Reports 2011 - Crook Morris

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2011 Reports
Wassail Day 15th January  (Singing in the Rain)

Despite the appalling weather conditions, the intrepid Crook Morris dancers & their guests John O'Gaunt from Lancaster went ahead with their 3rd Wassail Day at the orchard of damson grower Mr John Walker at The Row, Lyth Valley.  Our chosen damson tree was duly wassailed, witnessed and celebrated by several members of the public in all manner of wet weather gear.  
In our tradition we have an MC for the day, Simon Gillow, a brewer of beer, Mark Jackson and Judy Malkin (originator of the day), who makes the damson wassail cake.

Simon addressed Mr & Mrs Walker and we all sang the Cornish Wassail Song.  He then explained why we have a wren (a replica of course) in a cage.  In bygone days the wren was hunted on St Stephens Day and anyone presented with a feather from the bird would hopefully have good luck for the New Year.

Everyone then processed to the orchard making as much noise as possible with whistles, pots and pans, drums etc. to ward off any evil spirits and to awaken the good spirits of the orchard.  

We sang "The King" (the wren was considered king of the birds), and the cage was hung onto the tree.  West Midlands Wassail song was sung and Mark poured some spiced damson beer onto the tree roots, and then filled the 3 handled wassail cup, which was passed around with shouts of "Wassail", (old English word for "Be of good health)"  

The cake followed around, then small pieces of toast were dipped by each person into the beer and placed onto the tree for the birds. Ribbons were placed on the tree to decorate.  
We would have danced, weather permitting, but we finished with our farewell song Somerset Wassail to our hosts, Mr & Mrs Walker, who we thank once again for their hospitality.
We then made haste to the Hare & Hounds, Bowland Bridge, where a warm welcome awaited us by new owners Kerry & Peter.  Space was made to Morris dance, perform our Mummers Play, Clog and sword Rapper dance, followed by music sessions and more singing.  
Great fun was had by all, delicious food, lovely warm atmosphere, who cared about outside conditions?
We had a great day out, "Wassail!"
Upton Folk Festival 28th April to 2nd May

Well, what can I say. Easy journey down (for us at least) dry sunny weather, good dancing at our usual places and our display spot on Saturday went without a hitch. Indeed there were several complimentary remarks from both other sides and the public and a lady commented to me that our Sheriff's Ride was the best she had ever seen!!  Her husband, who was standing beside her added - "and she knows what she's looking at."  So for those dancing and playing VERY WELL DONE.  It has been said many times - Crook can do it well when we have to and we did.....with bells on!!.
Jen's 60th Saturday night birthday party was fantastic.  I would say one of the best.  The mixture of outfits, from a great Rupert Bear (Jess) through a couple of Captain Hooks (Martyn and Anne) to various other characters from one's childhood.  And the quality of the "Party Food" took us right back to the tea tables of the 1950s. Jelly, Fairy Cakes, Rice Crispy Cakes, Paste Sandwiches, Egg Sandwiches etc...etc...etc..  And the games! - Pass the parcel, sucking dried peas into a tub competition, statue dance to a hilarious double space hopper race.

Where on earth did you get that double space hopper from Jen?  Our invited friends from Ryknild, Silhill, Black Adder and more joined in the dressing up fun confirming once again that Crook knows how to party.
Dawn broke revealing little food left over, indicating the amount brought was just about right for the numbers, so again, very well judged to all who contributed.......... Here's to Jens 70th!!!!
The Sunday display spot did have a couple of mistakes, mainly by myself I have to say.  Alley Park??  Isn't it odd a dance one knows backwards and could perform in one's sleep, yet I made a bit of a balls of the first cross and rounds.  Apologies to all for that.
With the weather remaining dry and sunny throughout, our last dance, outside The Swan on Monday morning brought to an end another great Upton.
Like the man said..................We'll be back!!!

Bells In The Fells Weekend July 2011
Friday Night, by Anne Hajnrych
After months of planning and preparation Crook swung into action like a well oiled machine to make the John Ruskin School into a venue fit for the purpose of celebrating 30 years of Crook Morris. Rooms were cleared for camping, the main hall decorated, gazebos erected, tables shifted, BBQs primed and the Band and sound engineers turning up on the dot, just like clockwork.
The one thing we couldn’t plan was the weather, how blessed were we that after a week of deluge the sun came out and proceeded to shine for the whole weekend.
Breaking with tradition Friday night was ‘feed yourself night’, and most guests made full use of the BBQs. Friday night was also in the hands of the side’s youngest members. These beautifully attired Crookites, in smart dark suits and pretty frocks served a tasty selection of cocktails such as Pimms, Kir Royale, Moscow Mule and a fruit punch to the assembled to get the party going with a swing.
Evie Jackson, Crook’s youngest member, wowed us with her confidence and personality as she compared the evenings entertainment like an old stager and introduced us to the The New Rope String Band. They entertained us in good style and the next couple of hours went down a storm.
The evening was rounded off by opportunity knocking for six old lags dancing Three Jolly Sheepskins, the men and women swapped their clothes and then proceeded to shed them … all in time to the music. Sam and Dan Mason melded together to become Monsieur Oeuf, a kind of gang show Masterchef. Finally, there’s no show without Ryknild Rabble who in their own inimitable style ……
As always the unofficial party drifted on into the night … er early morning … where do Morris Dancers get their stamina from? What a cracking start to the weekend.

