We also want to flag up one slight change we are making this year over the issue of Morris sides painting their faces.
Morris sides will all be aware of the publicity and discussion that have emerged over the last few years regarding dancers painting their faces black; whatever your personal beliefs over the history and origins no one can deny that there is confusion and controversy over the issue. In previous festivals we’ve had negative feedback from ordinary people in Oxford, who having seen dancers in full black make up have found them at the least bemusing, and at the worst insulting and racist. The Folk Weekend committee have had a long discussion on how we handle this; we all firmly believe that sides who choose to black up are not doing so in a racist way, however this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a practice which must or should continue in this form, and that folk traditions need to evolve and move with the times in order to stay relevant and engaging.
This is a complex subject, and we recognise that it’s a personal decision for each side and each dancer as to whether they feel comfortable blacking up or not, but we do ask that if you wish to participate in Folk Weekend 2020 that all dancers and musicians moderate their make up so that no one is in full black face paint.
Wherever you are in Oxford, you’ll never be far from a morris team!
Our local tradition is Cotswold Morris; many of the villages in the Cotswolds have their own style of dance. You'll see dancers waving hankies, and wearing baldricks, waistcoat or rosettes over a shirt, and bells around their knees.
North West Morris is from the villages and towns of Lancashire and Cheshire; the mill workers would come out in their clogs and dance in the streets. The dance style was commonly used in processions, many of the dances have been adapted for to be stationary as well as new ones written.
Welsh Border Morris is from the counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire. Face paint or masks are often used as a disguise, and the kit usually consists of tatters dangling from a jacket, and a lavishly decorated hat!
Rapper Sword Dancing originates from the mining villages of Northumberland and County Durham; 5 people dance linked using double handed flexible swords, weaving different figures for display.
Clog Step dancing grew out of the industrial areas of Great Britain, with the miners and other labours dancing solo in clogs on the spot, often having competitions as well as performing for pleasure.