VIDEO: Morris group welcome in the summer with May Day dance

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Sompting Village Morris’ colourful May Day performance heralded the start of summer, as well as the beginning of a busy month for the group.

Around 30 members took part in the traditional dance in Shoreham centre, watched by a crowd of around 100, followed by a procession that culminated in the crowning of this year’s May Queen, 16-year-old Jojo Bishop (story continued below).

The celebrations also saw a debut performance by the Morris Minors, aged five to 11.

“They all performed absolutely beautifully and received a rapturous applause,” said performer Barbara Austin, who has belonged to the group for 32 years.

The May Day performance is a key moment in the Morris dancers’ calendar and has been marked for centuries by people whose lives were ruled by the seasons, explained the group’s jester, Martin Frost.

“Because we keep doing it, the crops thrive every summer – or at least we like to think so,” he said.

Sompting Village Morris dancers. Photo: Derek Martin

Sompting Village Morris dancers. Photo: Derek Martin

Some aspects, such as the ancient green man who leads the procession, tie in with pre-Christian traditions.

“There is continuity,” Mr Frost said.

“It has changed over the years but we try to follow how it used to be, though it was never written down, but passed on by word of mouth.”

Mr Frost, a Morris dancer for 23 years, said the group is encouraging new members, particularly those aged between 20 and 40, to join and help keep history alive.

“It’s so easy to lose traditions and people seem to be less interested in it,” he said.

“Peoples’ lives have moved in a very different direction, so it’s a nice touch to acknowledge one of the fun aspects of how lives used to be.”

The May Day dance marked the start of an eventful month for the Morris group – which has shows lined up every Wednesday across West Sussex – and a special trip abroad to perform in Greece.

While the group has performed at international festivals before, this trip will have extra significance, as dancers will be reunited with two former members who, after meeting through the group, moved to the island Kefalonia together.

But this is nothing unusual, said Mr Frost, as the last two years have seen two marriages between Morris members.

Anyone keen to get involved can email bag@somptingvillagemorris.org.uk

Find out more about Sompting Village Morris here

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