All About Redcaps

All about Redcaps

Our story begins in 1981. Stony Stratford Morris, a men’s side, were frequently supported by their wives and girlfriends. When one of these went to a folk festival and discovered that women did Morris Dancing, she came home keen to start her own side. This she did with some of the other wives and girlfriends who were becoming fed up with always being on the sidelines. They chose the name “Old Mother Redcaps” after a now defunct pub in the town but decided to keep a link with the men’s side by using the same colours, brown, green and red, and to dance the same style – Cotswold Morris.

However it was decided not to dance in white but in brown pinafore dresses with white blouses with red shoes. Over the years this changed into more of a dress and less of a pinafore before making a complete change to white dresses in 1991. We had discovered on evening dance-outs that we could not always see each other in the dark. Our current kit has been worn since 2008 and was designed by a former member of the side. We have kept our red shoes through all these changes even though it has sometimes been difficult to get new ones.

Many years of successful dancing followed. We joined other sides at their local pubs and danced further at festivals.  Dancers left and new ones joined until we found ourselves with 4 dancers and 1 musician. This was a problem as most Morris dances are for 6 or 8. Do we fold or look for something else? 

One solution was found on the Isle of Man and another in Garland Dances. Both these styles had dances which could be adapted for 4. The Manx dances are the traditional dances of the Island or have been developed using the traditonal stepping and even using Manx Gaelic names. We think that Garland dances came from the mill towns of the North. During the Industrial Revolution many came from the country to work in the mills. When break time came the workers remembered their local dances and used bits of cotton to decorate garlands.

We didn’t actually go to the Isle of Man to discover these dances but learnt them from written instructions, which is not always the best way, but in 2011 we were invited to go to the Island to take part in an International Dance Festival. This was being organized by the Manx Folk Dance Society to celebrate their 60thanniversary. We had a wonderful time dancing all around the Island in wonderful weather with dancer from England, Wales, Germany and Sweden. We were honoured to have a special workshop on Manx Dance where we were shown where we could improve our technique. We also organized a Garland workshop, which proved very popular. This was a great way to mark our 30thanniversary.

Having got the taste for travel in 2014 we flew to Prague to take part in the Prague Folklore Days.  We performed on a stage in Wenceslas Square with other dance groups, choirs and bands from all over the world. Stages are not our natural home as our audience is usually all around us so I don’t think the audience got the best view. We were taken to see the sights of Prague and ate a lot of mushroom stew.

In 2015 MFDS accepted an invitation to visit us. We were a bit nervous about this as we had not done such a thing before but with much preparation we all had a very enjoyable time dancing together in Campbell Park for the May Day festival and on the side of the canal at Stoke Bruerne. We are looking forward to going back to the Island in 2021, which incidentally will be our 40thanniversary.

 In 2018 we decided to change our name to Stony Redcaps. This kept the Redcap Link but indicates where we come from and hope fully will encourage new dancers and musicians to join us who might have been discouraged by the “ old mother” part of our name. 

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