Jeff Bates's Organ


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In 1979 Jeff Bates produced a document summarising the story behind the establishing of Berkshire Bedlam, with some original research on the Leafield dances and dancers on which the original BB dances were based. You can read his document in its entirety below, click on the following links to go to the part of it you are interested in, or click here to access the document in MS Word format

About Morris Dancing in General
Revival Morris
How Berkshire Bedlam Morris Started
Berkshire Bedlams Objectives
Morris Dancing at Leafield
A Twentieth Century Revival at Leafield
Constructing a Tradition
The Future




Jeff Bates – December 1979




The following notes are intended as an introduction to the history and objectives of Berkshire Bedlam Morris Dancers. One of the primary aims of the team has been to create a new, living morris by adapting and building upon information about the long-extinct morris tradition from Leafield (sometimes called Field Town) in the Wychwood Forest, Oxfordshire. A detailed account of the old Leafield Morris is given in the hope that it will instil new dancers with the old spirit of the dance. Also some account of the team's short history would seem necessary if only to communicate some of the aspirations and enthusiasm of the original members of the side.





If you are interested in the likely origins of morris dancing get hold of Volume 1 of Cecil Sharp's The Morris

Book and read what he has to say. His ideas, although now rather dated are still generally accepted. Basically there are two popular alternative hypotheses:


1.  Morris dancing is a survival of some part of the agricultural fertility rites which were performed each Spring, in the pre-Christian era, to ensure a successful crop in the coming year. The stamping, clapping, ringing of bells, and waving of handkerchiefs are supposed to help chase away the black spirits of Winter. Mumming plays, Long- and Rapper-sword, and morris are all considered to be variants of the same thing in which different aspects have developed at the expense of the others. These ritual entertainments share some characteristics such as the death and rebirth of a victim (seen as a fight and reconciliation in a few morris dances and perhaps also the origin of the successive confrontations which are the basis of all corner dances).


2. Morris dancing was an exotic entertainment imported from abroad (?from the Moors) which survived among country folk after it had fallen from favour elsewhere. The term ‘morris’ may derive from the dancers' frequent habit of blackening their faces to disguise their identities (perhaps a corruption of ‘moorish’, the old equivalent of 'black' or 'nigger'). The fact that there are similar, all-male dances in other parts of the world e.g. in the Basque region of Spain, doesn't help to resolve the issue.


Other suggestions of the possible origins of morris have received popular support from time to time. For example, John Kirkpatrick and Neil Wayne in the sleeve notes to the record 'Plain Capers' note that the major areas where morris was formerly practised were all centres for quarrying building stone and they suggest that the morris was a recompense for raping the Earth Mother.


Morris dancing was formerly widely practised in England and survived longest in the Cotswolds ('Cotswold Morris'), in Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire (‘Border Morris’), in Lancashire (‘N.W. Morris’) and in areas of East Anglia ('Molly Dancing'). The rapper-sword of Northumberland and long-sword of Yorkshire were also called ‘morris’ and are special variants associated with the close-knit industrial communities of the North East.


Normally a team of picked men practised during the early Spring for the morris festivities which were restricted to Whitsun week. In the Cotswold Hills the team consisted of six or, less frequently, eight dancers, a musician, a fool or squire (usually the leader) who added a touch of humour. The tunes were popular songs of the day (sometimes the dancers broke off to sing the words then hey and caper out) and many teams used the same ones, often in elaborate variations. The style of dancing however, varied from village to village. Each village 'tradition' had its own way of stepping (although the double step was pretty universal), the hand movements and slow capers were often distinctive and the types and order of figures (gypsies, rounds etc.) varied considerably. Until the l9th century the traditional music was provided by pipe and tabor (‘whittle and dub’ in the Cotswolds) but this was gradually replaced by the fiddle. The advent of the fiddle has sometimes been blamed for the decline of morris - some of the old dancers said that they were unable to dance to the fiddle because it lacked the lift of the tabor. Melodeon and anglo concertina did not start to be used for morris until the present century. An important part of the morris ritual was the collection of money. The dancing was done 'for luck' and it was customary to process around the village and dance outside (and occasionally inside) the villagers' houses. A reward, often beer and cake, was normally provided for this service. Occasionally dancing was carried out at other times to raise money if the men were out of work, or to celebrate a coronation or jubilee. There are records of Cotswold dancers walking to London (in a day!) during hay time to make a temporary living dancing in the crowded streets.  Formerly, dancing competitions ware held between teams from neighbouring villages. Occasionally several teams would dance together at the great annual gatherings such as the Kirtlington Morris Festival or Lamb Ale, but generally each side performed in its own limited territory.

