2005-2006 WAS THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY YEAR OF CROOK MORRIS
2006 sees Crook Morris, based in Kendal, complete 25 years of dancing. So it is from this state of total shock that we have planned a full year of celebrations. As you read this some of the events may already have happened and the rest we are eagerly looking forward to!
We travel to Whitby on the weekend of 11th and 12th February to join up with both Jet Set ( the local side ) and Ryknild Rabble from Lichfield. Each of us has lost a member of the side unexpectedly so this will be a chance to remember them, have a fine time with good friends and get some early season dancing in. It will also see the first dance out of a new welsh border style dance "Knickers In The Hedgerow" written specially for the occasion.
Just 2 weeks later we are hosting Silhill Morris. As a side, we've been to stay with them for a 'Balti Weekend' on several occassions. This has included dancing in Stratford Upon Avon, commandeering one of the excellent Balti Restaurants on B'Ham's indian restaurant street ( there must be a 100 places to choose from! ) and some walks. Well now it's our turn and we have organised a weekend of Kendal and Lake District highlights with a casino cocktail party, a cross country run, eating out at a Mint Cake speciality chip shop and finally some dancing on a nuclear reactor at Winscale! If you haven't realised it yet, what we are actually doing with them is a closely guarded secret.
Winter practices come to an end before Easter and we kick off the dancing out season with a full day, to blow the cobwebs away, on Saturday 22nd April.
This should prepare us nicely for our annual pilgrimage to the Upton Upon Severn FF. We've only missed 3 - the first because we didn't know about it, the second was the one where the government decided to b*gg*r around with the May Day holidays and the third one was where we went to Cornwall to stay in some chicken huts for a week, but that's another story. It does mean that we have just about been to this festival more than any other side, there's a claim to fame.
At the end of May we usually go to one of the excellent long weekend FFs, but not this year.This year no Chester, Chippenham or Cleethorpes.No, we're off to France. This is our 6th trip abroad and we do wonder if Sarlat le Caneda, in the gorgeous Dordogne region, is quite prepared for the horrors and delights of english morris? We've managed to book all of us onto the same site which can accommodate our mixture of tents, caravans, motor homes and cottages, which is just brilliant. They've even agreed that we can take over their bar one night for a special party to celebrate one of our original member's 60th birthday. She dances, plays and doesn't look a day over 59!
Then we have just over a month to put the finishing touches to our weekend of dance, based at the John Ruskin School in Coniston village, on 21st, 22nd and 23rd July. As weekends go we are justifiably proud of the whole package. It has taken 18 years of development and refining to reach this standard and we are very lucky that we have a plethora of skilled and willing members who have made this be the case. The location is brilliant with good site facilities, the tours are splendid and we manage to engineer that every side meets up with every other side during the day, the joy of all 200 of us on a Lake Windermere steamer cannot be matched, our bar is so professional that I sometimes think we should hire ourselves out, the evening ceilidh has such a big reputation that extra people travel significant distances to be there, the Sunday finale with its procession, 2 dance locations and massed Dorset Four Hand Reel finishes the event in superb style. I've left the biggest 'wow' factor to last. Simply put, we have the best morris weekend food there is. This is not an idle boast, in fact thanks to massive demand from guests over the years we have collected and collated recipes, added some anecdotes and finally produced " The Crookery Book ". a real collectors item and only available from us.
The sad news that is that we reckon we've earned a rest and so for the time being this will be our last weekend of dance on this scale. It is our 25th birthday and seemed appropriate for this event to go out in style. That means that the lucky guests who are coming are set for several extra special treats! We sent the initial invitations out in 2004 and every invited side accepted promptly which is a pretty wonderful testament, I think.
On Monday 24th July the whole side is going out for a meal where we can laugh and cry about past weekends. I guess we'll have a few pints as well.
Next in our calendar we are toying with seeking an invitation to either the first weekend of Whitby Folk Week or Shrewsbury (Bridgnorth) FF at the end of August. Watch this space.
We're delighted to be going to Otley FF on 15th - 17th September especially as it's their 15th year. Two of the dance sides local to the festival - Flag Crackers of Craven and Flash Company - are good friends as are festival director Steve Fairholme and especially dance director Dick Taylor.
