Morris dancing revival 'not for wimps'By Linda Fort
January 08, 2013
Reading is celebrating 500 years of Morris dancing this year with a series of hankie-waving and jingling events to mark the occasion.
On August 10, 1513, it is recorded that the churchwarden of St Laurence Church paid three old pennies for ale for Morris men to dance at a festival at the church.
Although this is not the oldest record of Morris dancing in the UK, it is the oldest in Reading.
As a result, the borough has a 500th anniversary to celebrate.
The Redding Moreys group has been formed to recreate the event on August 10 with as much historical accuracy as possible.
It is thought it will be the first attempt at re-enacting the occasion.
Redding Moreys is looking for new members and period musicians – for the sake of authenticity, all the 1513 members would have been men.
Chris Hutchinson of Kennet Morris Men said they now have around 10 dancers available for the new Redding Moreys group.
But he said: “We are all too old. These would have been young men and the dances are very vigorous – more like fighting.”
The name of the 1513 group is not known, but the spelling of “Redding” was current at the time and the churchwarden’s note had ‘morris’ spelled as ‘moreys’.
He said: “They would have worn hose and a shirt and some kind of jacket.
“We are going for a jacket in the St Laurence Church colours.
“There would have been bells and spangles of some kind. It was a courtly dance at the time which was taken up by the riff-raff later.”
He said no-one was sure where the word ‘morris’ came from.
He said: “It is hotly debated. It might be from moorish and it seems the dances may have come from the Middle East.”
The first event to mark the anniversary is on Wednesday, January 16, organised by the History of Reading Society.
The meeting will be at Abbey Baptist Church in Abbey Square at 7.30pm when Redding Moreys will explain and demonstrate Morris dancing from 1513 to the members. The event is free to members and £2 to non-members. All are welcome.
New Moreys members are welcome to go along to the meetings at St Mary’s Church Hall, Church Lane, Shinfield, from 12.30pm to 4.30pm on the first Sunday of the month from Sunday, February 3.