Due to the great social changes occurring as a result of the Industrial Revolution morris dancing was virtually extinct at the start of the First World War. The death of a large proportion (some would say the best part) of the young male population in the Great War left unfillable gaps in most of the remaining teams. Only four teams have survived to the present day in the Cotswold region, Abingdon, Bampton, Chipping Campden and Headington Quarry, although attempts are now being made to restart dancing in some of the other famous morris villages e.g. Adderbury, Wheatley





The revival of morris dancing began fairly early in the present century, largely as a result of the teaching of enthusiastic folk-collectors such as Sharp and Schofield. Cecil Sharp first saw morris dancing at Headington, Oxfordshire where he was spending Christmas with friends. This chance encounter is often quoted as the 'rediscovery' of morris. In fact the team which Sharp saw (Headington Quarry) had previously ceased dancing but had reformed due to the encouragement of Percy Manning, a contemporary but less well known collector of Cotswold Morris. However Sharp's great enthusiasm was certainly responsible for the beginning of the morris revival in general.


The early revival morris 'clubs' joined together to form 'The Morris Ring of England' to improve the communication of ideas and information. However, although the Morris Ring has successfully fostered the revival of morris dancing, it has also been responsible for the development of an unfortunately rigid and sterile attitude towards innovation. The Ring has, perhaps unconsciously, encouraged the imposition of a common repertoire of dances on all teams largely to promote the social aspects of mass gatherings of teams ('Ring Meetings'). This repertoire consists of a selection of dances from the whole range of available sources and so encompasses a wealth of dissimilar steps and styles. The majority of teams give an indifferent performance in which style and competence in the more tricky steps are lacking because of the technical difficulties of a 'mixed' repertoire. The very small number of jigs which most teams perform is one reflection of this general lack of expertise. The costume of 'ring' sides has also become stereotyped and usually consists of a hybrid between that worn by 'country dancers' (felt waistcoats) and the northern sword teams (black breeches).  Coupled with both these aspects there has been a general drift away from the vital characteristics of the morris (energy, youth, spectacle) and an unfortunate preoccupation with irrelevancies such as dragons, hobby-horses and pewter tankards. In short, most revival teams have ceased to question what they are doing and, because they have lost a sense of continuity with the origin of the morris, the dance has degenerated. There has been a vague notion that this is all part of the 'folk evolution process' but the individual teams seem too uncritical and conformist for significant change to occur. Certainly there has been little evidence of the development of rich variations comparable to the old village traditions of the Cotswolds and other areas.





In or around 1973 the morris establishment was disturbed by two revolutionary phenomena.


The first of these was the formation of a ladies' morris team at Bath University, an event which has now been repeated in many parts of the country. The second phenomenon was the appearance of Berni Cherry's Gloucestershire Old Spot Morris Dancers. On Whit Monday in 1974 and 1975 (and subsequently) this team was invited to perform outside ‘The Talbot’ in Bampton (Oxon.) by the Traditional Bampton Morris. Old Spot had strayed far from the accepted concept of a morris side. They had taken and reconstructed an entire extinct morris tradition from Gloucestershire (Longborough) and presented this in a refreshingly colourful, precise and almost unbelievably energetic fashion.


