Background – What is the Leeds Morris Men Yorkshire Dales Tour
The Leeds Morris Men Yorkshire Dales Tour is a weekend away in the Yorkshire Dales organised by the Leeds Morris Men. It occurs once a year around May/June time depending on the bank holiday. This year was a very special year, in that it was the 60th Dales tour. The first Dales Tour involved several men, including Norman Peacock, who cycled around several locations to dance. The tour has grown incredibly since then, and includes camping in Burnsall on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night, with some Leeds dancers and supporters sleeping over on Monday to help tidy up on the Tuesday. Monday was always the main day of dance, but this now includes a prelimenary day of dance on the Saturday, and an unofficial day of dance on the Sunday. Instead of bicycles we now drive to each location on coaches.
There was a mass amount of teams this year. We split up Leeds country (those that no longer dance in Leeds), and Leeds Current (those who DO currently dance with Leeds), with dancers also from Briggate, Wayzegoose, Wakefield, Oakworth Green Ginger Garland, Jig Crew, Heartsease, Whiteknights, Belles, Jet Set, and lots of other teams (please bear with me on this, since I don’t know all the teams, I can remember those with who I toured, but not all of the other teams). Some people dance with several teams, and chose with who to pay their money this year.
Each side dances in a completely different style. Leeds in itself danced several of its styles in different ways. There were Cotswold teams dancing with hankies, and bells such as Oakworth, Leeds, Whiteknights, and so on and so on. There was North West, which is danced with clogs with a seemingly different style for each dance, using hoops, hankies and bobbins. Border teams such as Jet Set, Wayzegoose dance more with sticks, and often dress in black with face paint on. There were also teams dancing Longsword, and Rapper, dancing with swords in different configurations.
Still being new to the other variations of Morris dancing such as north-west, border and the sword dancing I only really know the different styles of Cotswold that I’ve danced. Leeds current primarily danced Bampton, Sherborne, and a bit of Oddington (for the sticks), a bit of Wheatley and a Ducklington Jig. Leeds country danced a wider array of dances, but this included Brackley from what I saw of those dances.
The hall is the centre of operations during the Dales tour. The hall is where we cook our meals, and get showers, and go to toilet etc. It holds loads of people for meals, and the field is fairly close to walk to and from to go back to sleep. This year we put up photos from the previous 60 years in the serving room for people to look at all the things that we’d been up to. It seemed to get people interested, which was great.
Adjacent to this is the main hall where people eat. Great for eating food, and for performances.
Each year people do performances. These can range from the quality based (so seeing how good somebody can do a particular skill, such as playing a musical instrument, or singing), comedy events, such as dancing a jig with flippers on or a morris dancing strip, or dancing like birds. You have to be good at those in themselves as it is, of course. This year we recorded the majority of these (unfortunately only from the back so the view isn’t great), but it involved a strip dance from Briggate, a song about a lady morris dancer from Green Ginger morris, a song about the sea from Whiteknights, a flipper jig from Jig Crew, a rapper dance from Liggate Breeds/Crapper Rapper (the mixed set from Leeds and Briggate and others who have been practicing one rapper song for nearly a year now)
One of the main spots we dance in is Malham. This is mainly because of a great dance spot, and a great pub, which serves Malham pie (fish and chips, and a vegetable option are also available). It’s where I danced my jig last year so it personally brings back a lot of happy memories (thankfully I don’t remember any of the hangover which is always good). The food here is good, and there’s a lot of room to do massive sets.
Kettlewell is the main spot on the main tour on Monday. We dance here en-masse with all the other teams of the tour one by one, and then the dancers move onto the coaches, and do their dances. This year was lovely and warm and there was a large crowd. Kettlewell is also the place of several Leeds Morris traditions such as the Rose, and sharing port with the other squires, where they stand in a line.
The Rose is a big dance danced by the country members of the side (or ones that know the dance). One member stands in the middle with the sword and cake while the other members dance around them. I’ve never seen this dance before, but now I look through some of the older pictures I can see where and when it has been danced before.
The Yorkshire Dales tour was a massive undertaking with lots of organising from hard working members of the Leeds team. It couldn’t have happened without all the organising that all the people put into it, including the people who tidy up afterwards, and who cooked, and washed up during the weekend. The Dales is one of my favourite weekends in the year, even if it does leave me completely drained from too much alcohol and dancing. With the onset of technology there are thousands of pictures to go through. More for this one year than pretty much all of the decades that have come before it put together, but with the benefits of editing, the best ones will come out soon in some form or another ready for archiving for the next 60 years, and for the 120th Leeds Morris Men Yorkshire Dales Tour.
If anyone has anything more specific to tell, or any stories from their individual tours, then they would be more than gladly put up as new, more specific posts in the coming days. Just let me have some text and some images, and I’ll put them together and put them up.