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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Morris dancing revival in Cumbria

“It's fun, energetic and helps preserve a very English tradition.”

Morris dancing photo
From left, Heather Robbins, John Crouch and granddaughter Nadine Crouch with Chris Hobson

That’s the view of the leader of one of Cumbria’s most enthusiastic Morris dancing groups.

Chris Hobson runs Solway Morris, which meets on Tuesday nights at Waverton Village Hall.

Now as 2014 gets underway Chris is keen to get new dancers into the pastime which he says is a good way of keeping fit.

The group – known in Morris terminology as a side – has more than 10 members, who range from children to senior citizens.

They are led by instructor and founder Chris, a 67-year-old retired accountant, who lives in Wigton.

Chris, a native of Essex, started the group in 2002.

He said: “There wasn’t a group in north west Cumbria so I decided to do it.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of people doing it but the group has managed to keep going.”

Typically classes feature around seven people but there are a total of 11 people in the side.

The youngest are 10 while Chris himself is the oldest.

The side like to take their dancing to the public and have performed at events including folk festivals and weddings.

Morris dancing is thought to date back to the 15th century. The activity is usually carried out in groups, who often wear bell pads on their shins.

Other items that can be added to the dance include swords, handkerchiefs and sticks.

There are a variety of styles of Morris dancing each of which is named after the region it originated in, such as Cotswold and Border, which started near the boundary with Wales.

Chris said there is a north west style but “it’s more connected with Lancashire”.

He said that Cumbria’s close connections with Scotland could possibly explain why the county has no style of its own.

“It is just like any other dancing really, you have to learn the steps and learn the moves,” he added.

He has been a Morris dancer since 1977.

“I had always been interested in traditional dancing. I was listening to a lot of electric folk music and I just started doing it.”

He is keen to encourage new people to take up the interest.

“It is good hearty exercise, you meet a lot of new people not only within the club but when you travel around the country and on top of all that you are participating in something that is totally English.”

For more information on the side contact Chris on 07720 647734.

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