The formation of Berkshire Bedlam owes much to these Old Spot performances and to a growing dissatisfaction with the established rnorris scene in general. The first suggestions were made in July 1975 but the team's inaugural meeting was not held until October of the following year. This side consisted largely of students and staff of the Botany Department of Imperial College and practices were held at the College Field Station at Silwood Park. The enthusiasm of the student members was such that they travelled to weekly practices from Central London.


From the onset it was decided that the team should adopt a single style of dancing and do this as energetically as possible. The Field Town tradition (former dances of Leafield and Field Assarts, Oxon.) was chosen after a certain amount of deliberation, partly because of the large and varied repertoire, but also because the Field Town side(s) had held a widely-acknowledged reputation for good dancing in the Cotswolds. There was also undoubtedly an element of perversity, present day teams normally dance 'Field Town' in an especially fairy-like fashion but, as you will see, there is strong evidence that the dancing was energetic and spirited.  The costume, perhaps not surprisingly, was constructed along similar lines to that of Old Spot and included red, white and blue rosettes, in fact almost ubiquitous amongst the old Cotswold teams (but not Leafield) and, very appropriate, as it happened for Jubilee year (1977). There were considerable individual kit variations and a smattering of home-made tophats which made the overall effect convincingly rustic.


The team became known as Silwood Morris and enjoyed a quiet but successful first season. The standard of performance was reasonably good and noticeably livelier than some established local teams. The climax of that season was an energetically bacchanalian tour of the Cerne Abbas area of Dorset, however, this was also the last occasion on which the original members danced together because they had finished their undergraduate courses and were leaving the area.


In the following Autumn efforts ware made to preserve what had been achieved so far and the decision was made to 'go public'. A small group of rather older recruits was gleaned from a local folk club and the team remained viable. Just.


In November 1977 the sides name was changed to Berkshire Bedlam Morris Dancers. This title was suggested by E.C. Cawte’s paper dealing with border morris traditions where reference is made to ‘ye bedlam morris’. This name seemed to express perfectly our approach to morris dancing although we later learned that John Kirkpatrick had already named his successful border morris team the Shropshire Bedlam Morris. In the Spring of 1978 the team moved its headquarters to St Paul's Church Hall, Wokingham because of recruiting difficulties at the rather remote Silwood Park. After this move we decided to take a fresh look at things and, in effect, the team was restarted. The team's objectives were rationalised, a set of ‘rules’ formulated and the costume redesigned.  The move to Wokingham has proved successful and the last two years have seen a steady improvement in the team's membership, stability level of performance and reputation.





1.          To develop an original and true-spirited morris style using information about the Leafield tradition as a starting point.


2.          To dance precisely and in an energetic fashion.


3.          To present a generally spectacular and original performance.





Leafield is about 15 miles N.W. of Oxford. Formerly the centre of Wychwood Forest it is now about half a mile outside the remains of this once extensive woodland. “Layfield is the proper name, but it is usually called Field Town for short", and this is the name by which the style of dancing (or modern interpretations of it) is popularly known to revival dancers.


'The major sources of information about the morris tradition are the publications and manuscripts of Cecil Sharp and other collectors including Manning, Butterworth, Schofield, Carey and Neal. The ‘Travelling Morrice’ a team of enthusiastic revival dancers and collectors (from Cambridge University), visited the hamlet after Sharp had published some of the dances in The Morris Book. They danced the reconstructed dances in this and other villages on the Cotswolds and wore put right by the few remaining old dancers.


Nothing is known of the origins or lifespan of morris dancing at Leafield. Much of our information derives from Sharp's collections in 1908 and 1912, and from Percy Manning's earlier visit in 1894. Sharp's most important informants were Henry Franklin, who had long since moved to Oxford, Preston the one-time cake-bearer, and George Steptoe the old foreman. Franklin, a retired policeman on pension after 33 years service, told Sharp that the village had supported two morris sides, one at Field Town the other at Field Assarts. The same place really. The morris was discontinued around 1860 (but see below), at least 35 years before the first collector (Manning) visited Leafield.