The culmination of our season's dancing out will be towards the end of September when we hope to have a gathering of as many of the Cumbrian dance sides as possible, in Grasmere. There will probably be 4 or 5 tours from around the county converging on the village of Grasmere. The evening will be a true ceilidh with songs, drinking, dances, spots, music, food, games!
The following morning will see all the sides strutting their stuff to the total bemusement of any Japanese tourists who thought they were visiting Dove cottage and all things Beatrix Potter!
So in just 8 months we'll have celebrated 10 special events and we'll all be k*a*k*r*d. It will be October, the time for our winter hibernation, practice season in other words, and if we get another 9 new members as happened at the start of this winter then I don't think we'll rest on our laurels. It'll be time to come up with new and different ways to celebrate our wonderful national dance heritage over the next 25 years.
Martyn Harvey, Foreman
25th BIRTHDAY WEEKEND
When you've got a major anniversary coming up you start the planning early. Well you do if you have even a modicum of sense and Suzanne our Squire has buckets of it, thankfully. So invitations to our special weekend were sent out before we had even sent the invitations to our twenty-fourth! We sent eight invitations - and received eight acceptances. We didn't even have room for a wild card entry. Apologies to all the sides we couldn't ask. It's even harder when we've announced that we're taking a break from this weekend for a while, but watch this space!
So now it was down to some serious planning. We obviously wanted to keep the key elements from our normal, very popular event but to add highlights that would make it memorable for not just our guests, but for ourselves as well. Twelve months of ideas and teamwork building ensued, all leading to the knowledge that we were going to give our guests an absolutely cracking weekend.
Schools broke up on the Wednesday, so Crook members were at the school in Coniston in force from the Thursday night. The starkness of the John Ruskin School hall was transformed with two thousand square feet of silver foil, massive silver 25s and Crook symbols, hundreds of silver balloons and enough streamers to launch the QE2. Juliet had done an amazing job.
Guests arrived to be greeted with very attractive 25th badges made by Maggy and Gary and a commemorative, recycled plastic mug with all the necessary bits to make a cocktail and even two vouchers for the two free drinks. Nice one Squire. The t-shires, designed by Chris Malkin, were very smart and carried on the strong identity of the weekend.
Soon everyone was tucking into excellent food, homemade as is always the way with Crook. At last the start of the cocktail party was announced and served by two of the most stunning cocktail waitresses you are ever likely to see, plus their minders! Crook Morris isn't daft when they know their guests so well!
In no time at all we were ready for the entertainment to kick off. Crook started it with all thirty eight members of the side in black and silver (there's a surprise) absolutely raising the roof with their version of Les Barker's "I'm in the Morris Team". Hot on our heels were the "Cheeky Girls" - you had to see them to believe it! This was followed by a touch of normality with a splendid twenty minutes of join-in French dancing with Mortimers and their fine musicians. No time for a rest as all two hundred and fifty of us trouped outside to be entertained by Technopire and Smiffy the pyrotechnic pensioner, as regularly seen at Whitby Fold Week.
Back in the hall and all was set up for Rique (give me and excuse and I'll dress up!) and Claire with their woad enactment.
Hardly any hitches so far, but next up were Ryknild Rabble, oh dear! We had asked for detail of any PA or other requirements. Rabble had asked for two microphones. As they were about to go on … Can we have all the lights off? … Is it all right if we dance with sparklers? They won't damage anything, honest, they're strapped to our sticks, honest!!! Imagine the scene, a pitch black hall, lit sparklers flying through the air as the strapping loosens and screams of anguish as the sparks land on unprotected flesh!! Will we ever forgive them? … Yes, of course we have, we're Crook Morris!
Surprisingly, a short break was needed and we were running to schedule - it's easy if you don't bother with one, but Dave, as well as being in two acts himself, had compared with aplomb and that always helps.
Glasses replenished, we hoped for a touch of decorum, then realised that next act was Silhill Morris with a join-in horse race game. No, we didn't understand it either, but what a hoot. Gaffer controlled the starts and the rest of Silhill did what they do best …… they stood around drinking and laughing at the representatives of the other sides making total fools of themselves. Truly magnificent!
