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It was a great pleasure for us to be invited back for the Ossett Beer Cart festival which is organised by Wakefield Morris in support of Wakefield Hospice. We last attended in 2017 and had a tremendous time so we were very much looking forward to it.
The arrangements for the day were the same as before with all those who wanted to be involved in pulling the cart in the procession congregating at the campsite (next to the cricket club). There was a contingent of 10 hearty souls from Kettle Bridge who had obviously forgotten just how long the procession route was!
The organisers set up the beer cart, laden with beer barrels, laid out the stangs that are used to pull the cart and the "pullers" took up their positions. Leading the procession was the banner-man together with youngsters who were pulling a replica of the main cart. Then came the musicians followed by the cart itself, pulled by representatives of the morris sides, with the "brakemen" to the rear of the cart. Finally, there were the sundry hangers-on accompanying the procession, including a giant woman dressed in green! The whole procession must have been 100 yards long.
The first half of the route was a steady climb but the procession made good progress, encouraged by the people of Ossett who had turned out to cheer it on. At the top of Kingsway, the procession went round the roundabout to head back towards the town centre and then down Dewsbury Road. Thankfully, the next stretch was largely downhill. A right turn down Church Street took everyone back towards the pedestrian area in Ossett and a final halt outside the Town Hall, arriving on time just before 11:00, where there was a large crowd gathered.
With the procession complete, we made our way to our first stand which was at the War Memorial. We were with Catseye Morris (a border side all the way from Cornwall) and Horwich Prize Medal Morris Men. Whip the Cat (a rapper and clog side from Nottingham) were scheduled to dance with us but, as it had just started to rain, they declined as apparently their instruments would have got wet. Mind you, dancing with swords on a slippery surface is never recommended anyway.
Horwich is a north west side from Bolton and it is interesting to note that Horwich Parkway Station is directly between Blackrod and Lostock on the Preston to Manchester line. You can't get more appropriate than that!
Between the showers, we managed to dance Presidcot, Horbury and (appropriately) Aughton.
With the rain now stopped, we moved a short distance up to the spot outside the Town Hall where the Beer Cart was parked. Our companions at this stand were Fool's Gambit (mainly Cotswold), Sheffield Steel Rapper (can't find out where they are from or what they dance 😉) and Silkstone Greens (a north west side from Dodworth, near Barnsley, Yorkshire).
It seems from Silkstone's website, that the team has a motto — "si in dubitatio, circum mamille". As far as I can make out, this means something like "if in doubt, round nipples". Perhaps it lost something in translation! If they have a motto, then perhaps Kettle Bridge should have one. How about "Si tout échoue, buvez du café et mangez des gâteaux"?
At this stand, we danced KBC Processional, Annie's and Shawforth. We also spotted a familiar face in the crowd, none other than Trefor Owen, retired clog maker and an important figure in Kettle Bridge's history. It was great to meet up with him again.
Next on the agenda was lunch! Most of the side descended on Eller Coffee, just off the main performance area. They were our nominated partner for the Beer Cart event and they had decorated the coffee shop with balloons matching Kettle Bridge colours. There were seats outside so that we could rest and recharge our batteries in the fresh air, all while drinking coffee and eating cake, of course!
The next performance area was just along the road from Eller's, outside the old library. Here, we were accompanied by Slubbing Billy's North West Morris (from Huddersfield) and Whip the Cat (again).
I am sure that you would be as intrigued as I was to know where the name Slubbing Billy came from. According to the side's website ...
A Slubbing Billy is a machine for putting a twist into freshly carded cotton or wool so that it can be spun. Before the process was mechanised, the unspun fibres were twisted by a skilled worker (a Slubber) on a frame with a long wooden rod, called a billy roller. Slubbers were notoriously intemperate, and as theirs was a trade that the cloth producers could not do without, it was (like cropping, which made the Luddites redundant) soon mechanised.
You can see a picture of an actual machine by clicking here.
The side's other claim to fame is being banned from a pub. Click here to read the news item. You will see that (as always in the media) the side is described as a "troupe" and, although the text of the article gets their name right, the caption on the accompanying photo has a hilarious misprint.
Back to the dancing. At the library stand, Kettle Bridge performed Ealuscerwen, Annie's and Marston.
Then it was time to move on to the last stand of the day down near the Post Office on the other side of the Town Hall. Earlsdon Morris Men (a north west side from near Coventry) arrived in style, marching to the beat of the bass drum. However, they didn't stop at the dancing location but disappeared round the corner. It could have been so that they could visit the pet shop or the barber shop but somehow I think that the Bier Huis was the main attraction. To give them their due, they returned within a few minutes and danced very well.
Sharing the stand was Wharfdale Wayzgoose (a border side from Otley, a town on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales). But "what does Wayzgoose mean?", I hear you say. Well, Wikipedia reckons that it was the name of an annual celebration in the printing trade. Continuing this theoretical conversation, your next question would be "what has that got to do with morris dancing?". Actually, nothing, but Otley (where Wayzgoose are based) had an important role in the development of printing technology as it was the birthplace of the Wharfedale Printing Machine. You can read all about it here.
Eventually, the dancing got under way but, for us, there was only time to do Milnrow and Horbury. Perhaps this was just as well as we had had a long and active day's dancing.
However, the day was not quite over. Most of the north west sides congregated by the beer cart for a final massed performance of Celebration, a fitting way to end a fantastic day.
As usual, there are far too many "thank yous" to give out, but we must mention Wakefield Morris for organising such a brilliant event and the Kettle Bridge band for their unending enthusiasm throughout the day. We must also not forget all the family and friends that came along to support.
Kettle Bridge Clogs web site by Stephen Cordery is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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