Henry Franklin left the village just before the forest was divided up and cleared and the old ways abandoned. The morris disbanded a few years later. Daniel Lock of the nearby Minster Lovell team told Sharp, “we weren’t patternized enough and that was why we stopped, because it didn't take long to dance through a 15/- pair of shoes” (he explained that dancing was done in special light shoes not working boots). Franklin, aged 81, had not danced in the Leafield morris for 52 years when Sharp collected his steps. Sharp had little difficulty in noting these (except the back step), however, and he often remarked on the phenomenal memory of country people before the onset of modern communications. He mentions Franklin as being a very able dancer who celebrated his eightieth birthday by walking twenty miles across country and afterwards, "just to show his metal", dancing his favourite jig, 'Princess Royal'.  Sharp's information from Henry Franklin is largely published in volumes 4 and 5 of The Morris Book.


Another major contribution to our knowledge of the Leafield dances results from the visits of the Travelling Morrice to the village in 1924 and subsequently. Their major informant was Alec Franklin the younger brother of Henry who, although he never danced with the team, was a good solo jig dancer. Henry told Sharp that Alec

was a " pretty dancer" but Sharp never saw him dance. It is my belief that the so-called ‘Field Town’ style owes much to the idiosyncrasies of Alec’s dancing simply because he lived longest but his dancing was very likely atypical. When the Travelling Morrice first performed the Field Town dances in Leafield Alec Franklin was not impressed and made it clear that the dancing was fussy and lacked vigour. The team returned in 1925 and this time he was more satisfied. He eventually provided information on ‘Bobby and Joan’ (Sharp missed the capers in the chorus), 'Mrs Casey', 'The Old Woman Tossed Up', ‘Ladies’ Pleasure’, 'Princess Royal', and 'The Nutting Girl'. Speaking of Alec Franklin’s manner of dancing R.K. Schofield said, " His performance of the corner movement to the B music of 'The Old Woman Tossed Up' will ever be remembered by those who had the good fortune to witness it.  The arm movement which accompanied the side step bore a strong resemblance to the high show which the Bampton men use in a similar movement in 'The Rose Tree'. But the most striking feature was the tremendous vigour with which the hands were thrown down at the beginning of bar 5". Schofield does not mention that Alec played some part in teaching a new team prior to the Great War. Even then he was an old man and 'couldn't do much' and one wonders how much his style could have reflected that of the pre-1860 team.  Alec Franklin died in late 1927.


Characters, Costumes and Customs


The Field Town and Field Assarts morris sides seem to have had similar constitutions and in fact different members of the same families were in both teams.  The morris consisted of musician, a sword-bearer carrying a cake impaled on a sword (as at Bampton today), a Tom-Fool or Squire, a ragman (the term ‘Bagman’ is probably a corruption of this and is a ‘ring’ invention attributed to Schofield), and six dancers


The morris dancers wore box hats ("high hats like gentlemen wear with cockades") or brown Billy hats with a single ribbon at top and bottom, red and blue, beautifully pleated Irish-fronted shirts, ribbons at wrists and elbows, no rosettes (Manning's notes say shirts dressed with red and blue ribbons and white waistcoats).  White cord knee breaches and white stockings.  Bells on leather covered with red braid, 4 strips with 5 bells on each.  The sticks ware 2 to 2½ feet long "nearly as thick as a broomstick".  Broomsticks were broomsticks in those days!  They were painted red, white and blue in spirals like a barber's pole but a place was left unpainted in the middle where it was usually held.