Thank heaven for Sheffield City Morris. They brought and air of normality, almost, back into the night with some stunningly well-sung songs, though some of the lyrics were a little dubious!
The final act was back with Crook Morris and the Big Hats routine. It needed to be an item of stunning simplicity, well choreographed and with exceptional timing. And at the rehearsal it was, indeed, all of that. On the night it was perhaps a different matter. OK, we couldn't hear the music so we came on at the wrong time. OK the paint hadn't dried on one of the hats. OK, the stuck-on eyes and noses worked on dry skin, how was I to know that we would be hot and bothered and they would fall off during the performance. OK, it wasn't in the plan that one guy would collide with another and snap a big chunk of his brim off. OK, my dinner jacket kept sliding sown and the audience witnessed the sight of an arm descending from inside the hat to yank the garment back up! Well, what we reckoned was that we got away with it and that no-one noticed the odd glitch as they were all so p-ss-d that they thought it was deliberate.
Cool or what! Crook Morris rules OK?
I believe that there was a fair bit more drinking and that somewhere about 3:30am the last of the stragglers staggered off to bed. That was one hell of a cracking good night.
Thanks to Bob the Saturday tours were a total delight. The timings were spot on, the coaches were on time and the drivers a really cheerful bunch. Every side danced with vigour and panache. We all showed the public that traditional dance is fun, colourful and spectacular. It was really good to meet up with every other side during the day and with good crowds we all enjoyed each other's dances. Even the packed lunches carried a surprise with special bags of sweeties (jelly babies, fried eggs, sherbet space ships). The steamer on the lake saw lots of playing and dancing and included just about the best ever performance by Crook Rapper. We must practice sometime!
We can honestly say that we were stunned by the effort and creativity which our guests put into their costume for the Saturday evening meal. There were hats the shape of birthday cakes, one whole side had individually worked out a "twenty five" theme with costumes decorated with, for example, twenty five crooks, corks, party poppers, etc. One side insisted on wearing burglar masks and kept stealing the microphone!
Yes, there were speeches of thanks and all that stuff and Squire Suzanne got her tankard for two years of hard graft. She has been brill. Of special note was that the truly sumptuous, two hundred portions of locally farmed, free range chicken that had been cooked by our most ardent vegetarian. It was hats off to Jenny. Even Judy had her gorgeous salads all ready on time. There were rumours that, with emotions running high, I almost couldn't speak. I said almost!!
The weather was stinking hot and we were so happy that we had chosen our side's favourite ceilidh band, This Way Up. We've run eighteen of these weekends and they've been the chosen band on four occasions and have absolutely always given us a brilliant night. Our traditional mid-dance break of a reverse bingo has always been good. This year we had over £500 worth of prizes on show and the woman who won third, I think, couldn't believe that she had won not one prize but about a dozen items, all of excellent quality.
The singing and dancing continued as ever, almost to the dawn chorus. It will have been a relief to Simon and Mark that the cocktails had been brilliant, the bar had run smoothly and that we even had chilled white wine and ice for those who wanted it. Job well done guys.
Sunday - our third day of stunning summer weather. The procession in Kirkby Lonsdale delivers a powerful message to the English public that we have our own culture and we are proud of it. We had laid on a PA so that, with the help of Richard and Dick, we could let the audience know who they were watching and where they were from. It does give a more professional delivery.
It helped that Anne had produced a special weekend leaflet with information for our audiences. The day was exactly what we had wanted it to be.
Crook Morris danced first and later on we were joined by quite a few past members, whom we were delighted to see. To be able to dance four sets is a rarity for most Morris sides. We were so pleased to be joined by Carreg Las, Chiltern Hundreds, Loose Women, Mortimers Morris, Ryknild Rabble, Sheffield City Morris and Silhill Morris. They made our twenty-fifth just about the best weekend we could have hoped for.
The final Dorset Four-Hand Reel was splendid and the beautiful singing from Sheffield City of John Tams' "Rolling Home" left the whole of Crook with tears running down our faces but great bit smiles as well and a sense of belonging which is hard to explain.
MARTYN HARVEY (FOREMAN & FOUNDER CROOK MORRIS)