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This girl can Morris: Photographer Lucy Wright celebrates girls’ Morris Dancing

a close up girls in dance costumes

Orcadia Morris Dancers in 2013

Lucy Wright’s photos explore the world of girls’ morris dancing at the English Folk Dance and Song Archive

Morris dancing: it’s all accordions, bells, tankards and beardy men – right? This may be the image the word Morris conjures when thinking about one of our most recognisable folk dance customs, but there is an alternative history that reveals a surprising level of female participation stretching back across the centuries.

Historians have found evidence of female morris dancing in the 16th century and in the North West a tradition of mixed and female sides can be traced back to the 18th century.

In the 19th century in Lancashire, girls sides began to be formed from chapel and mill communities for dancing at town and village carnivals and even though by the 1940s they were wearing the pompoms and frills more associated with Irish dancing and cheerleading, to this day the morris bells remain and each side resolutely refers to themselves as carnival morris dancers.

Lucy Wright’s photos explore this largely unknown world, drawing on more than three years of fieldwork in the carnival morris dancing community.

a photo of a groupof people in hoodies at a dance competition seen from behind

Photo Lucy Wright

a photo of a group of giles in glittery dance outfits dancing in formation

Photo Lucy Wright.

a photo of a club filled with people and a stage in the distance

Photo Lucy Wright

Focusing on the Orcadia Morris Dancers from Skelmersdale in West Lancashire, Wright’s photo series goes behind-the-scenes at a morris dancing competition, the highly competitive End of Season Championships of the English Town and Country Carnival Organisation (ETACCO), held annually in Southport.

Situating girls’ morris dancing within a wider community of carnival performance – including entertaining troupes and jazz (kazoo) marching bands – the photographs are juxtaposed with archival images from The Morris Ring Archive and Living Tradition Archive both of which celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of contemporary English folk dance.

Currently based at the University of Sheffield, Lucy Wright is an artist and ethnomusicologist, with an interest in English folk music and dance – in particular the performance legacy of the town carnival movement in the North of England and Wales – and in the relationships between performance and material practice.

a photomof a teenage girl and a little girl together in sequinns

Katie and Tyla. Photo Lucy Wright

A photo of a girl being mebraced by her mum

Photo Lucy Wright.

an old colourised postcard showing a group shot of a girls dance troupe

The Greenfield Morris Dancers. Reproduced with thanks to the Morris Ring Archive.

 

See Lucy Wright’s website at www.artistic-researcher.co.uk

Visit the website of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (which hosts the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library and Archive) at www.efdss.org

The exhibition runs until July 30 2017 at Cecil Sharp House during opening hours of the building. Admission is free.

venue

The English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) is one of the leading folk development organisations in the UK with a history dating back to 1898. It is multi-faceted, being a membership society with 4000 members; an advocate and lobbyist; an arts venue (Cecil Sharp House in North London) hosting…

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