The Cocktail Party, by Tim Wilson
Cocktails are usually a combination of the alcoholic and the non-alcoholic, mix well together, are suave and sophisticated and help make the drinkers happy. Luckily all this applied to the Cocktail Crew as well!
The Crew (Dan J, Dan M, Evie, Lynne, Rosie, Sam and Tim), suitably attired in their finery, gathered together as the BBQ was starting and asked “Does anyone know what is going on?” quickly followed by “Does anyone know how to make a cocktail?”
Luckily there was a plan and a list of cocktails (Thanks Simon and Martyn) and so we went out on mass to serve our guests.
We were greeted by the sounds of “oooohhhhh” and “aaaaahhhh” and “that looks tasty” and that was before people even saw the cocktails.
The gift of a free cocktail worked well and the guests really appreciated it. Some even paid for seconds! Thanks must be given to the bar staff for taking over giving free cocktails to any late-comers.
The only slight improvements which could be made would be to have more jugs made up to meet the initial demand and to have cocktail menus available for guests to peruse.
All-in-all it was good to greet our guests and give them something special as part of the initial get-together.

Barbecue Area, by Dave Rochell
We’d never done it before, so apart from personal barbecues, Crook had nothing to work with.  We scouted all our contacts, but nothing was forthcoming.
t seems a lot of people have gone ‘modern’ and now use gas versions, which begs the question “Why bother? If you can’t taste the charcoal and smoke you might just as well cook it on the cooker”.
With the help of the local blacksmith we converted an oil drum into two excellent barbecues for the flesh eaters, and used personal barbecues for the pescatarians and veggies (sorry folks, these were gas!).
We’re not used to inclement weather in the Lake District, but we had to make sure that our guests really enjoyed themselves.  So just in case it did happen to rain, we erected gazebos and an awning (fire proof?) over the barbecues.
Chairs and tables from the school, bunting and balloons made the ‘yard’ into a real picnic/party area. All we needed was a pool............
I was a real joy to see so many friends cooking, eating and generally making merry as the sun set over Coniston Old Man at the start of a glorious weekend.
If we didn’t have to leave the school so early on the Sunday morning, we could have left these erected all weekend and I’m sure that they would have been the scene of many a reunion or gathering.
Would we do it again? I think so, and I hate barbecues.

Saturday, by Martyn Harvey
How lucky are Crook ? - Very lucky indeed !
The Saturday dawned with blue sky, a little breeze and just a few clouds to give all the walkers some sun protection.
The high level walk was very well subscribed and it was good that Crook had 4 guides.  There was even a dance on top of Coniston Old Man (Dave R ?) 'Getting Upstairs' Headington with Dave R, Sally L, Juliet, Maggie, Lynne K and Gilly (Pecsaetan) and music magnificently sung and deedled by the rest of the party!  Hats off to all of them and have a look on You Tube if you don't believe me - in fact have a look anyway.
The mid level walk was just right.  Stunning views, a good leg stretch without it hurting too much and a chance to mingle and chat with other sides.  Again a good smattering of Crook amongst all the walkers and everyone arrived at Coniston Hall a 16th Century farm house with the most mighty Lake District style chimneys in good time to claim their bun, or two!, collect their instruments and pick up their morris sticks all ferried there by the Mason brothers.  We all got sorted with a well earned drink or two in Coniston Sailing Club and could then relax on the shore frontage with boats sailing up and down their sails flapping in the breeze.
The third walk proved extremely popular.  A gentle half hour stroll along the lake side to Coniston Hall to join up with the mid level walk. Perhaps some people had slightly over enjoyed the Friday night choice of ales but there were certainly a good few of these walkers who were distinctly strolling at their own pace!
The dancing started and almost all our guests put up a side and relaxed into performing in mufti. There were even some general public out walking who stopped to watch and enjoy.
Then it was back to the school for a couple of hours of chill time and games for those with the inclination and the energy. Overall a resounding success of a day thoroughly enjoyed by our guests and as importantly by Crook!
Cheers, Martyn

Coniston Old Man Walk, by Sally Lee
Saturday dawned bright and sunny and a group of 23 (including Juliet, Dave Rochel, Maggie S, Lynne and Sally from Crook) set off to climb Coniston Old Man.
We soon spread out on the ascent through the Mines, but we stopped regularly to let everyone catch up, put on or take off layers of clothing and have something to eat or drink.
We ate our lunch by the summit cairn, and then six of us found the energy (and risked sprained ankles) to dance Getting Upstairs, using dog-poo bags or kitchen roll instead of hankies.
From there we walked on along the ridge to Swirl How.
The weather had by then become cloudy and windy, and rain clouds were threatening to head pour way from the Scafells. Fortunately they passed us by, and we made our descent in the dry via Prison Band, Swirl Hause and Coppermines Valley.

