Filkins Morris Tradition
Dartington Morris are proud performers of the Filkins tradition. There is evidence that Morris was danced in the village but there is no written record that allows the style to be reconstructed fully. Christopher Farr (Dartington Morris Men) devised a style of dance that is based on the fragmentary evidence, which we perform regularly. Some background to the basis for the Filkins style that we dance today is given below, written by Christopher Farr. You can see performances of Filkins dances via our video page.
Where is Filkins?
Filkins is a village in the civil parish of Filkins and Broughton Poggs in Oxfordshire, mid-way between Cirencester and Oxford. It is about 5 miles East North East of Bampton.
The existence of the Filkins tradition of dances was signposted by an article in "The Birmingham Evening Post" dated September 6th 1884, in answer to a query from another reader enquiring about the Morris in that village. The contributor was an ex-Ragman (costumier) of the side called Mr T M Luker, who wrote that the village had a very notable far-famed side.
Mr Luker gave a generalised description of the dances which included a couple of key points as to the style: "both turning around on the left foot and hand clapping both before and behind were much resorted to". The step sequence and hand movements (termed "facing up") used by Dartington for the Filkins dances was based on the practise of Mr Charles ("Minnie") Taylor, who is best known as the transmitter of the Oddington tradition of dances.
Mr Taylor is on record as having travelled 15 miles "to get the Morris". Since the only village with a Morris tradition seven and a half miles from where Mr Taylor lived is Filkins, the assumption is that that is where he got his pattern. The route he would have taken to Filkins is along an old ridge way: a pleasant run which I have used as a cycling route when exploring the Cotswolds by bike. Altough Mr Taylor is long deceased, I gained information about him from one of his family descendants, a charming lady who ran the post office in Sherborne. Mr Taylor must have seen something special in the Filkins style as the Morris traditions of Bledington, Longborough and Sherborne all lay in much closer proximity to his home. Mr Taylor is on record as having walked to Ilmington to see Sam Bennett’s side dancing there so he was evidently a prodigious rambler as that village is 17 and a half miles from Church Icombe.
Tunes for the Filkins dances were collected in the village in 1912 by George Butterworth, the well known associate of Cecil Sharp. The music styles of Bampton and Oddington are the basis for our interpretation of the music for Filkins: the key element being the use of anacrusis which gives a distinctive jaunty rhythm and a "jink" to the step which encourages a dynamic performance.
The Filkins tradition was re-introduced to the village after a gap in performace of some 90 years (since the outbreak of World War One, when many village traditions were discontinued) by Dartington Morris Men whose foreman had reconstructed the dances. On that occasion the original melodeon used by the Filkins side was brought out of retirement and used to accompany the dance "My Pretty Little Highland Mary".
We are proud to claim that the Filkins tradition has added to the glorious varieties of style found in the Morris dances of England as the unique manoeuvres, steps and musical interpretations are quite distinct from all other traditions. Our dances have won many admirers from amongst the cognoscenti and some knowledgeable observers have remarked on resemblances to the Morisco dances of Northern Spain (Galicia, Basque country and Catalonia) and Northern Portugal, which may very well be the area where the Morris of England originated.
2016 Visit to Filkins
Dartington Morris Men visited the village on Saturday 16 July for the 'Filkins Exposed' event, where they performed all of their Filkins dances. Lots of photos in the gallery!
The six dances reconstructed by Dartington Morris Men are named:
- My Pretty Little Highland Mary*
- Lillibulero (Old Woman Tossed Up)
- Orange in Full Blooming
- The Sea-Green Sash*
- Just as the Tide Was a-Flowing
- Fancy Nancy
The first three are handkerchief dances, and the last three are stick dances. Those marked with an asterisk can be seen performed on our videos page.
There is also a jig designed for one or more dancers based on "My Pretty Little Highland Mary".