Information about Winster in the Derbyshire Dales
for residents and visitors
Winster Morris Dancers are pleased to be able to offer a range of support for primary schools in Derbyshire.
Featured guest sides from:
Contact us by email or call Chris Gillott on 01629 650404
This is it and that is it and this is Morris dancing;
(Sequence created in PhotoStory 3 - requires Windows XP; Direct X 9 and Windows Media player 10)
No one can be sure of the origins of morris dancing. One theory links it with the crusade of the middle ages as the word 'morris' is thought to derive from the word 'Moorish'. The earliest references, from around 1500, are to entertainments at the Royal Court, at church festivals and at borough and guild functions. By 1700 it had become firmly established. as part of the English vernacular tradition focused on villages and country houses, usually associated with Whitsun and summer festivities.
Since then, morris dancing has developed differently in various parts of the country. Thus today there are the well known traditions of the Cotswolds, Welsh Border morris (black faced) molly dancing from East Anglia as well as North West morris (usually danced in clogs). Related to these forms are the rapper sword dancing of North-East England and the long sword dancing of Yorkshire. Derbyshire too has its own distinct versions of morris and the earliest known reference is from Tideswell in 1797.
The dances you will see performed by the Winster Morris Dancers are their own and exclusive to the village. The first mention of the morris at Winster is in 1863 though it seems to have been well established by them. In 1908, the well-known folk song and dance collector, Cecil Sharp, visited the village and noted down the five dances being performed. These were:
More recently, other dances have been introduced including:
A full team comprises sixteen dancers, though all the dances can be performed with a team of eight or twelve.
The two files are called the 'Ladies' side and the 'Gents' side, the 'Ladies' side distinguished by the flowers in their hats The rosettes and the ribbons that each dancer wears on his costume are unique, though the basic arrangement is the same. The dancers are traditionally men and boys dressed in white, wearing straw hats accompanied by a musician, who plays a melodeon, and by the four characters; the King and the Queen preside over the dancing, while the witch and the jester entertain the crowd with their antics. All four are men.
Despite the short breaks in the tradition during the last hundred years most notably during the two world wars, Winster's morris dancing continues as strongly as ever. Roy Witham, the leader of the team, sums it all up: "We hope you enjoy watching our dances and will join us in the finale-the famous 'Winster Gallop'!"
Winster's morris dancing is livened up by the attendant supernumaries. These onlookers or characters number four; the King, the Queen, the Jester and the Witch. The king leads the procession dressed in red and black military uniform brandishing his sword in time to the music and, together with the Queen, a man dressed as a demure Victorian Lady, provide a serious and somewhat aloof audience for the dancing. In marked contrast the two clowns, the Jester and the Witch, entertain the crowd with good natured buffoonery that even when Cecil Sharp visited the village 'never degenerated into vulgar horseplay'. At one time the Jester was known as the Fool, and dressed like a Pierrot in baggy trousers with the appropriate make-up.
In 1908 Cecil Sharp, the famous folk music pioneer wrote of his visit: 'The dancers danced in procession … through the streets of Winster, stopping at certain places to perform one or two of their stationary dances. The King headed the procession, marching in step with the music … the Queen and the musician walked by the side of the dancers; the Fool and the Witch ran about clearing the way.'
Winster Morris Dancers have travelled far and wide over the last twenty five years. These include participation in the international festival at Sidmouth and Whitby Folk week. There have been numerous visits to Winster's twin village of Monterubbiano in Italy and to Onzain in France, twinned with Darley Dale. We have accepted invitations to Poland, Lithuania and Romania.
Gudbjerg Folkedansere in Odense in Denmark invited us to their 25th anniversary celebrations. Ungstein in Germany asked us to join in their traditional May day festival. (see local news item). The list continues to grow!
We are always looking for new dancers to keep this exciting, colourful and local tradition alive and dancing into the next 100 years. The more dancers and musicians we can muster enables us to fulfil more bookings each year and enjoy the hospitality of our national and international friends and associates. How about getting involved? The team receives numerous invitations, some many months in advance of the scheduled event. These are all considered and we do our best to fulfil as many requests as the team can manage.
If you would like to find out more, book the dancers, or join the team (ie. learn to dance, to play or be one of the characters), please contact the Secretary David Mitchell, The Old Forge, Main Street, Winster. Phone: (01629) 650220 or email: email@example.com
last updated 18.05.2008
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