Medium Walk, by Gary Lightfoot
Maggy and I set off around 7:00am to mark out the walk with flour. On leaving the main path up the Coppermines valley it became clear that the bracken had grown much too long to mark the trail and we were soaked from the thighs down after a short while, so we made an executive decision to miss this section and short cut up the main path from the bridge. The delay meant that we didn't have time to mark out the second section, so we came back to the centre and prepared to "live hare" this bit.
It took a long time to get enough people together to leave on the full walk, which I led, leaving around 9:45. Maggy stayed around for a bit to lead the second section option.
The walk was absolutely glorious, with sunshine most of the time. The two groups met at the caravan site where we got icecreams and stayed together after that.
Naturally Maggy and I had a dip in the lake on the way back to Coniston Hall, but nobody else was interested. It was glorious!
All arrived back at the Hall in good time for the dancing and the walk had been a great success, thanks to Claire's careful planning.

Sunday, by Claire Duplock

The day dawned bright and clear as I set off for Kendal to do some early preparation for the day of Dance.
How lucky we were with the weather!
Everything went well in Kendal Town Centre: the deputy Mayor gave a short, witty speech to start proceedings off, and all our guest sides had large appreciative crowds to watch their performances.
As we gathered together in the Market Place to dance our final dance, sing our farewell songs and bid each other emotional goodbyes, all of the past year’s hard work was forgotten in the buzz of knowing that WE had made this very special event happen.


Christas Ceilidh December 2011
This was our 4th Cumbrian Christmas Ceilidh and it was just about the best yet.

The pattern was the tried and tested, one that has worked so well for us for the first three but in Crook Morris we don’t rest on our laurels.  We decided to make a few significant tweaks.  Did they work?  Well all the feedback from our guests said a very definite ‘Yes, absolutely they did’ and it made for a thoroughly successful and enjoyable event.
Doors opened as usual at 7:30 and within 10 minutes about the first 100 people were in, coats on the rail, tables found and people seated.  How did that happen so quickly?  Simple, wrist bands were sent out in advance and there was no need for anyone to be delayed at the door.

The hall looked stunning.  A warm, welcoming and glittering array of decorations was enhanced with subtle lighting and as our guests settled down their warm mince pies were delivered to them at their table.  Previous years had seen a packed hall with distinct pressure on the dance area so Crook had listened to the feedback and deliberately put a lower level on the available number of wrist bands.  It meant that fewer chairs were needed and so the dance area was bigger.  That was much appreciated as the minute the band announced the first dance the floor was full and we were underway.

Tumbling Tom are always good but they surpassed themselves by taking such great care over the sound.  The Parish Hall is acoustically a real challenge, no curtains!  Their sound was clear and distinct, the callers easily heard.  On a few occasions this time the callers joined the dancers down on the floor to show a particular dance, this made the night nicely intimate.  They gave us a great selection of dances, belting tunes and a glorious brass section augmented the normal line up.
The dancers do need a few well earned short breaks and these are filled with seasonal entertainment.   The Kendal Revellers is a 20 strong group that mainly specialises in traditional English carols.  Each year they give the audience some wonderful songs with glorious harmonies and a very full sound.  This year there were new songs, a few solo verses and even a dance linked to a song.  The reaction of the audience said it all.  Faces were enraptured and the applause was fulsome. This group has really come on and it’s no surprise that it is now being asked to perform at other events.
Crook Morris itself enjoys the opportunity to showcase the styles of dance we do.  Over the last year our Rapper dancers have developed hugely with several new figures, their order changed to improve the smooth transition from one figure to the next and it’s now danced at a full on speed.  That first dance set an amazingly high standard.  The Welsh Border set performed ‘John Smiths’ with gusto and the figures were executed crisply.  It’s a great dance for this event as the music has a definite Christmas feel to it.  
Finally came the world premier of ’A String Of Pearls’.  2011 was Crook’s 30th year and so we had worked on a complete new dance.  It worked a treat.  It is different from other Cotswold dances with an intimidating line that dances at the audience, a hey that works across the set and a large counter rounds.  Yes there was a slight mishap we did have one of our dancers not quite in the right place at one stage but his Usain Bolt dash to the correct position was brilliant and just added to the performance.
A memorable night.  Good music, good entertainment, good dancing and good friends.
2012.……..oh yes we will be doing it all again on Saturday 1st December, see you there?
Martyn Harvey (Dance Foreman)

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