A wave of celebration for Morris dancing on the Southbank

Chris Mugan
Friday 27 August 2010 00:00
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Next weekend, the village green comes to London's brutalist Southbank with a three-day celebration of Morris dancing. At least, the village green would be the preconception most people hold of the widely denigrated folk custom, and one that 5,000 Morris dancers aims to dismiss.

The folk-inspired artist Dave Owens has gathered together groups, or sides in Morris parlance, to perform. There will be a premiere of the film Way of the Morris and a recreation of the seminal Seventies folk-rock album Morris On, for which Ashley Hutchings updated Morris tunes with a little help from the scene's leading lights Richard Thompson, John Kirkpatrick and Shirley Collins, among others. For this special performance, Hutchings passes the baton to folk's new generation, Sam Carter and Jim Moray among them. There is also a set from multicultural collective The Imagined Village and graphic works, including A Clockwork Morris, from Owens himself. The artist and curator of this event has a long-standing interest in altering people's perception of the practice, having already portrayed The Clash as Morris men. He believes the dancers are misunderstood figures, that there is more to it than accountants waving hankies in a pub car park.

"To judge all Morris by this is like trying to compare the football World Cup against a Sunday league team," he explains. So like Irish traditional dancing has enjoyed more respect, Morris deserves more recognition as an integral part of our culture. "I'm trying to get people to approach it from a different direction, a different perspective, to see the Morris dancer as an icon, an outsider, a cult figure, a proud symbol." The only handkerchiefs he wants to see will be waving goodbye to unfair stereotypes.

5,000 Morris Dancers, Southbank Centre, London SE1 (Southbankcentre. co.uk), 3 to 5 September, admission free

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