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308th Ring Meeting - Mendip Morris Men
Weston-super-Mare, 21st - 23rd July 2006
 
Mendip Ring Meeting Team
Mendip Ring Meeting Team

This was the first Ring Meeting attended by IWMM for some years (Richmond 1999) and an archive report is justified to record the changing profile of IWMM. Many of the core members whose presence has been notable over the past 10 years or so were missing and in their places the emerging next generation are making an impact.

No longer are we entertained by the fooling, singing and merriment of Phil Carmichael, sadly too ill to attend a weekend meeting; gone too the fatherly influence and singing of Nick Tyndall who died in May. There was no Geoff Smith and no Bob Hart, whose knee now finds a weekend event too punishing.

 

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But, IWMM have a new engine that works in a different sort of way. Since Graham took over the Bag in 2003 he has created busy programmes and we achieved performances at all events through Graham’s inter-team networking and enthusiasm for training new young members from whatever local organisation will listen. So, IWMM have an ‘active’ distant member brigade who are keen to come and dance with us thanks to Graham’s enthusiasm and persuasion. Included in that list are Ben Robinson from Packington/Man Friday MM (Leics.), Jason Gallop (Packington), Matt (Kennet), Ally Hutchinson (Leeds) and of course Ian Hubbard (Man Friday and currently Squire of Leicester MM). Other young members are Kalvin Stanton, Ben Higgs, and Jon Ambidge.

So the team for the Mendip meeting comprised :

Martin Foster, Len Ash, Ian Gillingham, Pete Ambidge, Sem Seaborne, of the ‘Old Guard’ with Graham Hubbard, Kalvin Stanton, Jon Ambidge of the ‘New Guard’ joined by Ian Hubbard and Ben Robinson of the Distant Member’s Club. The dancing qualities of the team critically depend upon the Distant Members being particularly good dancers. Squire Birch being indisposed for the weekend conferred temporary Squiredom on Graham.

Many of the characters who always show up at Ring Meetings were also showing the passage of time. Mike Chandler was walking with a limp and doesn’t dance anymore. Jim Catterill, once the Melodeon Pumper-in-Chief was walking with the aid of a stick and suffering from diabetes, and we hardly heard from him. Many other familiar faces (e.g. Dave Brewster) seem older and greyer since that last meeting.

The meeting was based in a large school at Churchill (inland from Weston); the weather hot and humid. IWMM were housed in a smallish classroom with 8 men from Mersey MM. I think the toilets became blocked by ca. 8:00pm and stayed that way for the weekend.

We had a meal in the hall and stayed there drinking and talking since the nearest pub was a 15 minute walk away. Attempts to get some music/singing going failed although there was some occasional appreciative applause.

The younger generation showed their enthusiasm for the dance and got a few things going outside and it was great to see the networking Graham, Ben and Ally have created with younger guys in other teams through the Morris 18-30 initiative.

The late night music/singing frequently led in the past by Jim Catterill (Thaxted) didn’t happen.

 

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On Saturday our tour went by open top bus to Weston where we danced with Uttoxeter, Exeter, Letchworth, and Waddard MM. This was followed by The Plough in Congresbury where there was an interesting display of kit from a defunct Ring side dating from 1938, but an even more interesting picture of some dancers from 1908. (Pre-Sharp And Revival!)

Lunch was taken at the Old Station Inn (The Strawberry Special) at Draycott opposite the old station and Martin soaked it up.

On to the massed display at Wells Cathedral, where our performance of Greensleeves (Stanton Harcourt) brought a commendation from the Squire. Precisely at the point of the display finishing the heavens opened and we were all thoroughly drenched heading back to the bus through streets awash with torrents. We cowered in the lower deck whilst the upper filled with water and dripped it through.

Eventually it stopped and the sun reappeared but we abandoned tour plans and went back to Churchill to dry out. Ian G discovered that his trousers had grown strange and alarming brown patches.

Kit was spead out in the sun like a Chinese laundry and we filled the time by walking the 15 minutes to the pub, returning at 7:00 pm to mostly dry kit (except for Ian) and prepared for dinner.

There was the usual plethora of platitudes associated with outgoing and incoming Squires (Bob Cross retiring, Paul Reece (Thaxted) incoming), followed by speeches in praise of and received from guests from Germany and Czech Republic.

By 10:00 pm the meeting moved to the Gym (a large room with stark acoustics) for singing; we skilfully avoided the Squires request to ‘kick things off’. Eventually Graham & Sem were requested to play a tune and “Spring the Summer Long” was delivered and well received. Dancing followed both inside and out with the younger generation winning the day at 01:30 am.

Another noisy, smelly night followed. Len found himself private quarters, the Ambidges sunk into a coma, Ian dreamed of clean trousers.

After breakfast we headed for Weston finding time for a coffee at the towns top coffee house, a classic seaside greasy spoon (well, greasy everything really). Following an undeniable request from the proprietor that went something like “Gor Blimey, you lot, I ain’t never seen no morris dancing so why don’t you do summink artside before you go!”, we complied with a Bampton sidestep.

The church service was notable only for some occasional eccentric chords from the lady organist who finished with the Jerry Lee Lewis version of Lord of the Dance.

We gathered to process along the prom to the boarded up “Tropicana” and again picked up some compliments from the new squire for our musical interlude, in return for which we nagged him to give 18-30 Morris a higher profile.

 

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Mendip Ring Meeting: dancing outside Wells Cathedral
Mendip Ring Meeting: dancing outside Wells Cathedral

The massed display contained some good dancing from teams like Mendip, Thaxted, etc. but in other cases there were some limp and lethargic displays. Graham’s 18-30 show put some life into the show and it was pleasing to see 2 IWMM chaps in the squad with one producing the music. The IWMM performance (Jenny Lind, Lichfieldish) again produced compliments from Bob Cross and Bert Cleaver.

So, back to the church for a quick lunch and that was it; another Ring Meeting over. The signs are around of the emerging younger influence and looking at some of the performances we damn well need it!

Sem Seaborne
Icknield Way Morris Men
25 July2006

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