Running your own events
Most sides run their own events, sometimes just for themselves, sometimes inviting other teams/sides/clubs to join them. Some of the points to consider when organising an event are covered briefly below. These are mainly concerned with arranging dance tours.
Decide first of all what kind of tour it is, whether just for the side or for invited sides to join in. If other teams are to be invited, then start planning well in advance. It always takes longer than you think for sides to respond to invitations.
Next, decide where you want to dance and what other facilities are required, such as pubs to eat and drink in, car parks, hall etc. Plan a rough timetable and decide how many people you can cater for. Work out approximate costs and decide how these are going to be met, either by asking the invited sides to pay a set amount for the events, or by the host side paying themselves.
Inviting Other Sides
When deciding whom to invite, consider including any new teams in your area, as well as sides you are already friendly with. It will help new sides develop and hopefully reach a higher standard sooner. If you invite sides from outside your own area, remember they may need to be offered overnight accommodation so that they don’t have to make a long round trip in one day.
When writing to other sides, try to give them as much notice and information as possible. Include some idea of timing, whether just a day or a whole weekend, approximate cost, if any, and what meals etc. will be provided. Also include the date by which you need an answer and a contact name, address and telephone number. Don’t worry if you can’t give all the details with the initial invitation, as you can always provide more information later.
This is one of the most difficult areas to give general advice about, as different systems and attitudes apply in different locations. If there are other established teams in the area, the best approach is probably to ask them how they go about it.
Wherever you are intending to dance, you will usually need permission from the owners of the land. If you want to dance in the car park or garden of a pub, ask the landlord or landlady. If it is in a shopping centre, it may either be under the control of the local authority or it may be privately owned. In either case, contact the local council (City, District or County) either for permission to dance or, in the case of private property, to find out whom to contact for permission. You may need to make a few phone calls or web searches to find the right person, so don’t forget to keep details for future use. You may also need permission from the police in order to dance in a public place. Even if this is not a necessity, it is usually a good idea to inform them of planned events, as a courtesy, and in case of disruption to pedestrians or traffic.
But you also need to remember that Morris dancing or dancing of a similar nature is exempt from licensing under the Licensing Act 2003. Some councils nowadays levy an ‘administrative charge’. Be sure to do your research beforehand so that you are able to argue your case for not being inappropriately charged for dancing.
If you are planning to collect money while dancing, you may need permission from the local authority. If you are collecting for a charity, you will need to have the appropriate collecting pot from the charity, along with a license to do so. You should not collect in a hat for a charity. It may be important to ask in advance for permission to collect and, again, it is the owner of the property who will need to be approached. How collections are controlled varies greatly from area to area.
It may be enough simply to ask the local council, or it may be necessary to fill in forms, put notices in the paper and inform the police. In popular venues, it may be necessary to request permission very early. For instance, city centres are often booked up to a year in advance, especially if there are people collecting for a charity in the vicinity or in established busking spots. However, if you are collecting only from your immediate audience, you may not need permission at all. You really need to establish a good relationship with all other parties involved, and to develop a system that works for all of them. You are then much less likely to encounter difficulties. Since the Charities Act of ’95 you should not need to get a licence to collect unless you are doing it for a charitable purpose.
One point that is often overlooked when organising dancing out is contacting other sides in the area to let them know what is happening. This is especially true when a side plans to dance outside their own area, but it is also a good idea to contact other sides when you are going to dance in your own area. This is not to get permission to dance, as they cannot prevent you dancing anywhere, but it is essential to avoid clashes with other sides’ events and they may also be able to warn you of any particular local difficulties, etc. This can be particularly important in major tourist centres, as problems can and have been caused by over-dancing. It is also simply courteous to let the local side know – they might want to come and watch. Contacts for other sides can be found through the MF website, the Morris Ring’s website, Open Morris’ website, or the EFDSS’ website.
Performing in Public
When dancing out in public, don’t forget your audience. Make sure that they can see what you intend them to, hopefully a good presentation of morris or mumming etc. Don’t obstruct their view by standing around in front of them, and try to give them any information they ask for. It can often be helpful to have handouts printed, with a little information about the side and about morris in general, with a contact name, so anyone interested in joining or booking the side can easily get in touch later. This can also be useful when collecting, an occupation that doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but which can be worked at and improved upon by thinking about it in advance.
When giving information to the general public, try not to perpetuate some of the myths which are often repeated when answering questions about the origins of morris dancing. If you’re not sure about the background, find out what you can and try to be as accurate as possible.
In general, try to look at your public performances from the audiences’ point of view. Is the overall standard of dancing and presentation good? Think about it as an overall performance, so that the dancers and the public enjoy it, and so that the image of morris dancing left in people’s minds is a lasting and positive one.
Last updated: July 2021