How Do I Resource My Morris Activities?
Perhaps this is one of the most difficult things to answer. A lot depends on how far you wish to take it. Is it a one off or is it to become part of your regular curriculum? How much time and money are you willing to invest? How much adult help do you have? If it is a one off I would suggest approaching local Morris groups for a loan of equipment, the worst they can do is say no. Most things used in Morris are available within the school or can be made by enthusiastic staff or parents. Some can be made by the children as an extension to the topic. Morris Minors bring equipment with them for their sessions but no hats for hygiene reasons.
One source of many wonderful things, including material, haberdashery and ribbons, is Hull Scrap Store, which serves the whole of the former Humberside area . People viewing our site outside this area may find they have a similar facility in their own area.
We are still on the lookout for cheap, easy resources. If your school or organisation has any good tips we would be glad to receive them and pass them on.
With older children there is no doubt proper wooden sticks are desirable and the usual choices are blackthorn, hazel and willow in that order. You may be able to enlist the help of a local conservation group in finding and seasoning the sticks, but many Morris enthusiasts rapidly adopt the habit of maintaining a sharp eye for suitable sticks when they are out walking. Broom handles can be used but should be ringed with insulation tape as they can shatter.
With children below year 5, or where you have more volatile individuals, “sticks” can be cut from plastic plumbers overflow pipe, available cheaply from any plumber’s merchant. These sound on hitting but won’t allow injury.
Every teacher must wonder what to do with the regular supply of broken hula hoops. Simple, get the children to cover them and use them as dancing garlands.
Other techniques include putting a willow wand through some old hosepipe to stiffen it.
Hankies or Wavers
Most schools can call upon a parent with an overlocker sewing machine. Old sheets and thin curtains can be a great source of cheap material. With younger children a finger loop sewn on the corner is useful to prevent them being flung all over!
I wouldn’t recommend anyone to try teaching sword dancing unless they have actually done it as a member of a team themselves. The larger folk festivals such as Whitby Folk Week usually include longsword and rapper (shortsword) workshops for both adults and children.
Wooden longswords are easily fashioned by a handy parent or grandparent from straight grained hardwood and I have seen schools successfully use wooden and plastic metre sticks for this.
While people have worked happily with children on Rapper dancing (see www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAXOqrrS1-A ) my instinct is to leave this one alone and keep to the Morris forms which don’t give the H & S rep apoplexy! Rapper swords need to be metal and for health and safety reasons I would only use a commercial product. These come at about a hefty £35 each. Advice and suppliers can be seen on www.rapper.org.uk/rapperswords.php .
This is a bit we can’t really do ourselves. Beware the cheap, decorative bells which are really meant to embellish Christmas decorations and rattle rather pathetically.
Real bells can be purchased from:
The Morris Shop online.
Hobgoblin Music www.hobgoblin.com who have a shop in Leeds
The Morris Federation by mail order.
You can also get children’s bells already on straps from many educational catalogues such as Hertfordshire Supplies or Yorkshire Purchasing .
Complete children’s bell pads are available from Morris suppliers but tend to be horrifically expensive, £16 per pair up (includes bells) and probably beyond the budget of most schools. At Morris Minors we are still trying out different budget designs but our best design so far can be found by scrolling to the bottom of this page. If you have a better method please let us know.
With KS1 children we have abandoned the use of bell pads, despite the “authenticity”. Belling them up takes forever and the things still slide down their legs! We tend to use the “wrist strap” bells round the wrists or ankles instead. Be warned also that Morris bells are gentle outside. In an echoing school hall they can create a noise problem and a great distraction to the teaching process. It is usually wise to issue them only at performance point!
This can easily be obtained as free downloads from the internet. Most Morris sites have the tunes which they most commonly use. Border tune sheet music can be had from:
http://www.freaksinthepeaks.com/tunes.htm . On this latter site “Theme Vannitaise” is a tune which can be played by a talented Year 3 or 4 on a recorder or penny whistle as it has no overblown notes.
Other reasonably easy tunes for children to play include Bear Dance .
As mentioned above, we don’t bring hats with us for hygiene reasons but children do love them and they add to the atmosphere. Some of the most effective hats we have seen have simply been a sugar paper band which the children have decorated with coloured tissue. Much will depend on how much time you have to invest in the activity and what help you have available.
Most people working with children will be familiar with hat making and a simple design for a basic “boater” to be made from cardboard or black sugar paper is shown here. For a top hat just make the band wider. The key is to fit the band part to the child’s head size and then cut the holes accordingly. The children will bring their own artistic ingenuity to the decoration of it.
Most teachers are pound shop fiends and also discount shops such as “B & M” and “Home Bargains” sell basic hats very cheaply, especially as you approach Easter, which the children will happily decorate to Morris standards.
