Young morris side, Fool’s Gambit Morris and pioneering wheelchair folk dance group, Folk in Motion come together to remember the many morris dancers who lost their lives in the Great War.
Many of you may have already seen the excellent video above. George Butterworth, alongside fellow folk dance pioneers Maud Karpeles, Helen Karpeles and Cecil Sharp, gaily demonstrate some morris dances on a sunny day in 1912.
Aside from being one of the great twentieth-century English composers, Butterworth was a member of the demonstration team for the English Folk Dance Society (EFDS). The Society had been founded a year earlier by Sharp, with the aim of “preserving and promoting the practice of English folk-dances in their true traditional form”.
Sharp and his dance team played a huge part in establishing the folk dance movement in England. As such when the Battle of the Somme claimed the lives of Butterworth and his fellow dancers Percival Lucas, George Wilkinson and Reginald Tiddy in August 1916, the dance community suffered a great loss, alongside the deep personal loss suffered by Sharp and those who knew them. The story is told beautifully in this article by Joe Shute.
Fast-forward 100 years and the dance movement is still going strong, with today’s morris sides indebted to Butterworth and his fellow dancers. In light of this, the excellent Fool’s Gambit Morris are marking the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, and celebrating the lives of the dancers who fell, with a special show entitled Banks of Green Willow.
The show takes its name from Butterworth’s composition of the same name, and the themes from that piece along with some of Butterworth’s other orchestral music will feature in the show. The dances themselves include Fieldtown dances as performed by the EFDS team, dances which Reginald Tiddy and Ralph Honeybone taught to their fellow troops in military camps, and original dances by Fool’s Gambit.
The show will be performed at many locations significant to the battle and to Butterworth, Lucas, Wilkinson, and Tiddy, culminating in a performance at Cecil Sharp House on Sunday 20 November. Joining them for this performance will be Folk-in-Motion, a fantastic organisation working to involve wheelchair users in adapted forms of traditional dance, showing the world that dance is for everyone.
Folk in Motion