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March 2, 2012

Thirty Years of Bedlam

Still I sing bonnie boys
bonnie mad boys
Bedlam boys are bonnie
For they all go bare
And they live by the air
And they want no drink
Nor money.

This song (describing inmates of Bethlem Hospital) re-worked by Steeleye Span, reflects the interest in traditional folk music during the Folk revival that blossomed in the 1960s and renewed interest in all things traditonal:  folk dance, handcrafts, self-sufficiency....

Letter to the Editor, The Christchurch Press 11 June 1966

 Britannic Bedlam Morris Gentlemen:
All of them are bonnie and most of them are mad:
I've seen some of them in nothing but their bells and braces
(and one who is gone, in less than those),
but these Gentlemen pay no heed to the last two lines of the refrain from Tom of Bedlam.
Once a year in February Bedlam celebrate their
notional birthday, which Dyk explains in his blog, with a Day of Drink. This year Bedlam turned 30 !

Any New Zealand Morris side that can trace its roots back thirty years can claim to be part of the Revival of the 1970s and early 80s. In NZ, this flowed from the English Revival, a theme  in Tim Plester's recent documentary, The Way of the Morris.  The first side to form since World War II, was Erewhon Morris in Christchurch in 1976. Elwin (second from right back), was an original member of this side.

Neither Erewhon nor Pride of Holland Street (The POHS) which formed the following year in Wellington, are still active, though many of those early members still dance in various sides around the country.

In this photo from about 1984, POHS, Bedlam, and Bedlam's consort side, White Rose gather for an airport farewell. I can identify four men in this photo who were present at Bedlam's 30th Anniversary Day of Drink on 18 February this year.
At least two other NZ sides have celebrated thirty years of existance - City of Auckland Morris Dancers in 2008 and White Rose Ladies Morris in 2011. The Tussock Jumpers Morris Dancers in Christchurch let their 30th anniversary pass last year, too quake-shocked and un-homed to celebrate.

Which is just one reason why I (third from left front) accepted Bedlam's invitation to join them for the occasion.

Other guests came from Taumaranui, and White Rose
were there too.

On the day, six dancers and one musician could claim to be over sixty...

While a heartening crop of young men are capering into place.

Peter on his way to a pipe band competition practised on us,
making the occasion Multi-cultural.

Such a good day - from the walk down to breakfast in the morning to dinner and the silly AGM at the end of the day.
But I am aware that to mark 30 years is to mark the passage of time. I notice how once hardened drinkers order cappucino and pots of tea more often. I notice how even the fittest older men sit back and let the younger men dance. I notice the lines on my friends' faces.

And am grateful for the place Bedlam has in my family's life.

Happy Birthday Brittanic Bedlam Morris Gentlemen.


Owen said...

Dance on Lady M ! In dancing there is great joy, as ancient rhythms move us.

PS Saw where the Christchurch Cathedral is to be pulled down... so sad, so sad...

The Sagittarian said...

Hey you know, I think this post has helped me understand this Morris 'dancing thing' a bit more, thank you for that! Looks like you had a great time, certainly you picked the right time weatherwise!

Jeneane said...

Owen and Saj, you pair of sibling bloggers lined up together. Owen - I used to consider Morris my drug!
And Saj, since this was a very Morris-centric post, I'm touched that you read it and learned something from it.

Apparently the Cathedral shakes itself apart ever further with even small magnitude quakes now Owen. I was talking to the Stained Glass man, who is doing the final window rescue, suspended from cranes, cutting the frames out from the stone work with diamond saws, since they cannot enter the building.

the cuby poet said...

Dance, dance where ever you maybe..........this seems to be what you were doing, great day.Trigg Morris Men are our local troup. Sad to hear that Christchurch Cathedral is to be pulled down.

Jeneane said...

We sometimes dance to the tune, The Lord of the Dance. I wonder what he would think of his cathedral's demise? Would he stand with the people of Christchurch who feel the building is part of their identity and should be somehow preserved or restored, or with the Anglican Church who values the sprituality and site beyoned the building on it and want to be able to build anew?

Steve said...

I can't help but feel there is something innately noble about a Morris dancer...

Jeneane said...

Oh Golly Steve, you could be being facetious but I suspect there's a Morris man lurking in you! Maybe I should invite you to our NZ gathering in Oxfordshire next year...

Being Me said...

How lovely. And what beautiful weather the day turned out for you! It seems such a gorgeous, happy tradition. I'm pleased to see younger people carrying it forward too.

Jeneane said...

Being Me: The day was divine weather-wise and fun-wise too :-) This 'gorgeous, happy tradition' also provides a disparate bunch of people with a supportive social network!

Nana Go-Go said...

Clued me up about things I didn't know about Morris Dancing/Dancers. How admirable that the 'oldies' make way for the young 'uns too and that their drinks of choice are tea and coffee!!I also find it interesting that the lines on a man's face can look almost attractive and characterful whilst the lines on my face just look.....AGEING!!!
Such a shame about the Cathedral - is there no alternative but to pull it down?

Jeneane said...

Nana Go-Go: How lovely to have you visit. Welcome to the Secret Garden. NZ Morris dancing, while following tradition in costume and the specifics of dance form, has developed a culture of its own, which is inclusive and non-sexist - in spite of what the Gentlemen would have you think!

And on the wrinkle front... I suspect that, if someone who loves you photographs your wrinkles they would bring out your beauty too :-)

Tears for the Cathedral. Hope to go on the Farewell walk today