Ten reasons why Morris dancing should be your new hobby
By James Merrylees
Are you looking for a new challenge? Here’s ten reasons Morris dancing should be your new hobby.
- The people, the friends and the social scene. Of course there are exceptions, but you’ll struggle to find a friendlier bunch than Morris dancers. Strapping on bells and waving hankies around as a pastime seems to strip away all pretentions and as a result the Morris scene tends to be non-judgemental and welcoming and there’s great camaraderie between members of sides. To most Morris sides the ‘Après-Morris’ is just as, if not more important than the dancing itself, and the events they attend will reflect this. You’ll find sides with lots of kids at more family-friendly events, whereas others might be in it for the pub crawls.
- The beer. It’s often said that Morris teams are drinkers with a dance problem. Even the most sobre of Morris teams (if they exist) will spend much of their time dancing within easy reach of a pub, beer tent or other purveyor of alcoholic beverages. If you’re looking for a hobby that involves visiting lots of great pubs and drinking excellent beer (or other drink of choice) then Morris could be for you.
- Festivals. Until you join a Morris team and the invites begin rolling in, you don’t realise just how many festivals and events take place every year. There are few finer ways to spend a summer weekend than touring pretty market towns, enjoying a few pints, followed by an evening listening to music in the concert marque. What’s even better is…
- They’re usually free! Most Morris teams will attend a couple of festivals a year around the UK and sometimes even overseas, for which free tickets and camping is nearly always provided, plus half price tickets for partners. A great way to have some cheap weekends away to places you’d probably otherwise never visit and see some great bands along the way.
- The dances themselves. Yep, we’ve got to point five before mentioning the actual dancing. As any performer will tell you, being part of a group of people working together to provide a spectacle to an audience provides a buzz like no other. Knowing the dances and tunes are perhaps hundreds of years old and have been performed for generations will give you a tremendous sense of pride. Also, you get to mess about with bloody great big sticks and swords.
- It keeps you (relatively) fit. OK, it is a pastime that also involves drinking beer and it’s not going to prepare you for a marathon. But you don’t see many 70-year-old amateur footballers whereas there are, however, plenty of pensioners who are still active because of a lifelong participation in Morris dancing.
- It looks interesting on your CV. Really. Nothing tells potential employers that you’re not hung up about what others think of you quite like having your Morris team listed under ‘other interests’. Plus, you can more or less guarantee they won’t be interviewing another Morris dancer, so they’ll tend to remember you. (Also applies to Tinder. Probably.)
- The hats. Well, and outfits in general really. As you grow up the opportunities to dress up a bit silly tend to diminish. Not for Morris dancers. And actually some of the kits can look quite dashing. Also, did we mention the hats?
- Learn a new skill. For most of us learning new things is challenging and a bit scary. You’re putting yourself into a situation that is probably outside your comfort zone and completely different from anything you’ve tried before. But once it clicks and you’ve taken part in your first dance out, you’ll find that learning something new and dancing in public can be quite the confidence boost (see point 7).
- Helping to keep an ancient cultural tradition alive. So ‘ancient’ is probably debatable, as is the cultural origins of Morris, but there’s no doubt that it is now firmly entrenched as an eccentric English tradition. If you think it would be a shame for these connections with our past to disappear then join a Morris team and do something about it.
- It’s bloody good fun. OK, so this is an 11th reason, but really it’s just summing up all of the above. Being part of a Morris team will make you friends, help you travel, teach you new skills and lets you dress up, drink beer and play with sticks. There aren’t many hobbies that give you all that.
So, if that’s got you itching to pick up a stick and strap on some bells, find your local side and get joined up!