Punk Morris Dancers, Glitter Tattoos and a Man Dressed Like a Baby

You will see the man dressed as a baby in the shot above. Thats him with the whitish beard and white hair scraped up into two schoolgirl ‘bunches’. I have no idea what his function was in the Morris Dancing troupe with which he was performing. I know Morris Dancers are partial to Green Men and Hooden Horses, but this was the first large elderly man in a pink dress, boots, bells and bunches. No doubt he was deeply symbolic of something.

I once read that ‘abroad’ the British are universally pictured as marching about in bowler hats and carrying furled umbrellas, usually in the pouring rain. I thought these pictures, taken today at the Rochester Sweeps Festival, might go some way to redressing the balance.

I quite like this picture – a lucky accident as I couldn’t actually see the screen, the sun was shining on it so brightly. Dazed and confused, for all of them I simply lifted the mobile phone up at random and pressed the button. The thing I notice most about it though is that although everyone is having a good day out, engaged in ‘fun’, no one – not the woman in the wheelchair, the leaner on the lamp-post, not even the jolly dancers hopping around and bashing their sticks together – is actually smiling.

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There were more Morris Dancers than you could shake a stick at. Apparently they converge on Rochester from all over the country. In my younger day it was all rather sedate. The men always wore white and always sort of matched. Nowadays anything goes. I particularly liked this punk troupe with their fishnet tights and top hats. It also answers the question: Where did all the hippies go? Here they are, in all their faded glory, the remnants of My Generation.

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I wondered what they all did when they weren’t dancing. The one in the thonged leather – might he be a bank manager in everyday life? The lady in the multi-coloured tatters with the pint of beer – possibly works behind reception at the local leisure centre?

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As the day went on we passed more and more people with painted faces, so this tent was obviously popular. I cropped out an unfortunately-shaped young woman in unfortunate jeans. No doubt she’ll appear in somebody else’s picture.

So, a good day was had by all, and back we clambered onto our Community Minibus. The wheelchair took some time to affix. Boy is it tiring, enjoying yourself!

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10 thoughts on “Punk Morris Dancers, Glitter Tattoos and a Man Dressed Like a Baby

  1. Was the man in question “acting” like a baby? I see adults that act that way all the time.
    Kinda hard to tell what’s going on these days.

    Smiling has always been a problem for me, even during high school (which my wife reminds me of – all the time). Sure, I will laugh, but an honest smile… not often enough, I’m afraid.

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    1. Hi Kenneth, from another problem smiler. I never trust people who grin all the time for no obvious reason anyway. Either insane or trying to sell you something! The man was not actually acting like a baby, he was just kind of strolling up and down supervising his group, apparently unaware that he was dressed in a pink smock and pink frilly trousers. They actually walk from the car parks and train stations dressed like that, and later in the day wander around the shops or drink beer outside pubs, still dressed like that.

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    1. Well, that’s a difficult one. I’m just trying to remember. It’s versions of popular folk tunes, often played on an accordion or fiddle although some dance solely to the beat of a loud drum that one of the dancers wears, and strikes with a stick. Some of the larger outfits are half folk band, half dance section – so more varied instruments, and singers. The dancers nearly always wear strips of little bells strapped to their ankles, legs or.arms. Some of them, particularly the all female groups, wear heavy wooden clogs which make a sound pattern of their own. They nearly always have hefty wooden sticks which they ‘fight’ energetically with adding to the percussion. Basically it’s anything at all they want to use. Probably originally it was anything medieval peasants could find around the village or improvise with.

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      1. Thanks! It would be interesting to see some day, and I hope they can. I had the impression it was to folk music, but wasn’t sure. It does make sense that it’s a variety.

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      2. Hi Ann, I’ve just been watching YouTube UK. There are loads of examples of Morris Dancing on there, which you might find interesting – and free! No need to buy a plane ticket. I can’t believe I am turning into some sort of Morris Dancing groupie, as a result of a £7.50 trip with a lot of old folk in the community minibus. This kind of folk dance I remember as being universally derided in my youth. Dad used to refer to them laughingly as “hanky-flickers”. If you want to see the traditional kind you could type in Abingdon Traditional Morris Dancing.

        However, I strongly suggest you search for a group of dancers calling themselves Beltane Border, for an altogether darker, faster and more exciting version. Three of the dances they perform are called Beltane Fire Dance, Princess Royal and Whiteladies Aston. Wild, fierce, scary dancing rather than cheerful hopping about, if you know what I mean.

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