, but six dancers and two musicians completed the entire 127-mile route. They included Bethan McLachlan, 20, from Norwich, who played her recorder almost every step of the way.

"I managed to adapt my breathing but I had to stop playing when we went past smelly farmyards. I think I'm going to sleep for a week now," she said.

Peter Cole, 47, danced the entire route and, like fellow dancer David Marr, 35, was suffering with terrible blisters.

Mr Cole, from Lichfield, Staffordshire, was looking forward to "a long soak in a hot bath", adding: "I'm not going any further than the nearest bar."

Another of the long-distance dancers, Jeffrey Evans, 56, of Stamford, Lincolnshire, said: "I've lost half my toenails and I'm going to casualty. But it has been worth it and I feel really proud."

Kemp, who came from a family of Norfolk farmers, was a colleague and close friend of Shakespeare. But they fell out and Kemp, determined to prove that he and not the bard was still the public's favourite, decided to dance from London to Norwich as a kind of publicity stunt.

He was joined by three others - a drummer and piper, a general servant and a referee or "overseer".

Although called the Nine Daies Wonder, the journey took about a month to complete, allowing for rest days and unforeseen circumstances, including heavy snow at Bury St Edmunds.

The modern-day dancers shaved a day off Kemp's record, without the luxury of rest days.

After performing in Chapelfield Gardens, the dancers went to City Hall to present Lord Mayor Doug Underwood with a scroll, a gift from his counterpart in London - just as Kemp had done 400 years earlier.

Watching them were several descendants of Kemp, including Teresa Kemp-Walden, from Dorset.

She said: "It's brought us all together and it's fantastic. We're all very proud that these people are concerned enough to follow in Will Kemp's footsteps and keep up the tradition of morris dancing."

The dancers then moved to St John Maddermarket to finish the journey as Kemp did, by leaping over the churchyard wall.

The evening was rounded off by a feast and a ceilidh at St Andrew's Hall.

*The original dance actually took place in 1599, but a quirk of the calendars means that the 400th anniversary actually falls in the year 2000.

Eastern Daily Press

2000 Eastern Counties Newspapers

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