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Date set for Wantage workshops

The celebrated instructional weekends run for several years by Roy Dommett are to be revived - but with a host of expert practitioners to take his place.

Billed as "a gourmet weekend of morris," the re-invented gathering on the Ridgeway Hills, near Wantage, is scheduled to take place from 8-10 March, 2002.

There may even be a guest spot by Roy himself.

The event fulfils a promise by Adrian Williams, archive officer of the Morris Federation, who pledged to continue the workshops that have traditionally pushed at the boundaries of the dance, seeking out the potential in little-known aspects of the tradition.

In the past, the gatherings have been held every 18 months or so - "at the wonderful old Lain's Barn," as Adrian puts it. "Weekends start on Friday night with dancing at the Ridgeway Youth Hostel, on the downs above Wantage. There is a full day and evening at Lain's Barn on Saturday, with more until teatime on the Sunday.

"The caterers have provided sumptuous food and Tony Forster has obtained apparently endless supplies of good beer and cider. Sparkling conversation, wit and debate continue into the small hours."

The content has included pretty well every Cotswold tradition ever performed as well as broad stretches of Border; stave dances; coconut dances; Wilson, Kepple and Betty's Sand Dance;); molly; Manx jigs; and "London morris", inspired by Dick van Dyke's contortions in the film, Mary Poppins.

The last was held in March 2000 and ended with the retirement of Roy as principal instructor and Tony as the organiser of everything else.

But now Adrian has brought the Federation and Open Morris together to ensure the weekends continue.

"For some reason, I, in a fit of unreason perhaps, decided to make the effort to keep the Wantage Weekend going," he says. "The Federation will organise the 2002 weekend; the next may well be done by Open Morris. We hope to maintain the momentum."

He recommends the weekends to anyone who's fairly interested in the morris, and experienced in the Cotswold style. "If you only know North West or sword dancing, you may find yourself watching others enjoy themselves too much!"

(The Donkey points out that the event is open to all dancers, regardless of gender, and sets are inevitably mixed).

"So far, the content is fluid, but gelling," says Adrian. "Before long it may even be as firm as porridge."

Approaches have been made to a number of potential workshop leaders: Tim Radford, co-founder of Adderbury Morris Men, has even offered to make a trip from his home in the United States for the weekend.

Tony Forster will also return, as a workshop leader rather than organiser - he is a leading light of Pig Dyke Molly and a regular teacher at Sidmouth International Festival of Folk Arts.

Others who have responded include jig dancer Simon Pipe (The Outside Capering Crew), Brian Mander (Redbornstoke Morris and The Outside Capering Crew); and Daryl Hurtt (Hammersmith Morris).

"More luminaries of the morris world will volunteer, even though some may not realise it yet," says Adrian. "How, for example, could a Wantage weekend proceed without the music of Sue Swift?

"The sort of thing that you could expect to find will be: comparisons of "black book" Cotswold traditions; contemporary traditions and their evolution; creating dances from incomplete materials; cocktail making; jigs; dances for unusual numbers; archival film; maybe a guest spot by Roy himself; molly; something bordering on Morris, and who knows how many aching limbs and ribs.

"Don't expect to come away thinking that morris can ever be the same again."

When it comes to forward-planning, Adrian's being forward: "Tell me that you will come! Give me money!

"We need at least 40 people to attend and stay at the Ridgeway Hostel to guarantee that we can have the place to ourselves. Also, the more that come, the cheaper it will be."

A fee of around 65 will cover the whole weekend of dancing, eating and sleeping. "Sad to say, the drink is extra, but more or less at cost," says Adrian.

Contact him soon at:
or at 20 Verne Drive, Ampthill, Beds, MK45 2PS.

Deposits of 10 must be paid by 25 August 2001, with the remainder due by 19 December 2001.

2001 Simon Pipe, Mark Rogers, The Outside Capering Crew

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