28 July 2019 - Norfolk (Day 2 : Norwich)

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As it is a Sunday, Holt Ridge respectfully incorporate the sign of the cross in their stick dance.
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The venue for the second part of our 35th anniversary trip to Norfolk was the city of Norwich itself. We were hoping to perform there on the Saturday in the hope of a larger audience but this clashed with a large Gay Pride event.

The city lies on the River Wensum, which is a tributary of the River Yare. According to Wikipedia, the name Wensum comes from the Old English word wandsum or wendsum, meaning "winding". Interestingly, the name of the River Wentsum in Kent (from which Wentsum Morris Men take their name) comes from the same word.

And just in case you want some (sorry!) more information about Norfolk rivers, the River Yare, which joins the Wensum just east of Norwich, flows eastwards from the city and enters the sea at Gorleston, where we danced yesterday!

I can't talk about Norwich without mentioning their famous football team, Norwich City. I always thought that they were called "The Canaries" because of their yellow strip but allegedly they were given that nickname by the original club chairman who was an enthusiastic breeder of canaries. They then changed the colour of their shirts to match the name! The club is currently owned by probably their most famous fan, Delia Smith, and her husband Michael Wynn-Jones. Unfortunately, a recipe for consistent success has so far eluded them!

The famous dancer and TV personality, Ed Balls (was he once something to do with politics as well?), was appointed Chairman of Norwich City in 2015. I think that this was purely because his name embodies one of the key skills required to play football.

Back to our weekend of dance. In advance, we had contacted a number of local sides to discover who was available to share our day of dance with us. We were very pleased that Fiddlesticks and Holt Ridge could both make it.

There are plenty of parallels between us and Fiddlesticks. We are both North West clog sides originally founded in the early 1980s and feature only female dancers (although men are allowed in the band!). We are both very proud of the energy and precision of our performances, so we dance well together. Inevitably, our repertoire overlaps and this meant that we could attempt a spectacular simultaneous performance of Prescot, an old favourite of both sides.

Holt Ridge Morris are a mixed Cotswold side based in the Aylsham area, just north of Norwich. Holt itself is an historic Georgian town, a little further north of Aylsham, and was the birthplace of Matthew Pinsent, the Olympic rower.
Now you may think that Norfolk is completely flat but there is a geological feature that runs from Cromer on the coast all the way to Holt. This is the Cromer-Holt Ridge, which reaches a mountainous 300 feet above sea level and which is, I assume, the origin of the morris side's name.

Now, an all-important factor in a day-of-dance is the weather and the day started rather damp but, by the time all three sides had congregated in Gentleman's Walk, the rain had thankfully stopped. Although the adjacent market was closed, there were quite a few Sunday shoppers out and about to watch the dancing.

As usual, the sides took turns to dance and we performed Shawforth, Annie's, Marston and a static Churchtown. Then it was decided that Kettle Bridge and Fiddlesticks would attempt a joint Pres(Sid)cot. As you can see from the video, it turned out to be a brilliantly successful spectacle, that both the dancers and audience thoroughly enjoyed.


Forum and church

The Forum (left) & St Peter Mancroft Church (right)
From the Visit Norwich website

It was then time for a short break while we upped sticks and relocated to Millennium Plain. On one side of the road is the Forum and the other is the magnificent church of St Peter Mancroft. It really does illustrate the combination of "ancient and modern" that is typical of Norwich.

The Forum is an important and popular facility for the people of Norwich that was built on the site of the old Central Library which was destroyed by fire in 1994. As you can probably make out from the picture, it was designed in a horseshoe shape to form an impressive three storey atrium. Inside there are cafés and restaurants but also public services such as a library and Tourist Information Centre. The steps leading up to it form a mini amphitheatre which is used for free public performances, exhibitions, and other activities.

St Peter Mancroft Church, by contrast, was built between 1430 and 1455 and is the largest church in the city, apart from the cathedrals. It boasts a magnificent number of bells in the church tower — 14, to be precise.

Unfortunately, we did not have permission to dance in or around the Forum so we set up shop (so to speak) outside the church. There was a very wide brick-paved area there that proved to be an excellent dancing surface. There was a light drizzle in evidence for the start of this stand but this thankfully did not last long.

As before, the three sides danced in rotation. We performed Milnrow, Aughton, and Ealuscerwen, followed by KBC Processional (which you can see a video of by clicking here). Then, for the second time that day, Fiddlesticks and Kettle Bridge attempted a joint Pres(Sid)cot. Once more, this was captured on video, which is available on YouTube. Again, this was a great triumph and a wonderful way to finish off our brilliant weekend in Norfolk.

With all the dancing finished, there was just time for a group photograph at the entrance to the church featuring all the dancers and musicians.

As we all made our way home, it was time to reflect on what a tremendous experience Kettle Bridge's final "away-weekend" had been. We really must thank all those that had a hand in organising or participating in the event, particularly the other two sides who accompanied us, and it was especially great to see our friends Sally and Paul again who are both stalwarts of Fiddlesticks.

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