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Whitstable May Day - 2 May 2011: The Procession


Introduction 

  
Whitstable May Day starts in late morning at the Library in Oxford Street where several Morris sides perform in the square surrounding the cenotaph. (NB Morris dancers don't have groups, units or troupes. They have "sides" or "teams"). The procession moves on to the Horsebridge for a second dancing performance and it is here that it picks up a very important character - Jack-in-the-Green. Jack is a talking/walking bush.

From here, the procession shifts on to the harbour for dancing on the South Quay before making its way to the Castle Grounds for the main May Day celebrations. It is here that we pick up the story.

Of course, another way of describing the route is that the Morris dancers progress via the New Inn, the Pearsons Arms and the Quayside. ;-)


Photograph 1: The Procession

   

Our first photo shows the procession advancing towards the Castle Gatehouse....

   

   

I may need some help to explain it all. I'll give my interpretation.... and then someone can correct me if I am wrong.

I believe the young lady in white is Maid Marion. She is followed by the leafy shape of our talking bush, Jack-in the-Green . Jack symbolises the spirit of springtime. To some extent, it could be argued that the Jack character comes form the 16th or 17th century when people competed in making large garlands of leaves and flowers around the time of May Day. However, the folklore is entangled with a much older and more mysterious character called the Green Man.

The Green Man appears to date back to pagan times and the precise origins are unknown. There are many depictions of him in carvings in and around churches and he is usually shown surrounded in leaves - often with just his face visible. It seems he is often associated with woodland and may embody springtime. Of course, his name has since been adopted by many old country pubs and restaurants around England.

I have always been under the impression that the character on the right of our photo was Robin Hood. However, I now wonder if he is actually the Green Man of folklore.

    

Photograph 2-3: Oyster Morris

   

 Next up are the Oyster Morris Women. Morris sides have "women" and not "ladies". 

  

    

Then, come the Oyster Morris Men...

   

  

As their name suggests, Oyster Morris originated in Whitstable. Although now Canterbury-based, many of their memebers are drawn from the oyster towns of Whitstable and Faversham.. and they play a big part in organising the local May Day celebrations.

What the uninitiated may not know is that there are different styles of Morris Dancing. The Oyster Morris perform a "vigorous" Cotswold style. You can find out more by visiting their web site - click here.

   

Photograph 4: Oyster Morris Music

  

Like most Morris sides, the Oyster Morris have their own musicians and, over the years, they have become a familiar part of the local scene....

  

   

The musicians perform traditional tunes but also write some of their own.

   

Photographs 5-6: Other Morris Sides

     

I believe the smartly dressed "side" below is the Kettle Bridge Clogs.

 

 

They come from Maidstone and they acquired their name from a footbridge across the Medway. The original bridge has disappeared but it has been replaced by a newer version. The Kettle Bridge Morris dance across it at 7.15 pm every May Day. For more information, visit their web site by clicking here.

I am afraid I don't know the name or web address of the side below.... but, if I can find out, I will add the details in the next few days.

  

      

Photographs 7-9: Dead Horse Morris

  

Aye, aye... I know the lot below.... because I've hade trouble with them in the past. ;-) They are the Dead Horse Morris... 

  

  

... and they are led by this great character...

  

   

For me, they are the SAS of the Morris world. Just take a look at the baton wielding troop below...

  

       

The Dead Horse Morris bring a lot of fun and skill to events across the county and beyond. They are Whitstable-based and you can find out more from their web site by clicking here. In recent times, they have formed a ladies team called the Boomdashers.

 Dead Horse Morris perform a regional style of the traditional dancing. I am no expert but in terms of vigour, I would rate it as a very vigorous regional style. ;-) 

   

Photograph 10: ...To The Castle

    

All the Morris sides are sucked into the Castle grounds through the narrow vortex of the gatehouse. There, they join crowds that have been forming since late morning.....

   

  

Photograph 11-12: ...Installing Jack on the Terrace

     

Jack-in-the-Green is installed on the west terrace.... 

 

   

 ... and the multitudes gather on the lawns to witness the dancing....

    

    

Photograph 13: ...Installing Jack on the Terrace

  

But, first, it is necessary to to sing the May Day song.... while the SAS work out a plan to crack the castle battlements. ;-)

  

   


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