Thursday, December 5, 2013

‘Leave nowt but wood, blood and feathers…’

A month after I arrived in England in 2011, I joined a morris dancing side. Actually, it was 2 years ago tomorrow when I met them all, at a storytelling event. Based in Marsden, Colne Valley where I lived for 10 months, they meet at the local Parochial Hall, behind St Bartholomew’s Church.
Colne Valley is the home of the Industrial Revolution and the Luddites. The entire valley is dotted with old Victorian satanic mills, their chimneys still sticking up along the canal. Folklore is still strong here, folk songs are still sung and created today, and there is a deep respect for the past.
The morris side are called the Thieving Magpie. It’s a Border Morris team. The side, while I was there, were the greatest bunch of people I have ever met. Imagine a group of people who NEVER get sick of each other, have fights or disagreements, and are like a family that miss each other if they don’t see each other for two weeks. Yes. That is the Thieving Magpies.

Our leader or ‘squire’ – Angela - is a wonderfully kind woman, who lives with folklore and customs of England everyday. It’s pretty much her job to organise them. She's a mother to the side, generous and easy going. She was one of my best friends in the village, sometimes I would see her everyday out and about. I got used to going out and running into people I knew. Village life is the best, even better when you run into Ange.
We wear black tatter jackets, blacken our faces - a tradition to disguise oneself - and wear lot of bells.
The Grey Tezza
One of the members – Terry Armitage, wrote a blog piece on each dance out we attended while I was there. He’s just published a book about it, and I’ve just received a copy. While I already have these blog pieces saved on my computer, it’s good to have them in book form, complete with photos. The book is called ‘A Murder of Magpies’ by The Grey Tezza (he has nicknames for us all, including himself).
My old livejournal blog has retained all the morris dancing blog posts of Terry’s, and some of mine, with photos, so you may as well visit that page. It would save me from re-posting all those posts on this blog. Besides, when the event was months ago, and the content of the blog pieces seem like a lot of personal jokes, it would be hard for an outsider to care much for what is said.
Terry dancing with Lynda
I miss my morris side. They were the best people ever, I miss dancing the dances. I am in a morris team here in Australia, but it isn’t the same – the dances are different for one thing, it’s mostly Cotswold and I’m just not a Cotswold kind of girl.
I’m a Border Morris girl. Always was, always will be.

Morris Dancing is English Folk Dancing, for those who don’t know. There are teams all over the world, mostly in English speaking countries. Even America has morris dancing. As much as America has been independent from the United Kingdom for 237 years, it still revels in the festivals Britain has given to the world.
Thieving Magpie mascot
made by me
As a Thieving Magpie, I got to do many things – I made a magpie mascot from papier mache – like a Roman Standard, it graced our public dance outs. I re-designed the front banner of the Littleborough Rushcart Festival, and helped build the large cuckoo that was used in our village fayre. 
I can never forget what I experienced while spending that year in the UK. I saw and did things I always dreamed of. The good thing is, I’m a lifetime member of the Magpies, and can go back to enjoy everything and more again in future if I chose to.

At Whitworth Rushcart festival, September 2012

The Littleborough Rushcart with re-designed
banner sewn by me, with our mascot on
the top, which I also made. I did the coat of
arms in the middle,and the tatter
 jacket on the man.