Morris dancing is an ancient activity first recorded in the mid 1400s. Like any other activity it has had good and bad times. It used to be thought of as dance strictly for men but in fact women have always danced it as well although not necessarily amicably and not as much as today. After the First World War it was women who kept the tradition alive and some women went across and taught some of the peacekeeping troops all sorts of folk dancing to occupy their leisure time. Now there are many mixed sides as well as mixed ones.
Like other activities, Morris dancing has its own jargon. A group such as Stony Redcaps is called a side, the treasurer is the bagman, the leader is the squire and the foreman is the one who teaches the dances. Costume is called kit and a display is called a dance-out. Sides are often linked with pubs, which sometimes gives the side its name.
There are several different styles of Morris dance, which can usually be told apart by the way the dancers are dressed. Cotswold dancers wear white with cross chest pieces in the colours of the side, Border dancers wear coats made up with lots of pieces of cloth sewn together to make “tattered” jackets and North West dancers wear clogs but we all wear bells and ribbons of the sides’ colours. Other items are used in the dances, sticks and handkerchiefs are common but also short sticks with ribbons or bells, which are shaken, rather than clashed together and of course garlands.