HiStory by Martin L Campbell (Aged 66 ¾) 08/08/2008
In December 1992, I attended Grimsby Morris Men's 25th Annual Boxing Day Tour, which had been arranged by the Side to extend into the evening to celebrate the occesion. I was so impressed by the extent of the Side's archive of photograph albums and by the display given by a group of ex-Members at the Lynton Hotel that I resolved to join the Side in the following year. I called in at the practice hall at the next opportunity in January 1993 on some pretext relating to Cleethorpes Folk Festival and went with those who had turned up that evening down the Crow's Nest Pub for an after practice pint (or two). As Chris Weeden and Kev Snelling were about to make their way home, I blurted out that I was thinking of joining their reply, "Get yer kit on".
So what, I hear you say, but that was the start of my active involvement. I had been following the Side for many years prior to that, since becoming involved in the local folk scene some seventeen years previously. Back in 1975 I had "retired" from Scouting after twenty-five years almost continuous involvement and subsequently wandered into the Grimsby Folk Song Club meeting at the Dolphin Hotel in Cleethorpes. It was like coming home, a seminal moment in my life. I became a committed member of the Club and attended regularly at all of its various venues, eventually joining the Organising Committee and beceming a resident singer, with my Partner Ann and our friend Heather in our Group called "A Parcel of Rogues". Martin Bartlett, then a Member of local Folk Group "Silver Birch'' and a Member of a local theatre group, "Live Theatre", volunteered me for a singing part in Live Theatre's up-coming production of "Bartholomew Fair". I performed in that production and, in various capacities, the majority of their productions after that. Many of them were at local venues but we travelled away to places like York, Beverley, Sidmouth, St Malo in France and.... Alford Craft Market, where I frequently encountered Grimsby Morris Men. All of this is relevant to my story in that I was not able to join Grimsby Morris then, as in those days, the Side practised on Tuesday evenings, which clashed with Live Theatre rehearsal nights. Two things then happened, firstly Grimsby Morris changed their practice night to Mondays and secondly Live Theatre became moribund and eventually demised. From January 1993 then, Monday night became Morris Practice night, starting with Border Morris and just when I'd more or less got the hang of that, the Side switched to practising Cotswold and the chosen single tradition of Bampton (thankfully, the stepping is very similar).
Back in August, 1987 Grimsby Morris travelled to Seelze near Hanover in Germany to visit Spiel und Tanzkreiz, continuing the link with our German friends, established in the early days by the Grimsby Folk Song Club. My partner Ann and I travelled with the Side as Singers for the Concerts daring the visit. They (Spiel end Tanzkreiz) are wonderful hosts, plying us with tasty German Bier while the Side provided the customary barrel of Bateman's Bitter. In April 1990, still before I joined the Side, Grimsby Morris played host to Spiel and Tanikreitze, and I assisted in some small capacity. By that time, Barley Break Ladies, our companion Ladies Side, had become a well established and in my view, a highly accomplished side and BBL were willing and very able co-hosts in visit arrangements.
In August 1993, owing to a personal link, (namely Nina Watson), the two local sides hosted a visit from Breton Dance Side, Olivier de Clisson. What a show they put on for us over here. The "away leg" was to follow in 1995, when we enjoyed a full programme of activities, wonderful hospitality, locally produced wine, some sunshine and the rugged scenery of Brittany. In August, 1994, Grimsby Morris and Barley Break visited Spiel und Tanzkreiz once again and that time I went as a member of the Side.
Even before I became a member of the Side, I had joined the tours on Boxing Day, the Bank Holiday daytime May Day tours of Louth and I had attended to watch the Side dance at Wassailing Celebrations at the Brandy Wharf Cider Centre. The Side's participation Wassails increased in significance with the well-documented encounmement of the then proprietor of the Cider Centre - "No names, No pack drills!" I remember one particular night in July at Brandy Wharf s "Field Day", that Proprietor, in time-honoured fashion, joined in our traditional last dance, "Bonnie Green Garters". The Side has since, with the expertise of a certain new Member, made "Wassailings" something of a speciality.
