Our first visit to COAM

Saturday 23rd May was our first chance to dance as a team at the Chiltern Open Air Museum (COAM) and to make use of our Maypole in its new setting. It has to be said that the weather was very definitely not on our side being pretty cold for the time of year: very showery with a very gusty wind. This was too much for the gazebo COAM very kindly lent us to keep our musical instruments dry, but fortunately team member Angie had brought one too! Huge thanks.

Despite the excitement of the wind and rain we did get some dancing done. The day was part demonstration of our current repertoire of dances and part public rehearsal of new material. We started with a Maypole display showing the select and hardy audience a few of our regular Maypole dances which were greatly appreciated. Sue then introduced a new North West Dance to the group and there were enough of us to form two sets to learn it. The dance worked really well and will be a great addition to the repertoire.

At lunchtime some members of the team took the chance to wander around the site and see some of the excellent buildings. Then we demonstrated some more Maypole dances, including some of the historical and country dances that can be done in a circle around the Maypole. This gave our audience a chance to join in for some socially-distanced dancing outside of our staked-out arena.

This was followed by a rehearsal of our Broom Dance, and an opportunity for Mike and Beth to perform their solo Morris Jigs. As the weather was not improving significantly, we then decided to do one final Maypole session with socially-distanced audience participation before packing up and going home.

What was clear to all who were there is that everything we did proved of interest to our audiences and to the staff of COAM, and we really feel that there is a good fit between the Museum and our activities. It will be great to build on this over the next few years.

One unusual aspect of the day was that Sound Recordist Jonathan Kempster was present throughout, recording the sounds of some performances and doing interviews with members of the team and the public. From this material he has edited together a really interesting five-minute feature which he has kindly allowed us to share here.

Spring Live 2021

We recently enjoyed a fantastic weekend at Spring Live, which took place (with Covid precautions) on 24th and 25th April at the South Of England Showground in West Sussex.

In normal years our performances at Spring Live include a demonstration of Sussex Country Dances and an invitation for members of the public to try their hand at maypole dancing and ceilidh dancing. This year that wasn’t possible due to social distancing requirements, so we seized the opportunity to show off our members’ expertise in a wide variety of folk dance genres, including broom dances, solo Cotswold morris jigs, and clog dancing. We also adapted our repertoire of maypole and country dances for a smaller number of dancers, and demonstrated these with extra-long-ribbons and larger formations.

Our performance area may have been off-limits to the public this year, but the surrounding area provided the perfect space for spectators to watch our performances and enjoy a picnic at the same time.

The sun shone throughout the weekend, although it did get a bit breezy at times and we really had to hang on to those maypole ribbons!

We now look forward to our first visit to COAM on 23rd May, where we will spend time developing our display dances in an ‘open rehearsal’. More info on that in our next blog post!

The Saga Of The Large Maypole

Back in the days when we were able to perform at large events (remember them?!), a large maypole was constructed to our outline specification for the village green at BBC Countryfile Live. Over the next 3 years it provided a spectacular focal point for us and members of the public during approximately 40 performances at both Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard.
Then, like so many things in lockdown, it was unused and stuck in a warehouse for a year, and the organisers of Countryfile Live offered it to us. Thanks to the generosity of some team members we were able to purchase it and, during the discussion, the idea of giving it a new home at the Chiltern Open Air Museum came up. Enquiries were made, discussions took place and all parties were in agreement.
Last week, in the final stage of the Saga, the maypole was installed in its new home at COAM, with the ribbons safely stored nearby and ready to be used when we are able to perform again. So far the only audience has been a flock of sheep in the small field next to it! There was also considerable excitement when the maypole delivery crew met COAM’s wonderful fork lift – a museum piece in its own right.
The Museum reopened on 26th March, and now visitors can admire the maypole in its new home. The first chance to see it with ribbons and dancers will come on Sunday 23rd May when the mAy team will be visiting to demonstrate and discuss the dances in an informal Live Rehearsal. This event will also feature plenty of music and the many other traditional country dances that our audiences have come to expect.
Other aspects of the Maypole programme, such as volunteer training, school sessions, weddings and corporate training, will be introduced as restrictions are lifted, and we are looking forward to a spectacular End Of Season show with full audience participation in September.

