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Constitution – developing a team constitution


We sometimes get enquiries from Morris teams for advice on disagreements in teams and how to manage that.  The sort of issues that have arisen include the Treasurer siphoning off money that belonged to the team; who ‘owns the side name; booking list or dance when a team splits in two’, and how to manage someone who is ‘taking over the side’.  To all these queries our first response has been “What does it say in your constitution?”  Inevitably, the answer is, “We don’t have one”.

A constitution will not give all the answers but it will give a framework for the team to operate in.  You may decide to have a very detailed one, spelling out all the processes or it may be very brief.  Whatever you decide to do, the key parts of the constitution need to be:

  • Name of the organisation
  • Aims and objectives
  • Who can be members
  • What the officers are
  • Their accountability
  • AGM and the decision-making process
  • How finances are managed
  • Assets of the team

Contents of your Constitution

What follows is a series of headings and suggestions for the constitution and you could include all or as few as you need, provided you cover the above points.

Name of the Organisation

This shouldn’t be too difficult but don’t forget it!

Aims and Objectives

The only condition of membership of the Morris Federation is that member teams are expected to share the aims of the Morris Federation.

To remind you, these are:

  1. To encourage and promote morris and related activities, for anyone who wants to participate or to spectate
  2. To provide a channel of communication between member sides
  3. To encourage the improvements of standards of dancing and related activities among its members
  4. To encourage an environment for morris and related activities where all feel safe, welcomed and respected

You might want to adapt these in some form or add them to describe your team (as single gender, joint or mixed team).

For example:

  1. To encourage and promote Morris dancing by anyone of any age, and to promote the team as a women-only side
  2. To contribute to communication between different Morris sides
  3. To encourage the improvement of standards of dancing and related activities among the team members
  4. To encourage an environment for morris and related activities where all feel safe, welcomed and respected

Or write something that reflects the spirit of the Federation aims, but more to your taste.

For example:

  1. To research dances of the North West of England and to encourage their public display to high standards by the Goblin Morris
  2. To encourage fun, fitness and fellowship amongst the members and to meet with other Morris teams for workshops, ales and festivals
  3. To encourage an environment where all feel safe, welcomed and respected


This can be as simple as saying,

“Membership is open to anyone aged over 18” (or whatever you set your lowest age limit)


            “Men of any age” (which allows you to have children in the side)


“Dancing members can be women of any age (which may state your dancing preferences), and musicians can be of any gender.” 

If your membership is restricted to one gender, you might want to make sure that your aims and objectives reflect the first Federation aim – i.e. to encourage the practice of Morris dancing by anyone of any age.  This is particularly important if you are seeking funding and you are required to submit your constitution as part of the bidding process, and equal opportunity policies will apply.

You may also wish to add in something about how a new person can become a member – is it bu turnign up to practices, or do they need to be invited to join, and what happens if you don’t want them!

For example:

“A new member can attend for three weeks, and on the third week they will be asked by the Leader (or other executive officer if the Leader is not present), if they wish to join the side”

You may then wish to state when they become liable for subscriptions, e.g. pro rata for the rest of the term or quarter, or at the beginning of the next term/quarter, depending on how you pay your subscriptions.

You may wish to reserve the right to turn someone away or to ‘put them on probation’ for a period.  It must be clear who takes this decision and how it is conveyed to the new person.

For example:

“On the third attendance of the new member the Leader and Dance Teacher will decide whether to invite the new person to join the side.  It is the responsibility of the Leader to convey this to the new member, or in their absence, another executive officer”.

Officers of the Side

This should state what the officers are, what they are expected to do, how they are elected. 

For example:

Leader/Squire  “The Leader is responsible for the running of the side and acts as spokesperson for the side.  The other officers are accountable to the Leader.  When on a tour or a booking the Leader is in charge and in consultation with the Dance Teacher decides on the order of dance and who should dance”.

Secretary/Bagman/Bagwoman  “The Secretary is responsible for the organisation of bookings and in liaison with other teams and organisations.  They will keep an up-to-date membership list and will identify who is eligible to vote.  The Secretary will keep an up-to-date kit list and will advise members on acquiring and maintaining kit.  The Secretary will keep an up-to-date list of assets of the team and note who holds those assets”.

