About Victory Morris

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Origins

Victory Morris was formed in 1975 by an ex-member of Cup Hill Morris (based in Surrey). The tricorn hat comes from this association. After practising during the winter of 1975/76 the first public performances took place on May Day 1976

Picture 1

Dawn on May Day 1976 near HMS Victory

Picture 2

Palmerston Road in 1976

Picture 3

With the Mayor of Gosport in 1976

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Early years

The side quickly established a routine of practicing one evening a week during the winter, making its first public appearance on May Day and then dancing at two pubs every Thursday night until the beginning of September, when practising would begin again.

The side consisted of ten dancers in the first year and numbers remained fairly low until 1983 when, perhaps due to a nationwide interest in folk activities in general, there was a sudden influx of members to a total of thirty-five.

In 1980 the side became a member of The Morris Ring (a national organisation dedicated to the promotion of Morris dancing - it has around 300 member groups). To be invited to join the Ring is a recognition of having achieved a certain standard of dancing.

Overseas visits

In 1978 the side made its first trip abroad (a short weekend across The Channel to St. Malo). Since then we have been abroad many times (to eleven countries). Recently theses trips have been averaging one per year.

The most adventurous of these are trips to Australia (Melborne) and China (where dancing on the Wall was one of many extraordinary experiences).

These forays overseas are usually the result of contacts "on the ground" or invitations to international cultural events.

May Day and the summer

The summer programme starts on May Day (this is the long established, traditional, 1st May "May Day", whatever day of the week it may fall on, and not the nearest convenient Monday "May Day" invented by the Government). The day starts with dancing at dawn (5.15am), most often at the Spur Redoubt, and then moves on to breakfast and a beer at a pub followed by a day long tour (usually by coach) of choice Hampshire pubs and then arriving back in Portsmouth for a final dance and then singing and another beer and a few songs in a pub until closing time. Lots of dancing, lots of singing and, perhaps, lots of beer.

From May Day onwards, the regular dancing takes place on Thursday evenings at two pubs per evening in Portsmouth and south east Hampshire. See our programme for a full list.

The dancing

There are three types of Morris dancing - North West (characterised by clogs, flowery hats, rope slings and short painted sticks), Border (black faces, rag costume and lots of shouting) and Cotswold (an altogether more refined affair with handkerchiefs, long sticks and either tabards, baldricks or waistcoats). Victory dance in the Cotswold style (but not necessarily with refinement).

Here is an example of a handkerchief dance and another of a stick dance.

Our dance list is a continually changing mixture of traditional dances (recorded at the turn of the 19th century) and recently invented ones. The Morris is a living thing and it moves on; it has always been so. Here is a description of made up dances.

The singing

Victory Morris have a reputation for singing. After the dancing at the second pub in the summer, the men retire to the bar and sing a selection of folk songs until the pub closes. Many of the songs are traditional but some have been written by Victory members. They are all in the folk song idiom and they always have a chorus. The public are welcome to listen and/or join in the chorus.

Here is a sample. And another.

Related groups

We often dance with neighbouring Morris sides (see programme). These are:-

Several of our members belong to one of two Mumming groups. Mumming is also an ancient traditional activity. Mumming is the performance of short plays during the Christmas period.

Some Victory men are key members of these singing groups

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