A new partnership

There were major changes for the mAy team during 2020. We have purchased the large maypole that was built for us to use at Countryfile Live, and the Chiltern Open Air Museum (COAM) have kindly provided a home for it.

This will lead to a whole new partnership including training events, displays and plenty of chances for everyone to join in. The maypole may get used at other times including weddings, corporate events and hopefully as part of the Museum’s wonderful Education Programme. There may even be opportunities for members of the team to contribute with their teaching skills in other areas.

A lot of this is still at the planning stage and we will be working with the Museum to conform to Covid regulations, but we are hoping to install the maypole during March before the Museum Season starts and hold sessions there on the weekend of 15th/16th May and 18th/19th September.

As things progress we very much hope to participate in more events and look forward to a fruitful partnership between the two organisations.

The Countryfile Live maypole – now ours!

Urban Maypole Dancing

2020 was a quieter summer than we’d hoped, with events at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Spring Live and Countryfile Live being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but we are pleased to share a few maypole snaps with you today!

Back in October, our leader Mike Ruff took part in a photoshoot for LAW magazine, involving long ribbons attached to CCTV poles at various sites around London. These are for a feature in January’s issue, linking traditional and urban cultures.

Mike’s role was initially providing the ribbons, but at the last minute he was asked to act as teacher and dance consultant too!

The first site was less than half a mile from Whitelands College, where in 1881 John Ruskin introduced Maypole Dancing as we know it now to a group of teachers in training!

Countryfile Live – take 2!

This year we were lucky enough to enjoy two weekends at Countryfile Live – including the first ever Northern event at Castle Howard. It wasn’t quite as sunny as the Blenheim event (Friday was particularly damp) but as you’ll see below we still had a lot of fun! We were pleased to have a few new faces on the team for our first journey north and we’re sure they’ll be back for future events.

Countryfile Live @ Castle Howard

We had an absolutely brilliant few days at Blenheim Palace last week, but now it’s time to look ahead to next weekend and another Countryfile Live event – this time in Yorkshire!

15th-18th August 2019 at Castle Howard, Yorkshire – visit the official website here.

We’ll be putting on several displays each day, with public participation encouraged! Keep an eye on our twitter page (@themayteamdance) for daily updates about performance times.


Our weekend at Countryfile Live Blenheim

It’s been a few days since we returned from a wonderful few days at Blenheim Palace, and now the dust has settled we are enjoying looking back through our photos! We were joined by so many enthusiastic dancers of all ages – from young children seeing a maypole for the first time to older visitors who remember last dancing round a maypole many years ago when they were at school!

We were thrilled that Pudsey and Anita Rani danced with us again – the BBC Countryfile Live twitter page shared a wonderful photo of them dancing so head over to our twitter page to have a look (@themayteamdance).

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy these photos from our little corner of the Village Green.

Countryfile Live @ Blenheim Palace

We’re really looking forward to returning to Countryfile Live this year! It’s always a highlight of our calendar and we’ll be performing on all four days, so we hope to see lots of you there!

1st-4th August at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire – visit the official website here

We’ll be doing 4 or 5 dance sessions each day, including an early afternoon showcase performance of a variety of traditional dance styles, plus there’ll be loads of opportunities for you to join in with maypole and country dancing. Each maypole session starts with a short display from the mAy team, before we invite the public to join in with dances around the mega Countryfile Live maypole!

Check out the official timetable for our performance times, or follow us on twitter @themayteamdance for daily updates.

Our Countryfile Live top tips:

  1. Arrive early to beat the traffic!
  2. Don’t miss the dog and duck show (a mAy team favourite).
  3. Bring a reusable water bottle – there are free water refill points dotted around the site and if it’s a hot day you’ll need them!
  4. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the Village Green while you watch our traditional dance showcase – we’re performing at 1.15pm on Thursday, and 12.45pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
  5. Don’t forget to say hi to Pudsey at the Children In Need tent – you might also find him dancing round the maypole with us!

(These are not our 2019 performance times! Photo from 2017)

Spring Live 2019

We had a fun-filled couple of days at the South Of England Showground last month, running Maypole and Sussex country dance sessions for visitors to Spring Live. It was a little chillier than last year but fortunately the rain held off and we were joined by lots of keen dancers of all ages! When not performing, the team also enjoyed visiting the rest of the showground – whether this was to check out the food trucks, buy new plants or admire the alpacas on display!