Tag Archives: dance outs

Annual Roundup 2020

“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.

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!

Musicians practicing in Bedford Park

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!

Blast from the past #1 – Red Cuthbert’s first dance out: The Three Cups, 20 September 2012

During lockdown our roving reporter interviewed (okay, swapped emails from home with!) one of the original members about the side’s first public appearance. It was a September evening at one of Bedford’s finest pubs. What they found out is preserved here for posterity…

The side was formed in the spring of 2012, and first danced out that autumn. Could you tell me about the time in-between? It must have been busy finding somewhere to practice, learning and writing dances, recruiting enough dancers and musicians? How long was there between starting the side and that first performance?

We did our very first practice, 5 of us, on a patio on Friday 13th April 2012, an all-round Good Friday. We were wanting to see if it would be possible to start our own side, especially changing dances written for 6 people down to 4. We found quite quickly that we could adjust them especially once we’d invented the teardrop hey in that first session (adaptation of the Adderbury hey from 6 to 4 people).

Red Cuthbert dancing at their first gig
A six person dance being performed by four

We looked at different practice venues but found St Cuthbert’s Hall pretty quickly. We spent some time faffing with other practicalities, but once JB (seasoned Morris Man and county supplier of seasoned sticks!) had furnished us with some old sticks he had lying around, we were up and running.

When was the first dance out decided? How did you pick the time and place? There are a lot of good pubs in Bedford, was it a controversial decision to go to the Three Cups?

We ended up at The Three Cups by serendipity, like most of Red Cuthbert’s fortune. We finished our first practice, decided to go for a drink so walked down Newnham Street. The Castle looked a bit full that day so we carried on to The Three Cups. They’ve been welcoming to us ever since! We did quite a few practices, every other week for the first year or so, but soon decided we needed an aim so booked the first dance out for the September. That made a big difference to our practices – we were focussed on getting ourselves presentable.

Red Cuthbert posing in the pub after their first dance out

How big was the side? Some of the photos show dances for four, but there is a fair sized band in others as well as you and another dancer taking photos…

We started with 5 of us who had Morris danced before and quickly gained a 6th experienced dancer. By the time we did the first dance out we had also enlisted 2 friends new to Morris – one dancer and one musician as well as taking in a Folk musician who was new to these parts and was found wandering in The Three Cups.

Red Cuthbert’s musicians

So, how did it go? Do you remember a favourite moment?

Cake is often a feature of Red Cuthbert’s morris activities

It’s difficult to remember back to that first dance out now. I definitely remember a festive and excited feel.

S—- made a black and red cake (no mean feat, not sure how much food colouring went into that). It was a little chilly outside, although not for the dancers!

I can probably guess some of the dances from the photographs, do you know what the set list was?

I know we danced Bluebells (Adderbury), Vandals (Lichfield), plus there’s one photo that looks like we’re about to dance the Upton-Upon-Severn Stick Dance (Chingford tradition, for the precision Morris connoisseur) all adapted for 4 but I couldn’t tell you what other dances we had in the set at that point.

Red Cuthbert performing The Vandals of Hammerwich at their first dance out

An uncertain dance at Red Cuthbert’s first public performance. It’s probably the start of the “morris” figure that begins the Upton Upon Severn (Chingford) stick dance?

We felt from the beginning that we wanted to do a mix of traditional Morris dances (Cotswold and Border) but also keep it as a live tradition by adding dances we made up. I’m can’t remember if we had any ready by the time we did this first dance out – if we did it may well have been the Cuthbert’s Brawl to the tune of The Bear.

This definitely looks like the start of “Cuthbert’s Brawl”, a new morris dance written by the side

What was the audience like? How did they enjoy it?

We had great support from friends and punters at the pub. I don’t believe any of them watching were familiar with Morris, but we took their compliments all the same.

Anyway, what happened next? Were there “lessons learned” from the first gig?

We learnt a lot from that first dance out. Mainly that having a dance out to work towards makes all the difference to practice. But another lesson that we’ve taken with us since is that it takes a long time to face paint on every side member and no matter what you do, face paint will always run off M—‘s face.