The fool was known as Rodney and carried a bladder tied on the end of a calf's tail. His costume is not recorded. He was "very funny" and used to keep the ring clear for the dancers by banging people on the head with the bladder. He would sing:

“I wish my love was a field of taters

And I myself a long-nosed pig

Then I'd rout from night to morn

The devil of a bit I'd have to dig"


The sword bearer carried a sword with a cake (in a tin with a slot in the bottom) impaled on it and resting on the hilt. A penknife was used to cut slices to sell to spectators for good luck.  The sword bearer also carried a treasury box for collecting money. The ragman would have carried spare clothes, sticks and stood in for dancers who needed a rest (or were alcoholically disabled). The musician probably wore his ordinary clothes


The dancers practised every year for a few months before Whitsuntide on the village green. They danced throughout Whit week. On Whit Friday, Leafield Club Day, they danced at the Inn. (? the original 'Old George').  On the Saturday they went to all the principal houses around the village. On Whit Wednesday they went to Minster Lovell Club Day and also visited the keeper's lodge in the forest and some surrounding hamlets. On Whit Monday they took a rest from dancing to join in the Whit Hunt in which the villagers had the right to a deer in Chase Woods, but it had to be caught and killed by hand. A fair was held on the green throughout the week and there were, "good fights and plenty of dancing in the evenings". All this stopped in the late 1850's when the forest was broken up.


The Music


The music for both teams was predominantly by fiddle and this may explain the unusual complexity and beauty of many of the airs such as 'Old Molly Oxford', 'Glorisher' and 'Dearest Dicky'.  John Dicks who played for Field Assarts was blind.  On one occasion he said to one of the dancers "You began on the wrong foot I hope nobody noticed it”. Apparently no-one else had noticed but he was right. Dub and Whittle was played by (Stephen?) Dore who came over from Finstock and the men preferred to dance to this when they could.


Most of the tunes were collected from the Franklin brothers but George Steptoe remembered some when prompted by Sharp (he interviewed him in bed) and gave him the name 'Old Marlborough' for the tune to the heel and toe dance. Preston did not remember many of the tunes but said if only he had the plough handles in his hands he could have remembered because he used to sing to himself and go through the dances when ploughing.  One morris song given in Manning's MSS was,


“Green sleeves and yellow lace

Get up, you bitch, and work apace

Your father lies in an awful place

All for want of money"


Mr William Dore who resides in Leafield today can still play a few morris tunes, which he learnt from his grandfather, on the piano.




How they Danced


“At Field Town they capered as high off the ground 'as that table', always 'as high as they could' 'Then the sweat ran down their faces; then they'd drink again, and the sweat ran down again' ”


(Henry Franklin in Sharp's MSS)


“I was that lissome when I were young though I looked so heavy; and when I had danced the last step I could jump up on the table”

(George Steptoe in Sharp's MSS)


“One Cyphus was a great man for jigs he could'all but speak with his feat”


(Preston in Manning's MSS)


Sharp was told by Benjamin Moss of Ascott-under-Wychwood Morris that George Steptoe “were too squabbly about the backside to be a great dancer”



The Field Town Morris dancers were noted for their dancing and were regarded as the main rivals of the Sherborne (Glos.) men who held a leading position amongst the western Cotswold teams.  In 1854 they won a challenge dance held at The Pike public house, Minster Lovell against teams from Standlake, Ducklington, Brize Norton and Bampton.  On another occasion, however, they lost against Teyneham (?Eynsham) because one of their men started on the wrong foot and they had to pay for a dinner for both sides.


Leafield was somewhat isolated and uncivilized because of its position in the centre of Wychwood Forest and there was no church until comparatively recently. Apparently the villagers were noted as much for their poaching and fighting as they were for their dancing and Schofield heard them described as “a pack of' gypsies”. On one occasion at Witney they teased the Eynsham side for knowing only one dance and a “scene of great disorder followed". A similar fray occurred when they caught the Longborough team dancing on their territory at Ascott-under-Wychwood club-day. A real feel for the social conditions and rough life style of the foresters can be got from Katherine Briggs' book on Cotswold folklore.


