Memory of Doomesday Morris at Penkhull Wassail a couple of years ago. They danced and beat sticks to encourage the ancient Penkhull Apple tree to bud, flower and bear fruit later in the year. They were surrounded by a crowd of people, maybe two or three hundred. Some if us carried flaming torches to light our way. A walk around the boundaries of Penkhull and into local hostelries. I was part of the Mystery Singers choir who sang Wassail songs as we stopped off at the pubs…
Crowds and laughter, mad jolly japes, humans being gregarious. That’s what I miss. Thank goodness for Mysterious madness and eccentricity. Let’s pray to the gods of Wassail for this to come again one day, drink cider, jingle your bells, stamp your clogs, crash your sticks together! WASSAIL!
Pre covid, my friend at the Wassail for a local apple tree.
Wassail? An ancient celebration to encourage apple trees to be fruitful again this year. In Penkhull, Stoke-on-Trent it is celebrated by our local Morris Dancing team.
Morris Dancing? In ancient times Local groups of men (now anyone can join) used to get together and dress up, wearing boots or heavy clogs on their feet. Dancing to ancient tunes. Sometimes there is a person dressed as a hobby horse (with a large skirt and a carved horse head worn as a mask?) I don’t know enough about Morris history. I’m sure there is a lot of information out there.
So why this photo? It’s blurry, but it was taken at a Wassail. The Morris men were dancing, and the apple tree was beaten with sticks to get it to grow. And amidst it was my friend in his plague doctors mask, Cape and tricorn hat. And today I found it again and thought… Why not?
Green and red can really zing. It depends on the brightness and hue of the colours, here I used the sketcher app on my tablet to create a simple image of a dancer. You don’t have to be exact or realistic to create art….. Just have fun. Something will make you happy or sad, will surprise you. Art us learning, sometimes every day or month. You do art and it can move you. It grabs you and wants you to make more. It is a buzz….
I did these sketches tonight because I’m part of urban sketchers. These were drawn at the Mystery play barn dance up at Penkhull village hall. The band laying were called the Shropshire Hero’s and the barn dance caller was Baz Parkes.
It was excellent fun although I was helping behind the bar for part of it. Just watching people dance was great. Some do well, others make mistakes. The worst thing that happened was someone accidentally stood on my foot. But that was because I was drawing, and I think I was a bit in the way, so I wasn’t looking and got stood on. I was more worried because the dancer almost fell over me!
The other problem with drawing dancers? You guessed it.. They don’t stand still!
Who fancies coming to a Barn dance up at Penkhull village hall, Stoke-on-Trent on 19.10.19? It’s in aid of the annual Penkhull Mystery Play, next due to happen in July 2020. A huge community project that includes theatre, creative writing, music and FUN !
There’s dancing and spinning, hornpipes and all sorts of mad frivolities at the Barn Dance. Plus pie and peas (and a vegetarian option), oh and yes there’s a real ale bar.
The band is the Shropshire Heroes and the caller is the inimitable Baz Parkes who cajoles and explains the steps of the dances, gets the right numbers of people to join in and encourages people to miraculous efforts, including me!
So if you happen to be in Penkhull on the 19th and you are feeling energetic, why not come along?
To save my blushes I’ve drawn over a photo my friend took of me today.
After we had sung with the combined choir there was a brief break and then a woman got up and did a quick dance lesson to teach us Northern soul dance steps. The music is in four four time, so she taught us four steps, stand on your left leg, tap your right foot behind, to the side of and in front of your left foot, then put your right foot down about shoulder width away from your left foot. Then putting your weight in your right leg repeat the moves using your left foot. After we learned to do that and danced for a while to a northern soul tune she added a jump, then jump and cross your legs spin round, clap, and carry on doing the side to side step.
I was jigging along with the rest of the crowd. I loved Northern Soul when I was a teenager.
This is my friend last night. She was part of Cunning stunts cabaret show. She was dancing to flash-dance in a Tyrannosaurus suit. It was sooo funny.
I’m glad we went. She is part of a father/ daughter act who do a circus and sideshow act. They do everything from knife throwing, fire breathing, lying on beds of nails and all those traditional acts, but they do them with a modern twist. Last night they did a mashup of cult movies with sideshow skills.
They have been all over the world with the show and very rarely come home to put a show on here. There evening included lots of little sketches, exotic dances and music from Pig man and his rubber band singing Jazz.
For the final section you have to imagine an orange Dino gyrating and pole dancing to one of the flash dance tunes, bending over backwards, twisting and turning, mad! It brought the house down. Imagine Godzilla at a disco!
Imagine whirling around with a bunch of people… Then imagine some of them looking completely confused, going in the wrong directions and flinging each other about in mad abandon. That’s a barn dance. Add amazing live music. A caller explaining the dance moves to people trying to understand what on earth he’s saying. The fun that can be had getting dizzy, twisting and turning, jumping about….
And a pie and peas supper that has both meat and vegetarian options.
It’s all in aid of the Penkhull Mystery play this July.
If you are in the area perhaps you would like to come along to these February Frolics and then get involved in the mystery play itself where there are openings to act, make props and help paint scenery. You never know you might enjoy it.