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Kirtlington Morris – History and Dance Workshop

Review of the online talk and dance workshop by Kirtlington Morris of Oxfordshire given by past and present team members, on 21st March 2021.

Review by Malcolm Major

Kirtlington drawing“This was a fascinating look at the origins of the Kirtlington Cotswold tradition and the birth of the revival side in the 1970s, explained by many of the key characters involved. The talk also explored the evolution of their annual Lamb Ale and how it came to be such an important part of their year, and the session concluded with a well presented explanation of the steps and figures of the Kirtlington tradition together with a chance to try them all in the relative comfort of our own kitchens. The whole team had clearly worked hard together planning a highly coherent presentation and proceedings were admirably MCd by bagman John Mayo.

“The session started with a musical melodeon overture of 4 Kirtlington tunes from principal musician John Leslie. Following that Bob Dunlop talked about the origins of the Kirtlington Lamb Ale, a historic village festival and feast probably dating from the early 1600s, and remaining an important annual event into the early 20th century before being very successfully reestablished by the revival team.

“Next came a prerecorded presentation from Paul Davenport, followed by a live talk from Tim Radford, who between them explained how the Kirtlington revival in the late 1970s came about. Key to this were Paul, who had written a paper on the ‘lost’ Kirtlington tradition, Tim, then a dancer with Adderbury but instrumental in the training of the new side, and local folk performers ‘Portway Pedlars’, Len and Barbara Berry, with Len’s position as local Scout leader proving invaluable as the Scouts subsequently formed the core of the revival side.

Kirtlington and lady of the lamb“Nigel Holt, current squire, then spoke in more detail about Len and Barbara Berry. Len, a larger than life character, became first squire of the new team, while Barbara wrote and arranged tunes. Both remained fully involved until retiring to Chirk in the mid 1990s, but remained regular visitors to Lamb Ale for as long as they were able.

“Finally current foreman Dillon Browne explained the various steps and figures of the tradition, using recordings of the team in action to illustrate each of them, and giving opportunities to try them all at home. Distinctive elements include the upright and angular ‘hockleback’, and the unique Kirtlington Hey which is danced backwards. Dillon also showed some full videos of the team in action including a particularly sprightly Trunkles from 1991 on the old Arena stage at Sidmouth.

“Overall a really interesting afternoon – all the presenters spoke extremely well with good use of the Zoom capabilities to help their presentations – skills apparently hastily acquired in some cases, though it didn’t show! We’ll all be looking forward to seeing the team back in action very soon – meanwhile there is more information about the side and Lamb Ale on their website

Review by Malcolm Major of Berkshire Bedlam Morris

Donations from the participants raised money for Prostate Cancer UK

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