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Morris: Is this the last dance?

PUBLISHED: 11:20 08 January 2009 | UPDATED: 10:22 23 August 2010

MORRIS LESS: Peter Scott , Derek Hanger and Trevor John in full Morris swing.

MORRIS LESS: Peter Scott , Derek Hanger and Trevor John in full Morris swing.

MORRIS Dancers are divided over claims that the ancient tradition could be extinct within 20 years because it is embarrassing . On Tuesday Charlie Cocoran, Bagman of the Morris Ring organisation, warned the quaint pastime could die out because young peo

MORRIS Dancers are divided over claims that the ancient tradition could be extinct within 20 years because it is 'embarrassing'.

On Tuesday Charlie Cocoran, Bagman of the Morris Ring organisation, warned the quaint pastime could die out because young people think it is not cool.

Janice Clark, secretary of Copperfield Clogs, based in Higham, agrees that Morris Dancing - formed in the Middle Ages - could vanish unless more young people join up.

Mrs Clark, 52, said: "I think it is entirely likely Morris Dancing will become extinct. It is very sad. It is an English tradition and I think we should fight to keep it alive.

"Unfortunately the portrayal in the media is quite negative and people think it's not very cool.

"We used to have a lot of members but now we are quite a small side. We have reduced in number quite a lot."

More than 14,000 Britons take part in Morris Dancing, which involves dancing with sticks and hankies in traditional white costume.

Gillian Hanger, 72, of Frog Island Morris Dancers, based in Hartley, disagrees with Mrs Clark.

She said: "I was the secretary of the club for 24 years and I can honestly say Morris Dancing is not in decline. There a lot of young dancers.

"Yes, some sides don't have many young members, but I have seen lots of other sides that do."

However, her husband Derek Hanger, 72, who helped found the side, said: "You just can't get youngsters into Morris Dancing these days.

"Our youngest member is in their 40s. You can get them if they're very young or old, but when they're teenagers, forget it! Young males are more interested in girls at that age.

"It's unfortunate but folk dancing is not highly thought of in this country. If you go to France, Germany and Spain, you've got loads of young people involved - because they take pride in their traditions."

Tony Tomlin, 62, of Hartley Morris Men, said: "Most Morris Dancers are getting on a bit but I don't think it is dying out. There are still a fair number of new faces joining up.

"I'm not concerned. Morris Dancing will always be around."

Each year thousands of Morris Dancers from around the county attend the Rochester Sweeps Festival to celebrate May Day, founded to remember Chimney Sweeps.

elizabeth.thornton@archant.co.uk

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