East Kent Morris is a mixed side with a long history of dancing Cotswold style Morris – the ‘traditional’ kind with bells, sticks and handkerchiefs. We wear red, white and blue kit to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, the year we were founded, and we have the Invicta symbol on the back of our red waistcoats. Invicta is Kent’s rampant white horse, seen on village nameplates all over the county. We even have our own hooden horse called Invicta, who is allowed out occasionally; keep a tight grip on your small change if he looks hungry.
Although we are approaching our 65th anniversary, we are an evolving side which seeks to move with the times. Two years ago we felt the time was right to open the side up to women as well as men, drop ‘Men’ from the end of our name and welcome new dancers of either gender. The fact that the dancing has improved dramatically since then is, of course, pure coincidence…
We dance Adderbury, Fieldtown, Ilmington and other traditions and are currently working on our Headington technique. These traditions are named after their parent Cotswold villages. Headington is now an Oxford suburb. We also dance eight-man dances from Lichfield, which is in Staffordshire, but the style is still ‘Cotswold.’ Other sides dance border (usually single step, generally more aggressive and characterised by ‘tatters’ and disguised faces), Northwest (clogs, bright costumes, sometimes hoops, flowery hats), longsword (use your imagination), rapper (short, flexible swords, scary) or Molly (no sticks, bells or hankies, but painted faces, stylised stepping and lots of attitude).
We choose our dances from hundreds and always try to select those that are fun to perform and attractive to watch. We also perform a couple of our own dances which are based on existing traditions (so the figures are similar) but have unique features. Both have been dedicated to former dancers who have since moved on to that great Morris gig in the sky – although there is no reason why we couldn’t just make up a dance because we felt like it.