FOR FOLK’S SAKE, MORRIS DANCING & ME
TX: 9pm 1st April 2019 BBC FOUR & BBC iPlayer
Yes, April Fools Day…
An open letter:
Dear Morris Community
I’m writing this note to thank everyone who contributed to the documentary both on and off camera. We and many of you have spent the last year making what we believe to be an important film about The Morris in 2018.
Thank you all so much for your support, trust and patience with us during the process. We’ve tried our very best to make an engaging and celebratory film but also one that is an honest portrayal of the people we met and the changes we witnessed over the last year.
I’m David Barnes, one of the directors of “For Folk’s Sake” and Creative
Director at Libra Television. Together with my partner & Exec Producer at
Libra, Louise Lynch, I co-produced this film with Richard Macer of Platform Productions who also directs and features as the presenter and narrator. I greatly admire Richard for accepting the challenge of coming out from behind the camera on a national platform to explore firsthand what it takes to learn to dance the Morris. I’m sure many of you will empathise with the challenges he faces in doing so.
We hope the film showcases a diverse set of views about the changes we
witnessed during last year.
I do apologise if the broadcast schedule changes have caused some
confusion. The transmission (TX) was amended by the BBC at the last minute before the press deadline last week to avoid a clash with Line of Duty on BBC1. We and the BBC want the film to get as large an audience as possible so the new TX at 9pm on Monday 1st April is a much better slot. It’s definitely not intended as an April Fool’s joke!
The 02.55 broadcast on 31st March is the signed version, which will have an interpreter for the deaf on screen with the image slightly set back in the frame, possibly with captions. If you prefer to watch the film with clean pictures, please wait until Monday 1st April 9pm or watch both!
I hope the Morris community enjoys the film. We made it both for you and a wide audience, which is quite a tricky task. You can’t please all the people all the time; it’s a delicate balancing act.
An email that was forwarded to me today, from a side that has seen the
documentary states: “…the film crew have done an excellent and sympathetic job in portraying Morris Dancing and the controversy surrounding the admission to the Morris Ring of teams with women dancers.”
Speaking of the Morris Ring. Whilst we make reference to The Fed and Open to help give context, we do primarily focus on The Ring as that’s where the story lay. Were we to have made the film in the early 1980s, the subject of the film no doubt would have been the formation of Open Morris and the Fed’s decision to open it’s membership to mixed sides and shortly after any Morris side, regardless of gender. Whilst there’s lots of write ups about gender wars, I do believe the actual conflict is generational and that’s what comes through in the film.
Apart from the Ring storyline, the film also includes sections about the history of the Morris as well as my colleague Richard’s own personal journey as he learns to dance. He uncovers a surprising familial connection to the Morris that many may find to be of interest. The film also follows Manchester Morris Men and other sides that undergo a drastic metamorphosis over the year due to the change in the Ring’s constitution and experience the observer effect that making the documentary had on them in terms of promoting much needed discussion.
One of the reasons we’ve put so much care into the film is that we’ve heard
many horror stories where sides have in the past been misled/misrepresented, have been made fun of and how the music and dance hasn’t been properly portrayed.
This time I hope that’s not the case. We’ve been extremely careful and gone
to great pains to represent the music and dance how we witnessed them
performed. We want to tell a gripping narrative, therefore the songs and
dances have to be edited to give a faithful impression and so we can feature numerous songs and dances in one hour.
That commitment to an honest portrayal also applies to the people and sides that were good enough to contribute to the film. I don’t believe we have misrepresented anyone. In fact, we’ve laboured to portray people as fairly as possible at the time we interviewed them. Don’t get me wrong, there are many great interviews that aren’t in the final cut and I know some people will be disappointed that their interviews haven’t made it. Hopefully you’ll see those opinions, or ones that are very similar, expressed by others (sometimes by other members of the same side) or by Richard in commentary.
We hope the facts are correct, a lot of time and effort has gone into checking them but I’ve regularly woken from a disturbed sleep, worrying that we’ve confused the three Bampton sides. To be fair though even some of the dancers didn’t know whether they were dancing for Bampton Traditional or Traditional Bampton or Bampton Morris!We had so much good footage not everything made it into the film. There are some fantastic discussions and changes we witnessed that had to be removed because they were similar to other narratives and we didn’t have time to include them all. I apologise profusely to all who fit this bill if you feel disappointed or slighted. But, if you are relieved not to be included (18-30s?), then great!
I also hope our film has a positive impact on the engagement of the Morris by outsiders. I hope, our film inspires the wider English community to engage in their own folk traditions.
Finally, one word was at the front of our minds when making this film and is key to all our decisions and that was ‘celebratory’. The tone was always
meant to be that, even when exploring with a critical eye some of the more
difficult aspects of the Morris communities we visited. I hope that comes
Once again… thanks!