“NOW that Spring is drawing near, sticks and bells they do appear.” It’s the time of the year when Morris dancers traditionally take to the streets and on Saturday Sheffield will see a mass invasion of bells and ribbons.
The city is hosting the Joint Morris Organisations Day of Dance, a national event to celebrate the great English traditional dance.
More than 60 bell-jangling, stick-clashing dance sides from across Britain, adding up to more than 1,000 individual dancers, are set to take part.
The city centre will enjoy a free show of not only massed morris dance displays, but showcase performances by the cream of English folk art, clog dancing, garland dancing, longsword and rapper sword dance displays, mumming plays, street theatre and molly dancing.
The Joint Morris Organisation Sheffield National Morris Spectacular will be hosted by the Morris Ring, and will be made up of sides from the men’s Morris Ring and mixed Morris Federation and the Open Morris, who will be keeping alive dances and traditions spanning the centuries.
The Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Coun Alan Law, and the Mayor of Amber Valley, Coun Alan Cox, will perform the opening ceremonies in Tudor Square and Cathedral Square at 10am.
Dance displays will be staged at 17 city centre venues throughout the day, with a rolling mass display of dancing in Tudor Square.
As well as displays there will be a dance workshop held at Sheffield Cathedral, where it is hoped local celebrities will be given a crash course in morris dancing ready to entertain the crowds.
Rounding off the day will be an evening ceilidh and concert at Sheffield Cathedral, marking another first in the cathedral’s expansion of its activities. It will take place in the central nave after most of the pews have been removed and redistributed around the Cathedral to create space for singing and dancing by up to 300 participants. There will also be a bar.
Sheffield based Hekety will be performing their mix of traditional and self-penned tunes and also appearing will be Jim Causley, a young Devon folk singer.
Day of Dance organiser Peter Halfpenny, squire of the Morris Ring and a member of the Morrismen of Harthill, near Sheffield, said: “The whole idea of the day is to showcase the best of traditional English folk dance which is flourishing in this country and to take it onto the streets so people can see what efforts are being made to keep these wonderful old traditions alive.
“Our aim is to provide a day long colourful spectacular of dance and street entertainment which the whole family can enjoy.”
Sheffield City Morris Men, who celebrated their 35th anniversary last year, will be among those participating in the Joint Morris Organation day in the city centre which they will follow with an evening dance-out at the Union Hotel, Nether Edge, on Monday.
It is the start of a busy programme for them through May, June and July which in addition to the local dates includes weekends away to Exeter and Northamptonshire and dancing at Warwick Folk Festival in July.