The Dances


Similar dances were known from neighbouring villages e.g. Finstock, Minster Lovell and these have not been properly distinguished in Lionel Bacon's A Handbook of Morris Dancing from which this list is taken. Manning's manuscript notes give a list of dances which were performed when Field Assarts and Bampton were dancing but it is not clear whose dances were whose. There is a mention of the Field Assarts men taking up the challenge to dance ‘Trunioles’, described as a difficult dance, on this occasion.

List of dances: The Processional, Stick dances, Bobby and Joan, Country Gardens,  Constant Billy (Minster Lovell), Balance the Straw, Young Collins, Shepherds Hey. Side-step, The Forester, Old Molly Oxford, The Blue-eyed Stranger, The Walk of the Twopenny Postman (Garry Owen).  Set dances, Banks of the Dee, Shepherds Hey, The Rose, Glorisher (a Finstock dance published as 'Leapfrog' by Sharp), Jug by the Ear, Trunkles (‘Old Trunk-O’, a Minster Lovell dance). Corner dances, Dearest Dicky, The Old Woman Tossed Up.  Heel and toe dances, Old Marlborough, Mrs Casey.  Morris jigs: None So Pretty, Molly Oxford, The Month of May, Lumps of Plum Pudding, Princess Royal, The Nutting Girl, Ladies' Pleasure, Shepherds Hey, Constant Billy (dance unknown but may have been another name for 'None So Pretty').  Dances remembered by name only; Highland Mary, Jockey to the Fair.




Our own visits to Leafield in 1978 revealed that there was a revival of morris dancing in the village before the First World War. This was possibly influenced by the then E.F.D.S. since the team was trained by a Miss James who came over from Headington and the repertoire included two 'sword dances'. The team practised in the village hall and danced to piano but also occasionally to the fiddle of a Leafield man called Holloway. Our informant Mr Ernest Longshaw remembers four or eight sets of dancers at one time. (Old) Alec Franklin took some interest in the dancing (this would have been before the Travelling Morrice’s visits) but was apparently too old to do much. Mr Longshaw remembered that Alec Franklin was a stylish dancer and his back-steps, in particular, looked good because he was slightly bow-legged. He was insistent that the team was taught the old Field Town way of doing 'Stick Tapping' (our Shepherds Hey) and perhaps other dances. Mr Longshaw danced with the team for two years before he was called up in 1917. They appear to have performed very little in public. One of the occasions was a local fete on the Vicarage lawn. Music was provided by a piano which was pushed out through the French windows onto the lawn. Mr Longshaw has photographs taken of the team on that occasion. The kit consisted of white shirts with dark ties, white flannel trousers, undecorated bells, white shoes, and a baldric-type arrangement forming a V-shape front and back and coloured pink. They knew about ten or twelve dances including Stick Tapping, Bean Setting, Blue-eyed Stranger, Trunkles (he told us this had galleys in the corner movements but wasn't up to showing us!) and the sword dances. Mr Longshaw told us about an occasion when Bampton came to dance in the village hall. When they started dancing 'Blue-eyed Stranger' (did Bampton ever dance this?) the Field Town lads got up to dance alongside and the Bampton team packed up in a huff.

Mr Bill Dore, who also lives in the village, used to attend these practices. He still remembers Blue-eyed Stranger (like the Headington version ), Molly Oxford and possibly some other tunes which he learnt from his grandfather. He is probably a descendent of the team's old pipe and taborer. He can be heard singing and playing 'Jolly Jarge on the Topic record 'When Sheep-shearing’s Done' and will still occasionally play the piano in ‘The Old George’ although this has now been relegated to the pub corridor. The New Field Towners, as Mr I,ongshaw called the team, did not reform after the Great War.


Ernie Longshaw died on Christmas Day 1978.