Treasurer  “The Treasurer is responsible for identifying the financial needs of the side and proposing how that might be met from the income generated from bookings and subscriptions.  They are responsible for collecting, subscriptions; managing the team bank account and collecting fees from paid bookings.  They will provide an annual statement of accounts at the AGM and will make recommendations on the level of subscriptions.”

Dance Teacher/Foreman/Forewoman  “The Dance Teacher shall be responsible for identifying dances, teaching and improving the standard of dancing and dance interpretation.  They will be responsible in consultation with the Leader for deciding when new members are ready to go into kit, what dances should be performed at a booking or tour, and which dancers should do them”.

As these all relate to the functioning of the side, they are the executive officers.  You may wish to include other, non-executive officers, and describe their posts.  Some suggestions have been, for example:

  • Sticks / Kit / Equipment
  • Archive/scrap book
  • Publicity and marketing
  • Web Site
  • Social Media

The constitution should then state the overall accountability of the officers, including

  • When the officers are elected, e.g. at an AGM
  • How long they are in post for, e.g. one year or two years at a time
  • Maximum length of time an officer can be in post, e.g. three years or no limit
  • The officers are to present a report to the AGM on their work for the year
  • Whom should be signatories to the bank account, e.g. all executive officers are signatories, and that for any transaction it should be the Treasurer and at least one other executive officer (or you might choose the Treasurer and two other executive officers).

Annual General Meeting

This should identify

  • When the AGMs are normally held, e.g. July, October, etc.
  • When the date of the next AGM is agreed, e.g. at the previous AGM
  • When the team members should be notified, e.g. four weeks beforehand and should it be in writing or verbally
  • How EGMs are called, e.g. at the request of a third of the membership; the Leader to arrange same within six weeks; and to issue the agenda to the membership two weeks beforehand

You may wish to include the following in the constitution or have them as separate standing orders for your AGM:

  • Who can vote, e.g. only fully paid-up members, or those who have attended at least one third of the practices for the full year
  • Who should take the chair, e.g. the Leader
  • What the quorum is, e.g. 40% of the membership
  • What you do if you are inquorate, e.g. wait for half an hour and then cancel the meeting, set another date with written notice to all members and consider the new meeting quorate regardless of how many attend
  • Who should take the minutes, e.g. the Secretary
  • Who should be the Teller if there is to be voting
  • Whether proxy votes are allowed and the process for that
  • How constitutional changes may be made e.g. by 60% of all votes
  • How voting for motions is done that are not constitutional changes, e.g. majority of show of hands
  • How voting for officers is done, e.g. nominations proposed and seconded, vote by secret ballot or by show of hands
  • If necessary who has the casting vote, e.g. the Chair

Similarly, you may wish to establish a standard agenda, either in the constitution or in the standing orders. 

For example

  • Apologies for absence
  • Minutes of the previous meeting (circulated)
  • Matters arising
  • Annual reports from executive officers (Leader, Secretary, Dance Teacher, Treasurer, including accounts sheet)
  • Annual reports from other officers (publicity, sticks, etc.)
  • Identification of voters
  • Election of Teller
  • Election of Officers
  • Subscription review
  • Kit review
  • Practice night and venue
  • Motions for discussion
  • Any other business
  • Thanks to outgoing officers
  • Date of the next AGM


This needs to address the following:

  • When the subscription is set, e.g. at the AGM
  • How they should be paid, e.g. weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually
  • Who it should be paid to, e.g. Treasurer
  • Who is liable to pay, e.g. all members; only members in full employment, etc.
  • If reductions are waived subs are available for people who are in full-time education only, or who are unemployed or unwaged, etc.


You may wish to include some guidelines on kit

For example

  • “Kit purchased by the side remains the property of the side and should be returned to the side when members leave”. This would normally related to bells, baldricks, sticks, possibly hats, etc.
  • Whether a kit subsidy is available (in which case you need to be clear how it differs from the above, but generally the kit subsidy would be for more personal items, e.g. shoes shirts, etc.) and to whom it is available, e.g. new members and current members every three years (to review their personal kit).
  • Where agreements are made on kit, e.g. at the AGM or EGM called for that reason
  • Who has responsibility for information on kit, e.g. the Secretary
  • Who is responsible for monitoring the standard of kit
  • Who is responsible for deciding who goes into kit

