HiStory by Anthony Copp 08 02 16
My journey to morris was not exactly a direct one as I explored a couple of alternative forms of dance first. Primarily this involved Cajun music, but first there was Appalachian Clog.
I joined the Bootleggers Appalachian clog dancers in my early 20's, and whilst it quickly became clear that Appalachian clog dancing was not for me, attending events as part of the clog team exposed me to other forms of dance, and it was at the Big Bamboo during Whitby Folk week that I discovered Zydeco, and subsequently Cajun music.
I never did get the hang of Zydeco, my bones are too tightly joined together, but Cajun dancing with my new girlfriend Sally took up loads of my time during the late 1990's and early 2000's travelling all over to events and folk festivals chasing Cajun bands, and we were regulars at the Swamp Club in Derby for many years. It was during this period that I met future Grimsby Morris Man Dave Laister and his girlfriend Liz who often joined us on our adventures.
Throughout this time I was watching more and more morris, simply because I came across it so often and I was fully aware of who Grimsby Morris Men were from Cleethorpes Folk Festival, although the thought of joining had never crossed my mind.
When I came across a set of Dave Mallinson's melodeon tuition books in a junk shop for 50p I bought the lot despite not having a melodeon. Reading tuition books without an instrument is really frustrating so Sally bought me a melodeon from Reece Wesson during one of our many Cajun events, and I began to try to teach my self to play.
As a result of attending the monthly Reely Grim Folk dance club I already knew a number of Grimsby Morris Men and one, Martin Campbell, regularly suggested I should think about joining although I never seriously considered it until one day at Cleethorpes Folk Festival when I met Grimsby Morris musician Ken Watson. I had been playing at Cleethorpes Winter Gardens when I was approached by Ken Watson who asked if I knew the aforementioned Reece Wesson, apparently he had mentioned to Ken in passing that he had sold a melodeon to someone from Grimsby, and since Ken didn't know me he rightly guessed I may be the one. Ken suggested that I come along to a practice night with him as a
musician for Barley Break, the Grimsby Ladies North West Morris Side, but also stated that in order to be a morris musician it was important to have danced morris to understand how the tunes and dances worked together,and that perhaps I should join the men.
Dave Laister had been attending the Reely Grim Folk Dance Club with me for some time and was acquainted with another Grimsby Morris Man, Ian Horsely. Whilst I cannot remember us discussing it, Dave must have been subject to similar suggestions about joining the morris men from Ian as I was getting from Martin and Ken, because when I phoned him one Monday night and said I was thinking of going to morris practise he asked “when are you picking me up!” And thus it was that I joined Grimsby Morris Men.
After many months of practise and a few appearances as “member of the public pulled from the audience” I was issued bells and braces and was ready for my first official engagement. This engagement turned out to be dancing “Constant Billy” at Lincoln Morris Festival in September 2007. It also turned out to be the 40th dance spot of the 40th Anniversary Year of Grimsby Morris Men.
Since that time I have regularly danced with the side during both the summer Cotswold and winter Boarder seasons, and I have played melodeon as Music Jack in the annual Plough Play tours raising money for charity.
So what have I learnt in my time as a morris man?
- I wish I had joined sooner.
- My grasp of left and right is not as strong as I believed.
- My knees don't go that way.