If you really want to push the boat out and use this as a major CDT module for KS2 children you may find this activity from “Primary Resources” useful:
These are easy to make but time consuming. An enthusiastic volunteer can be enlisted. Most schools have a supply of material scraps for collage work or charity shops will often let you have unsaleable items such as old shirts to cut up for tatters. Old shirts are also useful for a base instead of making a basic waistcoat yourself. Simply cut the tatters from the scrap material and sew them to the waistcoat or old shirt you are using as the base. The tatters need to be long enough to swirl as the dancer moves but not so long they are easily tangled. About 25 to 30 cm is usually about right.
One useful material is the black cloth which can be bought from garden suppliers for as little as £4 for 10 metres which is used to inhibit weed growth while allowing drainage. It doesn’t fray and can easily be cut into a simple jacket shape. You can also use it for cutting black tatters into lengths and sewing them on with an ordinary domestic machine.
For a one off performance, I have seen effective tatter jackets made simply by cutting arm and neck holes in a black bin liner and cutting lines of “tatters” from another bin liner and sticking them on with black tape. They look very effective but will not be too durable.
Clothes for other Morris styles
A good “cross curricular” when researching Victorians & Edwardians, there are also plenty of other illustrations for children to investigate. Don’t worry about “authenticity” as there are countless different styles of dress. For performance with children, simplicity and economy are the watchwords. Cotswold tends to be done in whites, which I understand were often the men’s cricket whites. White shirts are usually easily come by, trousers are a problem. They can be ignored but if needed may have to be bought, which can be an expensive problem. Many Cotswold Morris teams today do use dark coloured trousers and sometimes waistcoats instead of the traditional crossed baldrics.
For North West style the easiest thing for younger girls is to have them in the school’s standard cotton summer dress with a simple shawl or tabard, or if you like a bit of work, a pinafore. For boys or older girls of the trouser wearing ages a white shirt or blouse is sufficient while long football socks over the top of the trousers give an impression of wearing breeches. Something to think about when selecting the colour for your school football strip.
Drop us an e mail (see contact for address) and we will send you a free copy of this. It is copyright free. Slides can be selected and the text ( which is mainly for the teacher’s comfort) can be reduced or altered by the teacher or leader to fit the age, ability and concentration span of the audience. With KS1 children you can simply dump the text and discuss the pictures.
Video clips and examples to show the children
There are plenty of Morris clips on Youtube and some are mentioned on our Morris History webpage. We can also supply, free of charge on request (see e mail address in “Contact”), a DVD showing adults performing various styles of Morris Dancing which will play on a computer and can therefore be displayed on an interactive whiteboard.
Video clips for teachers and leaders
Type “Back to the Quarry” into Youtube and there are some video clips featuring cross curricular work done by this organisation with children in the Oxford area.
For those schools that prefer to keep their teaching “in house”, a new video package for the Cotswold style, “Morris! Hey”! has been created by a member of St Alban’s Morris Men who has wide teaching experience. Full details can be found on the website http://www.morrishey.co.uk . or it can be ordered from http://www.themorrisshop.com/store . As it is fairly new, we have not been able to evaluate it yet but the people behind it are well established in Morris circles.
The “Back to the Quarry” website has a page for educational resources including a free, downloadable teachers’ pack hashttp://www.backtothequarry.net/education-resources . While this is aimed at the story of William Kimber and the Headington Quarry area of Oxford it can be adapted to local activities almost anywhere. There are references to You Tube videos but we understand why many schools are reluctant to allow children to use these in their research.
These are not cheap but we have seen some well constructed local examples produced by amateur engineers. The main thing is to remember that the “principle of moments” favours lower poles as free standing poles can, and will be, tipped if they are not well supervised and the wider the base, the more likely it is to be tripped over. Commercially produced poles are available from http://www.tradamis.org , an organisation teaching Morris in Hertfordshire and the Home Counties.
You may get away with strapping ribbons to a rugby post with the cross bar removed or even a metal pole supporting an awning.
The Morris Minors patent bell pad!
While leather is the best material, we found the table protecting mat, which furniture stores sell by the metre, to be sufficiently durable. We used the offcuts produced from an oval table. Most of the home made adult pads we examined used wire and staples which school H & S would immediately rule out. We also had to accommodate the thinnest reception waif and some very substantial year 6s. We found the 2cm webbing straps with Velcro very flexible and you can also rapidly rethread shorter or longer straps (colour coded) when required. The use of Velcro is far better with children than buckles or ties due to the time factor. The four bell pad, using 3/4 or 1 inch bells is the best combination and a leather backed pad is shown in the final picture. The pictures in the sequence are a compromise using the table protector pad and some rather large bells which we were given for free.