Assets of the Side

Assets of the side include a number of things which you may wish to protect

  • The name of the team (and therefore its reputation and goodwill)
  • Dance repertoire if it is a made-up tradition/style
  • Team records (scrapbooks, dance lists, AGM minutes)
  • Equipment, e.g. parts of kit; musical instruments; sticks; hankies; drums, first aid kit, catering items, etc. Kit not purchased by individual members remains the property of the team and should be returned when members leave.
  • The money in the bank account
  • Digital asset, including documents, photographs and website, together with any copyright or intellectual property therein.
  • In the event of an irreconcilable team split with most members wishing to continue dancing, the assets of the team will belong to the majority group. In the event of both groups being of equal size, the assets will belong to the group with the most elected officers.  If this is equal, the assets will belong to the group containing the elected Leader.

Please note that the above paragraph is a suggestion for you to consider as demonstration of intent and is not prescriptive!  But also note that if a team does split it can be a very tricky time and at the end of the day if there is no agreement on how that process may work, there is nothing to stop both parts of the team trying to carry on.  The majority group could take all the assets (equipment, dances, and money) but you might have another view on it.  The main thing is to try to have a consensus before it becomes necessary.

Team Folding

It is worthwhile putting some thoughts at an early stage into what happens to the assets of the side if the side either folds through lack of numbers or there is an irretrievable split in the side so that it breaks into two groups.

For example, if a side folds:

“In the event of the side ceasing to exist, The Morris Federation will be advised of the fact and information on the dance repertoire will be lodged with The Morris Federation archives.  If current and past members then wish to teach our dance repertoire then they may do so.  However, past and current members are asked not to teach the dance repertoire to other people while the team continues to function.

The equipment and any remaining funds shall be offered to one or more Morris sides and / or donated to a recognised charity with similar aims and objectives, as chosen by majority vote of the remaining members.

Here is a detailed example:

  1. In the following section, “members” are those persons defined as per section 3 and whose subscription is still valid at the time the decision to fold is taken.
  2. The decision to fold must be taken at an Extraordinary General Meeting
  3. The assets of the side will be disposed of as follows:
    • i) The name of the team will be given up.
    • ii) Dance repertoire will be lodged with the Morris Federation.
    • iii) Team records (scrapbooks, dance lists, AGM minutes) will be lodged with the Morris Federation.
    • iv) Kit not purchased by individual members which was the property of the team will be offered first to the members who hold them for purchase for the sum of £1 in full and final settlement. Any equipment (e.g. sticks, spare hankies, drums, stick bags, first aid kit and catering items) will first be offered to members for a reasonable market price.

      “Branded” items still in the team’s possession after offering to members may at the discretion of the EGM be destroyed rather than offered to others. If bell pads are considered to be “branded” items they should be dismantled and the bells passed on.

      Finally, any items of any sort not thus disposed of will be offered to other Morris team(s) or community groups with similar aims or to the Morris Federation by agreement of a majority of members. The EGM may appoint a member or members in committee to arrange such disposal with delegated power to decide on the recipient, and/or timing and/or price (if any). Any items not disposed of will be given to charity.

    • v) The money in the bank account, which shall include all receipts from the disposal of equipment shall be donated as follows, in this order:
      • to charity – there is a tradition that a percentage of our annual collection is given to charity. At least this percentage of the total funds must be donated to a charity, either as agreed at the EGM or to the last charity in receipt of team funds before the team folded.  The EGM may decide to increase the percentage up to and including 100% but it may not donate less than the traditional percentage.
      • to members – all members may receive an amount not exceeding their last annual subscription payment. The EGM may not increase this limit but has the power to reduce this payment “pro-rata”, i.e. by that proportion of the subscription that corresponds to the proportion of the calendar year (subscriptions take effect from Jan 1st) that has already elapsed.
      • any remaining funds to be donated to the Morris Federation with a request that it be used to preserve and make available the team’s dance repertoire, visual record (photographs, scrapbooks etc), and team archive in that order.
    • vi) Digital assets, including documents, photographs and website, together with any copyright or intellectual property therein shall be archived and the archive offered to the Morris Federation. Team accounts with social media (etc) shall be closed down.


Best of luck!  We hope it doesn’t seem too daunting.  Your constitution should probably be 2 sheets of A4 with up to 2 sheets of A4 on standing orders.

Other Guidance

In addition to this guidance, this resource gives a similar overview of the kinds of things to consider:

Last updated: March 2020

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