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“Morris Dolls in the Museum of British Folklore” – a talk by Simon Costin

Review of the talk “Morris Dolls in the Museum of British Folklore” presented by Simon Costin on 11th December 2021 via Zoom, attended by an international audience of over 80 participants from Netherlands, Sweden, UK and USA.

Janet, Cilla and Sandra of Fiddlesticks North West Clog write:

“Simon’s talk of Morris Dolls in the Museum of British Folklore was both informative and entertaining.  He started off by giving us a brief history of his family holidays in Devon and Cornwall and how he became interested in what villagers were celebrating, followed later by finding out about seasonal festivals – apparently there are over 700 seasonal events!

Simon Costin painted caravanHe set about trying to establish a Museum of Folklore and to that end bought a caravan for £270, which he converted into a Touring Exhibition Caravan, appropriately decorated on the outside and innovatively fitted out for displays on the inside, as the photographs proved.  This enabled him to share the exhibits with more people by means of visits to Folk Festivals such as Sidmouth and Whitby.  The Pop-Up Shops and collaboration with other interested parties in Port Elliot, Fenland Museum at Denny Abbey and Compton Verney to name but three; Studios and Galleries as in The Crypt Gallery in London and others enabled Simon to take the exhibits to an even wider audience.  The exhibits tell the story, a very visual way of sharing a unique part of our history, past and present.

morris dolls mortimer and anstey royal chalfontThe definite highlight of the talk was a selection of the 200 Dressed Morris Dolls, which had been offered for Morris Sides to personalise in their side’s kit and return along with a short history.  The Dolls he showed are truly amazing in their detail: tiny clogs, miniscule bells, bloomers, baldrics, rosettes, hats, etc.  Well done to the sides who have already dressed a doll and may the number continue to rise to include the other 600 sides (I’m sure that, like us, there are many who aspire to see a doll in their kit as part of the Folklore Museum).  Not only are there talented dancers, musicians and callers in the Morris world, but many experts with needle and thread.  

morris doll loose womenSimon told us of the logistics of the scheme to date and his vision for the future, with plans to exhibit in Launceston and Stratford in 2022 and Compton Verney again in 2023.  And of course it would be ideal to have the Folklore Museum in a building.  As with all ventures the hidden costs – insurance, hire of venues, the expense of travelling, the price of the dolls and postage – all have to be met, and grant applications are extremely time consuming, not to mention frustrating if unsuccessful.

morris doll black dragon“The talk ended with a question time when several people offered ideas for possible funding; requests for the pattern of the doll to be available, thus saving the museum the costs; future venues etc.

“Well done to Simon for developing the Museum of British Folklore, for his clear presentation, a thoroughly enjoyable event as the number of participants via Zoom proved, and thanks to the Morris Federation for hosting it.

by Janet, Cilla and Sandra of Fiddlesticks North West Clog Morris Dancers of Norwich, Norfolk


Simon Costin in tall museum hatAbout Simon Costin

Simon Costin is the founder of the Museum of British Folklore and also the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall.

Donations from participants raised money for the Museum of British Folklore:

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