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Record rise in numbers

Record rise in number of people taking part in morris dancing

  • The 2020 morris census found a record rise in the number of people participating in morris dancing – an increase of approximately 800 dancers since 2014, meaning over 13,600 now regularly take part in morris dancing in the UK.
  • Surge in rapper sword dancing and ‘border’ morris amongst young people
  • Within 50% of the Morris teams surveyed, men and women perform together.
  • The average age of dancers has risen to 55, up from 52 in 2014. The average age of new recruits is 45.
  • Most teams prioritise socialising and having fun. 40% of teams prioritise ‘preserving tradition’ as a motivational factor for their participants, down from 47%.


A survey of the UK’s morris dance teams has found a surge in interest and participation in the hobby, despite lockdown and other Coronavirus restrictions impacting upon all forms of group dance.

The 2020 Morris Census, which takes place every 3 years with the aim of establishing the health of morris dancing in the UK, has found that the number of dancers has increased from 12,800 in 2014 to over 13,600 today. This sustained increase in the number of dancers is thought to be the biggest increase since the fabled ‘folk revival’ of the 1960s and 70s, and should put to rest the frequent claim that morris dance is a dying pastime.

Fifty percent of all morris teams surveyed are mixed gendered, (though data was not collected on the number of trans or non-binary participants). Many teams are a family affair featuring parents and children dancing together. This could be one of the reasons that there is an equal number of men and women participating in the hobby for the first time.

The 2020 Morris census shows a surge in younger recruits to the fast and furious rapper sword dancing from the North East, and the dark and moody border dancing from the English-Welsh border. In addition, there has also been a fall in the number of teams who agree that ‘preserving the tradition’ of morris is important to them, leading to the likelihood that morris continues to evolve and change in the future.

However, not all is rosy. The average age of dancers has continued to increase, up from 52 in 2014 to 55 today. Just one in ten dancers are under 30, with seven out of ten being over 50, although there is some positive news, as the average age of new recruits is 45.

Morris dancing was suspended at the start of Covid-19 restrictions in March 2020, with social distancing rules and limits on numbers meeting making any form of dance impossible. However, many teams continued to practice remotely and a number of online events and festivals provided teams with the opportunity to participate in their hobby and connect with each other and new dancers.

As teams begin to practice and dance out again it is hoped that interest in the hobby may increase further, with people looking for new ways of keeping active and socialising after so long in semi-isolation.


Pauline Woods-Wilson, President of the Morris Federation said: “We’re really optimistic about the future of morris dancing. We know there’s work to do to ensure we keep attracting new members, maintain a good gender balance and appeal to people from more diverse backgrounds. But now we are all out dancing again since the pandemic, we are showing the social and physical benefits of morris dancing – and just what good fun it is!”

James Merryclough, Joint-Captain of the Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers, a 150-year old team of dancers from Sheffield, said: “We’re very keen to continue the strong recruitment we’ve achieved in recent years. We’ve seen a surge in interest in our traditional Yorkshire longsword dances, particularly when we dance in the student pubs of Sheffield. In 2018 we changed our constitution which brought in a number of female members and we have also introduced some innovative new dances. We recognise that we are custodians of a tradition, but we don’t want to be historical reenactors. Morris and associated folk dance is a living tradition and we’re happy to innovate and change to attract new members.”

About teams going mixed:

Pauline Woods-Wilson, President of the Morris Federation said: “All 3 morris organisations welcome single sex and mixed teams. If a team changes from single sex to mixed, that means there is more choice of teams for someone to join, which is great news for the people in their area. Gender-free calling for social dances and ceilidhs is now very much the norm, and single-sex morris teams going mixed will mean that they are open to non-binary and trans members too”.


Last Updated: August 2021, updated October 2022



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