Morris Dance has been part of English life for at least six hundred years and may be much older.
While the style is peculiar to the English mainland, there remain some similarities to Catalan and to Basque dancers.
As to the origin of the dances, this is a matter of continuing dispute and argument !!
Recent historical studies place the earliest Morris records in the time of Henry VII (1500), and firmly in with Court entertainment. From the Court it seems to have spread into popular entertainment, first in large houses, then to village celebrations, where it became associated with Church Ales and other seasonal festivities. Before then, Who knows for sure?
Following the Industrial Revolution and the migration of workers from villages to larger towns and cities, many traditional customs started to be lost.
Recognising the importance of our cultural heritage, efforts were made to collect and record
the different styles of dance, particularly in the counties of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire - the Cotswolds.
Although a few sides can trace their history before the 1800s, many were formed in the 1920s, 1930s and after the Second World War.
Today's hosts - Ravensbourne Morris Men were one of these and were founded in 1947. This event is part of their 70th Anniversary celebrations and brings together sides from all over the country, all with similarities (often typified with clashing sticks, waving of large hankies and the jingling of bells on the legs) but also slight differences in style.
Some sides however - such as Saddleworth - have a style that is distinctively different that reflects their origins. Do try and see them if you can.
The future for Morris is looking healthy for as long as people want to come together in friendship, share a laugh & keep some of the old English traditions going and there are reckoned to be over 800 sides in the country with more spread across the world including the US and Australia.
Ravensbourne are a thriving men's Morris side who enjoy dancing, singing, playing, drinking (in moderation of course) and generally having fun. All the sides attending this event are traditional men's sides who are affiliated to the Morris Ring .
Other sides - mens, ladies and mixed can be found across the country. Search 'morris sidefinder' online to find sides near to you.