When you see a morris side dancing, whether it is at your local pub, or at a festival, you may not have thought about what goes on behind the scenes, all the work that has gone into the performance on that day. Every Morris side is different, so each will have different roles, and those roles will differ. This is how New Moon Morris do it.

Obviously, the dancers have to practice and learn or develop new dances. We practice most weeks, this is practice for the dancers and also the musicians. Musicians of course have to learn and practice the tunes that we dance to, and also those that we play between dances when we are not dancing with another side, to give the dancers time to catch their breath, have a quick drink, go to the loo, or just change their sticks or hankies, and for the Foreman to work out who is dancing the next dance.

Many decisions are made by the side as a whole at practice but we have a committee of five who make some decisions on the behalf of the side. Most committee discussion and decisions happen over WhatsApp, but we also meet quarterly, either by Zoom, or in person. While there is a lot of discussion between the committee members, each is largely independent. They are: the Squire, the Bagman, the Foreman, the Publicity Officer and the Treasurer. Every one of our committee members is new to the role since last summer, so we are finding our feet a bit. We also have other members who take on other roles in the side, but who are not part of the committee.

The Squire oversees everything; makes sure that we have everything we need, tries to forestall problems and takes responsibility. As such the Squire needs to be in contact with the other officers a lot. In public the Squire is the contact point with other sides at large events. In some sides the Squire does the announcements when we are out dancing. Our Squire does some of this, but gets other members with louder voices to do most of it.

The Bagman organises our events. This means a lot of emails, contacts with other sides, festival organisers, other events, pubs, etc. Our Bagman has organised an on-line spreadsheet of our events, which we use to add our availability for an event. We can all see what events are coming up, where and when it is, who is attending, and extra information like final dates for accepting the event, or who is giving someone else a lift. The Bagman also brings a paper copy of the spreadsheet to practice. Once the Bagman decides that we have enough dancers and musicians for an event it becomes ‘live’ and is shown as green on the spreadsheet, and the Bagman emails the event organisers to let them know that we will be attending. Additionally the Bagman organises our Wassail Tour of Tring in January and our Day of Dance in October. This year will be a big event as it is 10 years since the founding of New Moon Morris.

Our Foreman decides what dances will happen at an event and who will be dancing. She keeps a record of who can dance each of our dances, and where they can dance them (in some dances each position is different). She teaches new dances, and our new dancers. She works with other members of the side, including the dancers and musicians, to decide on new dances we will learn.

Our Publicity Officer is in charge of making sure that people know about us. From producing Instagram posts, publishing events and posts on our Facebook page, to designing new posters for pubs that we will be dancing at. Our Publicity Officer is relatively new to the role, but she will also be redesigning our flyers and business cards when we next need more printed. She is often the first contact for new people wanting to come to try New Moon Morris, as she gets the messages from Instagram and our Facebook page.

The Treasurer looks after the money. Keeps the bank account, reports to the side about finances. He books and pays for the practice hall, our insurance, membership of the Morris Federation, our website host and our WordPress licence – and anything else that the side decides that we need, including bells, bell pads, etc. He pays for anything that requires a group payment (eg camping at festivals), and collects the money from members.

Who else is involved? Our ‘Web-elf’ keeps the website working, updates most information on it, makes changes when necessary. He adds the material to the members area of the website, which includes: videos of dances, sheet music for dance music and for other tunes that we play, notes for new members about kit, Squire’s notes – generally produced weekly so that any members who are absent from practice know what is happening, and any documents that all members need to have access to.

Other people are taking over some aspects of the Squire’s role that have developed since the summer. We now have someone who is in charge of the badges, bell pads and bells. We love to celebrate at New Moon Morris – any excuse – and what better excuse is there than birthdays? One of our members keeps track of birthdays and makes sure that the Squire has arranged cake.

What else happens before we can dance? The kit needs to be made. Some sides have simple white shirt and trousers with crossed baldricks. That doesn’t take a huge amount of time to organise. Other sides have more elaborate kit. New Moon Morris has distinctive waistcoats and skirts for those who want to wear them. That takes up quite a lot of time, particularly when we have an influx of new members. The ribbon sticks also need to be cut from dowel, have screw eyes inserted in each end, and have two coats of primer/undercoat before handing to new members to paint and decorate with ribbons. We also need to organise cutting of new long sticks as well as seasoning them in the dry for a year before they can be used.

photo of New Moon Morris waistcoat fronts
New Moon Morris waistcoat fronts.

Members, whether dancers or musicians then have to decorate their kit to express their personality – usually a hat or floral spray, often scarves, jewellery and badges.

New Moon Morris – behind the scenes
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