19 June 2011 - Summer Tour with Ditchling

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Ditchling Morris accompanied us on our Kentish Summer Tour which began in bright sunshine at the Kent Life museum. This is a fascinating place that illustrates what life was like in a rural community in days gone by, with an emphasis on keeping children engaged, occupied and entertained.

On arrival, the dancers and musicians naturally gravitated to the coffee shop for some fortifying refreshment before the first stand which was outside the Play Barn. Here there was a small paved area that was just about large enough to accommodate the Kettle Bridge dancers (you can take that how you like!). We alternated dances with Ditchling, who are an excellent Cotswold side from a village in East Sussex whose name escapes me.

Kettle Bridge danced Prescot and Aughton, followed by a Churchtown with the usual audience participation. It is always a delight to see the cute smiles on the dancersí faces as they make a shambolic attempt to keep in step and follow Valís instructions. Luckily, by the time Churchtown came around, Kettle Bridge had got the hang of it.

Then it was time to move on to the next stand which was up the hill, past the coffee shop to the Wagon Store. Here the dancing continued with Kettle Bridge performing Annie's and Aughton, again alternating with Ditchling. At this point, we became aware that some members of the audience were being upset by our performance. Nothing unusual there, I hear you say, but this time it was the donkeys in a nearby field that were being spooked by the noise of the music and dancing. The band especially felt empathy with these poor simple creatures who know nothing about music, so we decided to stop for an early lunch.

It was a short walk to the Village Hall where Kettle Bridge had provided a magnificent spread. Well done to everyone for contributing to the mountain of delicious food. There was definitely plenty for everyone.

Suitably refreshed, we made our way down to the Malta Inn where we were due to catch the Allington Belle for a sedate river trip into Maidstone. The boat arrived dead on time and we filed aboard, virtually filling the craft. Off we set for a relaxing cruise along the Medway. This was the signal for the only real downpour of the day but thankfully we were all safely under cover.

Everyone started to get into the nautical spirit. The band are always partial to a bit of rum! And I definitely heard a cry of "Avast behind!". I wonder which dancer they were talking about.
Unusual fact : 19th September is designated "Talk Like a Pirate" Day. And I thought morris dancers were weird!

All too soon it was time to disembark in Maidstone. The rain stayed away for our short walk up to the bandstand at the rear of Fremlin Walk. This was an excellent venue for the dancers and the band as the sound echoed around the roof of the bandstand, which acted as an amplifier. Not so good for photographs though, I'm afraid, because the dancers were in shade with bright light behind.

Ditchling and Kettle Bridge alternated again with KBC performing Prescot, Marston, Cossington and KBC Processional. It was during this stand that Karen, a former KBC dancer, stopped to say hello. It was great to see her again.

There was an even shorter walk of about 30 yards to our final stand at the Royal Albion pub. After a quick break for a drink, it was time to perform again. Kettle Bridge danced Aughton, this time with a new variation, and Manx. Ditchling included a very impressive 12 man dance (Adderbury Shooting, if my research is correct) and this was a fitting climax to an excellent day's dancing from both sides.

Finally, all that remained was for us to make our weary way to the boat for the trip back to Allington. There we made our fond farewells and reflected on a wonderful day.

Our special thanks go to Ditchling for being such excellent company all day and entertaining us with some top quality Cotswold dancing. As ever, we must also pay tribute to both sets of musicians for providing a fitting accompaniment.

Talking of the band, I must say that it was great to see Mike W-J back with us and looking so well. Best wishes from everyone for a continued recovery.

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