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At the heart of English folk

Archive

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Lower Withington Morris Dancers at Lower Withington Rose Day, 1958

Girls’ morris dancing and ‘folk’

by Lucy Wright

In many ways, girls’ morris superficially bears little resemblance to the better-known ‘traditional’ morris performance of the English folk revival. Many first-time witnesses liken it to modern Irish stepdance, or mistake it for the American import, cheerleading, although girls’ morris dancing is (at least) several decades older. However, despite surface dissimilarities, preliminary research indicates that girls’ morris dancing shares key aspects of its history with other forms of North West morris, with roots in the popular town carnival movement, of the mid-19th to late 20th century, at which troupes of dancers, male and female, single and coed, were a prominent feature.

Lightwood Crystals perform as part of KULES residency at Olympus Engineering Works, Stoke-on-Trent (2015)

Researching girls’ morris dancing

by Lucy Wright

“I used to be an ethnomusicologist but I drifted.” That’s how I introduce myself at parties (sometimes). What I mean to say is that, despite an academic background in ethnomusicology—the social science concerned with the relationships between people, performance and place—much of my work no longer looks straightforwardly like scholarly research. I’m both an artist and a researcher, and I’m interested in finding new ways to combine these practices, especially when dealing with aspects of the human experience which are not readily expressed using text alone. However, it’s not just about using art to ‘illustrate’ knowledge gained using other, more conventional methods. It’s about valuing art practice as a form of knowledge-making in its own right, and working with others to develop modes of representation in which they can be engaged and complicit.

Orcadia Morris Dancers

A first experience of girls’ morris dancing

by Lucy Wright

The sports hall is packed when I arrive; a frenetic and uneven sea of folding chairs, pushchairs and packed lunches, and people everywhere. A mayhem of children and adults spill inside and out, chatting, practising routines, changing clothes.