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Morris Men celebrate 80 years

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A morris dancing troupe from Bedford are celebrating their 80th anniversary this month by inviting new members to take part.

Bedford Morris Men first formed in 1932 in part, from a ex-pupils of Clapham Road School, who wanted to carry on with the morris dancing that they were taught at school, by their headmaster, Tommy Northern.

And 80 years later the group is still going strong and have danced across the country and even as far as Bamberg in Germany, the town that is twinned with Bedford.

John Frearson, archivist of the Bedford Morris Men, said: “It’s a great social thing and allows us to let our hair down a little bit.

“People are not quite sure and are a bit cheeky and teasy about it because in a way they are a little bit frightened, is there magic there?”

He added: “The morris is a good way to bring communities together, but we do miss out on younger members because if they are not worrying about exams there are a lot of electronic things to play with.”

And although there are no surviving members of the original Bedford Morris Men line-up, there are some family links to the early days.

John said: “One of our very early members was Fred Hamer and his son also came into the Morris and was with us for quite a while.

“He is a bit older now but still does a bit of folk dancing.”

The morris can be traced back to the 15th and 16th centuries.

One explanation for the use of the word morris for describing dancing, is that men used to blacken their faces to maintain their anonymity, thereby resembling Moorish men. It is thought that the activities and dancing could have been associated with fertility rites or as part of ceremonial or competitive parochial festivities.

There is no historical record of any dancing in Bedford at this time, but there are references to morris dancers in Potton in 1560, Woburn and Bletchley in 1767, Silsoe in 1789 and Stevington 1870.

If you are interested in becoming part of the Bedford Morris Men visit www.bedfordmorrismen.org.uk

Alternatively you can email johnphfrearson@btinternet.com

The group practice once a week on a Wednesday at Ravensden Village Hall from 8.15pm.

 

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