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Boss Morris

To celebrate Samhain we filmed Boss Morris, an all-female morris group, dancing at dusk and into the night on a beacon in the Cotswolds.

Season:Autumn 22
Date Created:2022-09-10
Medium:Dance

Morris had a revival at the turn of the twentieth century, when people became deeply concerned with the idea of Englishness and how to perform it. In pursuit of ‘Merrie England’, many Morris groups were re-formed or established at this time - most dances recorded were from the southern tradition of what is now called Cotswold Morris.

A further revival of Morris in the 1970s - when punk, rock n roll and Paganism were also gaining ground - saw a greater focus on Border Morris, which is faster-paced and wilder than Cotswold Morris.

From this wildness emerged new traditions including Dark and Prog Morris, which moved Morris dancing away from the old white costumes associated with springtime, to more contemporary styling, featuring black costumes, heavy makeup and elaborate masks. They often presented themselves as anti-establishment and subversive, defining themselves in opposition to more genteel traditions.

These new forms of Morris are perhaps a response to something in the national mood, harking back to a more nature-led time. They seem to tap into something primal inside us, a need for modern folk traditions.

One of four Celtic fire festivals that mark the turn of the seasons, Samhain celebrates the end of the harvest - but it is also the time when the boundary between this world and the spirit world is at its thinnest. Many people once believed (and some still do) that it was at this time that their ancestors might visit them, their ghosts roaming the earth.

There are many accounts of great gatherings around burial mounds at Samhain, particularly in Ireland, where Samhain festivities are thought to have begun - burial mounds were opened at this time, to allow passage to and from the Otherworld. Some of these mounds are even aligned with the sunrise on Samhain.

At Haresfield Beacon, where we shot our Samhain film, the landscape is shaped by ancient peoples and their tombs - we chose this place for this history, dancing on the mounds there as perhaps our ancestors once did.

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Photography by Aloha Bonser-Shaw.

Boss Morris are the tenth artist to work with us on the Ffern Artists series. You can read about the others here.

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