“The year has been a complete balls up” as our Squire summarised during the world’s fastest AGM… this review will be a little longer, but there’s not an awful lot more to say than that.
To be fair, the year didn’t start that badly. We’d marked Christmas 2019 with our annual Mummers’ Play, touring the Kent-, Burnaby- and Foresters’- -Arms (check out these photos of the Mummers Play by the fab Tu Plus Tu Photography on Facebook).
Though not a side activity some of us who happened to be at the same party danced the New Year in with lightsabers at midnight, then weekly Thursday practices resumed and in late January we had our traditionally-a-month-late side Christmas Curry.
29 February saw our one and only public performance of the year. As the date that only comes up in Leap Years, we named this Caper Day and headed down to the Wellington Arms, a great little pub – I’d rank it more highly than the fifth best nightlife in Bedford it gets on Trip Advisor, but it’s my sort of boozer!
A couple of weeks later we decided to call a halt to practices after Thursday 12 March, with what turned out to be some foresight ahead of the guidance to avoid unnecessary social contact from 16 March. 21 March saw us participating in the first Lone Morris Festival, just before the formal “lockdown” announcement on 23 March.
Lots of the side then found themselves “working through”, with several taking on new roles or different responsibilities at short notice. We didn’t go down the virtual meetings route some teams have taken, as the downside of being a “young” side is that many of us have been “Zoomed out” by work before considering battling technology for fun in the evenings as well.
We did finally get around to updating this website at least, though enthusiasm for blogposts that have to be rather retrospective at the moment has waxed and waned.
Lockdown also saw important discussions among the folk community. Red Cuthbert wholly supported the Joint Morris Organisations’ stance on “blacking up” the motion to take measures to stop this practice and want to be very clear we are anti-racist and pro-kindness as a side. We were also concerned (but sadly not surprised) by the reports of sexual misconduct within the world of folk music and dance that surfaced during the summer, and entirely condemn such behaviour wherever it happens.
Respect to all who have made the difficult decision to speak. No part of society can be assumed to be immune – we hope that everyone in the folk arts will now be prepared to call out concerning behaviour they may witness or experience personally… https://t.co/JOFRzj1eAX— EFDSS (@TheEFDSS) July 27, 2020
When restrictions eased, we stayed cautious about our activities as our close and enthusiastic dancing obviously isn’t conducive to social distancing and even if we managed to practice it seemed unlikely we’d have any opportunities to perform. Our musicians did get together for some tunes in Bedford Park though, and passers-by seemed to enjoy it – we even got a couple of families dancing as they passed, never mind that it wasn’t Morris!
I did take a short video, but we’re not not so proud as to pretend that it is fit for wider consumption, nice though it would be to have something to add to our YouTube Channel.
Then there was another lockdown, and we got our acts together enough to hold our (virtual) AGM. Epic though such meetings can be, with prior organisation we got ours down to 8 minutes and 22 seconds, though making a couple of changes as we did so.
The side’s two joint Foremen, known as the Eightman, stepped down and another member has stepped up to take their place as and when we can start to practice again, and I took over the role of Communications Wizzzard responsible for publicity. The Squire remains unchanged this year.
Our biggest expense has always been hall hire, and with no practice happening this cost vanished, so the big decision of the AGM was that side funds would be better spent on good causes than sitting unused in our bank account. Red Cuthbert is happy to have been able to afford to donate to Bedford Foodbank to help those in need and Dine With Us who feed the homeless and run the Community Larder social enterprise. We also voted to donate some cash to the English Folk Dance and Song Society Crisis Appeal to help their work to keep the folk arts alive in a year when they’ve lost a lot of income.
…and that, such as it was, was 2020. Fingers crossed for a better 2021!