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Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Some more on the Dartmoor Folk Festival


[As I mentioned before I really love this small and eccentric festival.  It is held in South Zeal,on the edge of Dartmoor

The field before the crowds gathered at Dartmoor Folk Festival 2001.  Some of these photos are by me, some by my wife Lunar Hine - Please accredit one or other of our blogs if you wish to use them.

They help keep alive a number of local traditions. One is the local Step Dancing.  I have come across mentions of this happening in the farmhouses around Dartmoor back into victorian times, and I haeve no dobt there would have been local dance tradition before this.

The winner of the youth section of the step dancing competition 2011
I missed the main competition (I have witnessed it before - preformed on a cart top, with the musician playing a small concertina facing away from the competitor so that he does not favour one person over another. Men and women compete. In the crowd old ladies sit and mutter to each other about how well - or not - a competitor is doing.  It seems they are permitted to bring a bit of their own style in, but if they are seen as going too far into some more mainstream form of tap dancing they frowned on).

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All I saw this year was the two winners, the adult and the child's category, preforming their dances. Unfortunately it was at very short notice, so soft shoes where used instead of hard.

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And this one...  Oh well - the adult winner


The Step Dancing Memorial Cup
The Bob Cann Shield for step dancing.  I am not sure whether this or the cup is for adults...

Talking of shoes - one year I saw a dance off in the Kings Arms for a pair of shoes at this festival - in the corner rumored to be the domain of a Devon gypsy family - it is always full of musicians and dancers anyway!

The winner of the broom dancing took center stage, surrounded by her fellow competitors. This year the fashion for stripy socks added to the display!
Another competition is the children's broom dancing - another local tradition. This year it was almost all girls, and the brooms where decorated. This is a good dance, though it seems to have only one form that is repeated. Personally I would like to see a few adult broom dancers, and maybe an evolving tradition to run alongside the fixed dance - there is a lot you could do with a broom.


The broom dancing shield, 1991-2011 so far, first presented by the Exeter Morris men and Bob Cann - the founder of the festival.
The winner of the Broom dancing championship also wins the years broom - later the girl who won was seen proudly carrying it around the village.  The mini broom has the newish colours of Devon on it (they actually relate to the county sports teams, lord Exmouth and the lush hills and granite of the area, as well as Westcountry saint Petroc.
Morris dancers also abounded, much to the pleasure (and occasional fear) of my litle daughter. She was fine when they danced, even growling and laughing at them when they rushed at us with sticks, but when they milled around unchaperoned by the music she got a little anxious, espesially at the ragged, flower headed, blacked out faced Exmoor Morris Dancers.

Dartmouth?? Morris

Also present where Dartmouth? Morris and Lodestone Morris.  I think there was also one of the genuinely old sides from Oxfordshire that never died out.


Lots of beer was drunk and music played.  Only later was I aware of the irony that while around England young people where drinking heavily and wielding big sticks (baseball bats and truncheons) in the rioting and looting that was happening in the poor areas of our cities here on Dartmoor everyone was actively turning up to watch people hit each other with sticks and drink far, far, far to much...

Sticks and drink - a tamer sort of riot...

Music was everywhere.  This man was from Lodestone morris, and showed me a penny whistle that could be played in only one hand...

Most of the Morris dancing was in the streets and by the pub, but at the end of the day they came on to the main arena. Ths is Lodestone Morris again.

Exmoor Morris dancing again. This group made a big thing about having come sooo very far, from foreign lands... Exmoor...
My daughter learning to walk and dance to the music. She and the other small children saw the dance floor as the place to be, and between dance acts nobody stopped them charging around to the sound of the accordion.


Finally the intimidating Minehead Sailors Horse (a hobby horse) did its wild dance and 'bumbped' its unsuspecting victim...
 The only things I have to add that I can remember was about the stalls - many where stuffed with local crafts - jewelry, prints, bee products...  The one that stuck most in my mind was sett up for one day only. in the street outside the festival, under the bunting, a small boy stood at a workmate with a hammer, chisel and some pots of paint. He has been there a few years that I have been. He had mined some rusty used horseshoes out from behind a barn on his parents farm and did them all up smart. A sign proclaimed "Lucky Devon Horseshoes". Next year I will photograph his wheres.

That reminds me - on the bus through Drewsteinton I noticed three old horseshoes, all toe down, on the same barn door. They had been painted over many times. A very lucky barn I think, considering the folkloric power of three.]






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