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A day in Chippenham

May 25, 2013

My first day out on the “new” bike, trying to get my confidence back after a near-death experience with the old BMW last month on the A14.

Chippenham Folk Festival was in full swing in blissful sunshine, the High Street closed to traffic but open to folk dancers: not just geezers with beards and beer-bellies, but lithe lads and burly young women and really rather young children, all  with seemingly boundless energy. It was heart-warming to watch.

Chippenham 1

“The Flag and Bone Gang”

Chippenham 2

Chippenham 3

Chippenham 4

Chippenham 5

Chippenham 6

Chippenham 7

Chippenham 8

“Custom and Exiles”

Chippenham 9

“National Youth Folklore Troupe of England”

Chippenham 10

Chippenham 11

Chippenham 12

“Whitethorn”

Chippemham 13

“Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance”

Chippenham 14

Chippenham 15

Chippenham 16

“Ivy Lane Border”

Chippenham 17

A Playford display group dancing “The Good Man of Ballangigh” to the tune “Hunt the Squirrel”.

Chippenham 18

The same group dancing “Sun Assembly”.

Chippenham 19

Note the ambulance standing by in case of Morris-related injuries. When sticks clash, chips can fly. Some of these fellows can make a white hanky look like an offensive weapon. A friend has directed me to the website of Chipping Campden Morris Men, where I found this lovely quotation from Ashley Hutchins:

“The Morris is life-affirming, joyous and a bit daft. It honours our ancestors, our countryside and its traditions, and against all the odds it survives in the present day…” 

My first encounter with it was at the age of five or six in Brompton Road in London: men in outlandish gear making merry music and dancing as if the world would stop if they ceased to dance. They belonged, it seemed, to another, better place. I have been entranced ever since. I wrote this poem in 2008.

When I am dead, my darlings,
I want no sober suits, no organ,
no Abide with Me.
Bring pipe and tabor
come with a concertina
fiddle or hurdy gurdy
wear gaudy glad-rags
and rant the Four-hand Reel.

Banish the black-winged priest
and send for the dancers in white
with sticks and bells
and garlanded top-hats
and ribbons fluttering.
They’ll step and leap
and thump and shout:
they’ll priest my spirit home.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2013 2:34 pm

    oooh excellent stuff Ama! who was the poem/song quoted at the end by? And are there any sides dancing locally, do you know? It’s about time I took up dancing…

  2. May 27, 2013 4:11 pm

    Thank you Jo. I would have urged you to join Mendip Stave Dancers, but sadly we haven’t been active as a group for a couple of years now. Try Somerset Morris – http://www.somersetmorris.org.uk. They practice at Marksbury. Or you could join us at Wells Folk Dance Club, Wednesday evenings at 7.30 in Dinder Village Hall, or at Ditcheat Folk Dance Club in the Jubilee Hall, second Friday of every month at 7.30.
    Oh, and the poem’s mine. It’s looking for a title! Suggestions?

    • May 29, 2013 4:05 pm

      Wonderful, lovely poem – such a powerful message and splendid way of facing the moment – it sounds much like «dance me!»…
      And a very interesting festival, too!

  3. May 30, 2013 12:42 pm

    … to the end of love? The Leonard Cohen song? Yes!
    Good to meet you again. I enjoy seeing your use of recycled paper in origami.

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