All photographs are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Thankfully Operation Stack was not active so we had few problems driving down to the seaside resort. Most of us parked at the Charles Dickens School which was hosting the folk week campsite. Ian had arranged for a minibus to take us down to the sea-front which was about a mile away. Unfortunately there were more people than seats but Tess, the festival administrator, very kindly gave three of us a lift in her own car.
We were dropped off in Albion Street and walked through Balmoral Gardens to the Promenade. It was rather crowded so we decided to continue to the jetty by the harbour. We strolled along the Prom but the band didn't play and Pom was completely sober.
On reaching the jetty, we teamed up with Rampant Rooster to share the stand. They are a Cotswold / Border mixed side from Dorking and hold their practice sessions at the local rugby club. There they try to tackle new dances and pack in as much as they can before they make a line out to the local pub (The Up and Under) where they prop up the bar. They kick off with a glass of scrumpy before passing on to stronger stuff, only stopping when they get a tight head or get locked out. If you want to get in touch with them, just knock on the rugby club door on practice night.
Despite the heat, Kettle Bridge managed three dances, namely Prescot, Aughton and Shawforth before finishing with Churchtown where members of the audience (and Rampant Rooster) joined in.
We then made our way back up to the Promenade to a spot close to Balmoral Gardens. The pathway was still quite narrow but there was just enough room to perform. We managed to fit in Cossington and Annie's before it was time to stop for refreshment.
Our next stand was a short way along the Promenade near the Tourist Information kiosk. Here Royal Liberty Morris were already dancing so we teamed up for a joint stand. The London Borough of Havering (which was incidentally my home for many years) takes its name from the local village Havering-atte-Bower which was a royal manor and ancient liberty, hence the name Royal Liberty. This name is used by both a school and the morris side based in the borough.
Royal Liberty Morris describe themselves as a mixed side that dance several styles including "Cotswold (Ascot tradition), Molly sword and Border Morris each with equal enthusiasm, vigour, spectacle... and scaffold poles". The thing that struck me (thankfully not the scaffold poles) was how many youngsters were dancing. This was really great to see and bodes well for the future of morris. We just need to convert some of them to North West, now!
We performed three dances at this stand, namely Ealuscerwen, KBC Processional and Saint Helens Gala. The dancing area was quite restricted so Royal Liberty very kindly made a human chain to cordon off a section of the path. We were very happy to reciprocate when it was their turn to dance.
Our final Promenade stand was a little further down towards the Bandstand. Here we danced Aughton and Milnrow on our own before stopping for a well-deserved ice cream break as the weather was still relentlessly sunny and warm.
Suitably refreshed, we assembled at the appointed time behind the Bandstand to prepare for our star spot. The seating area was packed and we were warmly welcomed onto the boarded dancing area just in front of the Bandstand. The band positioned themselves on the steps.
Kettle Bridge performed Shawforth as their first dance and this included a spectacular finale with all nine dancers advancing in a line, perfectly in step. While the dancers prepared for the second dance, the band provided a musical interlude to keep the audience entertained. Then it was time for the final performance, namely Milnrow. This finished with the dancers going at double speed which certainly wowed the crowd. How they managed to summon up the energy to perform with such vigour after a hand day's dancing in very warm conditions I have no idea.
By the way, you can see how the Bandstand performance went by clicking on this link.
With all the dancing complete for the day, Ian arranged for a minibus to return us to the campsite where our cars were parked. We found some welcome shade while we waited for the transport. Back at the school, we went our separate ways and reflected on a thoroughly enjoyable day.
The usual thanks are due to everyone who helped to make the day go so well, but especially to Ian for making all the arrangements and organising the minibuses and to Val for sorting out all the dances at each stand. And we mustn't forget all the friends and family that came along to support us, particularly Michael who looks fitter each time that we see him.