There are three possible courses which single-tradition revival sides can take. One is to reconstruct an old tradition and dance this in unvarying form. This is approximately what Old Spot have done. Another alternative is to create an entirely new tradition. Chingford Morris have based their dances on the minimum of traditional authority. We have adopted a third strategy which is to take a traditional basis and gradually pad this out and adapt it to modern requirements. Our dance repertoire is fairly close to that of the old Field Town sides although we have several made-up dances and tunes, but some of the subtler stepping details have undergone considerable evolution. The major sources of information which have been used are:


1. Volumes IV and V of the Morris Book by Cecil Sharp. This is mainly selected and adapted (not very much) material from his manuscripts and collected from Henry Franklin.


2.  Sharp's Manuscripts. These are his 'written up' notes. Typed, bound copies (under the title 'Folk Dance Notes') can be consulted at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House, London. I have not seen Sharp's field notes which sometimes differ from the MSS. The manuscripts also contain copies of Percy Manning's notes from the visits to Leafield in the 1890's but these refer mainly to costumes not to steps and dances. Manning's manuscripts are kept in The Bodleian Library Oxford.


3.  A Handbook of Morris Dancing by Lionel Bacon. This is a large compendium of most of the available information on the various Cotswold Traditions including the tunes. The information about Leafield is indexed under Field Town.  It includes the material collected by Sharp and additional information from Schofield. Some of the latter material is of uncertain origin and may include Schofield's own inventions such as the spiral rounds.  Some of the material listed under Field Town was collected from Minster Lovell and one or two dances may have had other origins. Often a clear cut sequence is given in the text but when reference is made to the manuscripts it is clear that there was often uncertainty about how the step was performed.


There are fragments of information scattered in the journals of the E.F.D.S.S. The most important is Schofield's 'Morris Dances From Field Town' published in The Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, volume 2, 1928, pp 22-28. Some interesting background information about the Leafield men and some notes from the Travelling Morrice are to be found in Katherine Briggs’ Folklore of the Cotswolds.


The incompleteness of the collected material means that ambiguities about how to do a step or dance often arise.  We have tended to capitalize on these and have invariably chosen an alternative different from that commonly practised. This has allowed us to develop our own style without necessarily straying far from traditional authority. For example Sharp collected the handkerchief dance 'Shepherds Hey' from Henry Franklin on two different occasions. On these two occasions Franklin gave rather different hand movements during the pause. Sharp chose to publish the 'signposts' version which is now universal but he gave no reason for omitting the other possibility. Judging by the manuscripts there were considerable uncertainties about the slow capers and heel and toe steps and Sharp himself admits to being floored by the back-steps. In some cases we have deliberately invented our own ways of doing steps because we thought it looked better e.g. the arm movements accompanying the back steps. In other situations we have achieved 'uniqueness' by conforming accurately to tradition. This is especially true for the stick dances, also we do not dance the spiral rounds or usual back steps which have become characteristic Field Town features although there is no traditional authority for either.


A further source of variation has come from our discovery of the revival Leafield team. The rather scanty information collected from Ernie Longshaw suggests that the New Field Towners danced a hybrid repertoire of Leafield and other (? Headington) dances. However, we have been able to reconstruct two new stick dances by combining stick-tapping information collected from Mr Longshaw with tunes from the earlier side (Shepherds Hey and Balance the Straw). We aren't unduly concerned about the uncertain origins of these dances, they work and that's good enough.





At present the team has gone a long way towards achieving some of the resolutions outlined in the early days of its formation. However, the maintenance of a continuously high standard is an extremely difficult task requiring constant vigilance and effort all round. Concert pianists do not stop practising once they have achieved their first prestigious recital - they practise for hours each day every day. Older morris dancers take note! Future success will depend on the thorough training of new recruits, the propagation of enthusiasm, constant self criticism and continual striving to jump higher, step better and put on an even more spectacular performance.


Jeff Bates

Version 4 (Mainly December 1979)

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