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Talk – “Morris dances in Cumbria in the early twentieth century” – Sue Allan (LIVE on Zoom)

Image: Wigton Morris dancers 1911

Talk – “Merrie England, May Day and more: Morris dances in Cumbria in the early twentieth century” – Sue Allan

NOTE: Change of date from 14th to 28th January.

Cumbria is rarely, if ever, considered as a place with a history of morris dancing. However the late Victorian/Edwardian passion for patriotic celebrations incorporating Romantic ideas of ‘Merrie England’, complete with maypoles and morris dancing, encouraged many Cumbrian towns and villages to develop their own May Day celebrations and carnivals. A number of these included morris dancing, usually performed by school children.

Keswick Maypole Dancers 1892
Keswick Maypole Dancers 1892

In this illustrated talk, Sue Allan considers the styles and sources of the dances performed at Keswick, Ulverston, Wigton, Blennerhasset, Cockermouth and Workington, which she has researched for over forty years. Newspaper reports, memoirs and even a novel reveal tantalising glimpses of the dancing, while photographs of dancers and interviews with former performers and teachers shed yet more light on performances. Sources for the dances include borrowings from Lancashire morris traditions, early twentieth-century books on Cotswold morris and the major influence of two individuals: Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the founders of the National Trust, and west Cumbrian dancing master Oliver Cowper.

Talk for approx 50 mins then time for Q&A.

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Throstle's Nest Morris performing the Wigton dance in 1979
Throstle’s Nest Morris performing the Wigton dance in 1979

Born and bred in Cumbria, Sue Allan’s career has included work in local radio and TV, with Cumbrian arts organisations and writing for Cumbria Life magazine, for which she is still a regular contributor. Sue has been involved with folk music as a singer, musician, dancer and latterly as an academic since her school days, co-founding Carlisle Morris Men – for which she was musician – in 1974, and women’s team Throstle’s Nest Morris in 1977. She is the third generation of her family to perform Wigton’s morris dance

To register

Please complete this online form: Register for the Talk -“Merrie England, May Day and more: Morris dances in Cumbria in the early twentieth century – Sue Allan”; you will receive a confirmation email immediately (check your spam/junk/promotions folder!).  We will send you a Zoom link a couple of days before the event.  Open to all – you don’t have to be a member of a team in The Morris Federation.  NOTE: Date change from 14th to 28th January.


The Morris Federation’s Notation Library holds dance notation for the Wigton, Blennerhasset and Keswick dances.

Sue Allan’s Academia page, where full text of her chapter in ‘The Histories of Morris in Britain’ can be found and downloaded. Her chapter there, of the same name as this talk, comprises basically the same information as the talk:

Optional Donations

If you enjoy this event, then it would be wonderful if you could send a donation, small or large, to Sue’s chosen place – The Morris Federation.  Click ‘Buy Now’ to donate by Paypal (opens in new window – enter “Sue Allan” in the description, and close that window when finished).  Or contact us (select Membership & Merchandise) for our BACS details – please use “Sue Allan” as the reference for your donation.


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