I joined the Side, partly as a consequence of having been dragooned into taking part in a Plough Play performance. I can't remember the year, but one Christmas Time during a Grimsby Morris Plough Play tour, I turned up at the Brocklesby Ox Pub in Ulceby, to watch the performance and to follow the rest of the tour. The cast had assembled outside waiting for "The Doctor" to join them. "The Doctor" did not arrive owing to a family illness?! A lab coat and script were thrust into my hands and I was told "learn this, you're on soon!l!" I had no idea then what was to follow a few years later. After joining the Side in 1993, I noticed that the Side had "taken a break" from Plough Play Tours. I suggested that the Side should resume performing Plough Plays as part of its programme of activities. More fool me, "Never volunteer!" So, from Christmas 1993, the Side revived the tradition of performing Plough Plays, various versions, drawn from many villages in Lincolnshire. Unfortunately, there were a few seasons when the Side could not muster enough members to cast it, but, in the intervening years, nine different versions of the Play have been performed and the Side has, in the process, raised thousands of pounds for the Side's chosen charities.
Another wonderful production, I was privileged to take part in, was a creation of our Squire, Steve Fuller. Basically it was an anthology of the origins of Morris Dancing and its development. Its eventual title was "To Pass Time In Good Company", which, in my view, encapsulates the essence of what the tradition of Morris Dancing in England is all about. I feel that, as a Side, we have a responsibility to remind our own local population that by our continued existence a part of the English Dance Tradition is being maintained and is part of their cultural roots.
During the time when the Barley Break Ladies Side were a strong partner, a committee was formed to co-ordinate activities when joint activities were appropriate. As well as organising links with European Sides, this included the detailed organisation of the Dance Programme aspect of the Annual Cleethorpes Folk Festival. At the lime I was still involved in the organisation of the Festival as a member of the Festival Organising Committee. This prevented me from active involvement with the Side during Festival Week-end but I was with them in spirit.
The Special Projects Committee served the two Sides with great efficiency, organising visits abroad and joint activities in the UK. I remember numnerous fund-raising events like Jumble Sales, to generate the money to support such activities. It was a magical time.
Grimsby Morris Men as a Side, was formed in 1968 by the then movers and shakers of the local folk scene. An "experimental" side danced in 1967 at a Christmas Ceilidh organised by the Grimsby Folk Song Club. Inspired by this experience, members of the newly formed Grimsby Folk Song Club, and most notably Stan Compton, a more formal Side was formed and commenced to practice proper Morris Dance. Over the years the Side has had its peaks and troughs in terms of active dance, but the one thing that has always impressed me is its resilience and its ability to produce the numbers at very important moments. This fact was probably the most motivational factor in persuading me to join the Side.
The present Side decided to commemorate and indeed celebrate 40 years of the Side's existence and a forum was created to steer the organisation of the celebratory events and activities to mark the passing of the Side's 40th Year. In accordance with the practice of the former SPC Committee, the 40th year group was created and still each as an open forum for any active member of the Side to make their own contribution to forward planning. A carefully developed programme of activities ensued as a consequence, including the creation of a new event, that of Water Pump Blessings. In other areas of the Country, the long-established tradition of Well-Dressing tikes place. The Side's research has revealed a number of Village Pumps (usually no longer active) but the symbolism resonates with local residents. Consequently, the Side, by dancing and focusing on a recognisable symbol, have drawn local residents' attention to the importance of water to our own existence and to the greater urgency of clean water to communities in the "Third World". Proceeds from the Side's Pump Event collections have been forwarded to the Water-Aid Charity.
To my eternal regret, I do not have the talent to contribute to the music, which forms a pivotal part dour dance tradition. Without our Musicians, where would we be? However, singing has always been a part of my life. Reflecting on my own personal journey, I note that all the following experiences have influenced my interest in singing. I have sung in a Church Choir in the Scouts round Camp Fires in Scout Gang Shows) as a Singer in Local Folk Clubs) as a member of a local harmony Group at Folk Festivals at Ceilidh Bookings with a local amateur theatre Group in concerts and musical productions leading Carol Singing at Christmas and lately at Morris Dance-out Sessions. Learning from the experience of others, I believe that everybody can make their own special contribution. For those who are not so motivated, I felt that those only wishing to join in chorus, may appreciate some assurance with the words of those choruses. This persuaded me to create the first Grimsby MorriSongs Book. I further feel that when the Side is out dancing in public, we are capable of providing same additional entertainment and a highlight to send the folks home in good spirits. We have been very fortunate in attracting the support of a number of "Friends of Grimsby Morris", a loyal band of followers. Their support is greatly appreciated.
I have enjoyed all the aspects of being involved in Grimsby Morris Men, but, (despite my token protestations) none greater than to dance with and enjoy the company of all my associates in the Side. This fully endorses my abiding philosophy and that we are all privileged
"To Pass Time In Good Company"