It was March 2020, and Eynsham Morris were well on the way to finalising our programme for the coming year. Dance practices had gone well during our ‘off’ season in the late autumn and winter; our newer dancers were really finding their feet (in every sense!), and we even had a couple of prospective new members. We were all very much looking forward to embarking on our 40th anniversary year of dancing, until… The country locked down, with a potentially deadly, highly contagious virus running amok around the world. As a result, we, along with every other Morris side and community group in the country, have had to cancel what is increasingly looking to be our entire season, or most of it.
I can attest, from personal experience, that the Morris is so much more than just a group of men getting together to dance every so often; a lot of my friends are in the side. I settled in Eynsham not long after arriving in the UK from Australia over eight years ago without knowing anyone, and was made to feel very welcome when I joined. As most of us live in the village, we’ve grown used to seeing each other a great deal (especially at one of our fantastic pubs!), and to have this vital social support network suddenly dispersed (in a physical sense, at least) had a big impact on my life. Some of us did process (at a safe distance) through the village on May morning, however, and I posted a few videos of solo dances (with chairs making up the rest of the set!) and a song performed for the occasion, on social media.
We stayed in touch by phone and video, as well as greeting each other from a safe distance in passing, during the early stages of lockdown. When we were able to meet outside in small groups, I know some of us have made the most of members’ gardens, which has made a significant difference to my state of mind, as someone who lives alone.
We’re a side that has links to every aspect of the life of this wonderful, unique village, be it the live music scene, the fire brigade, the churches, the markets, the schools, or Eynsham DIY (which has kept its doors open throughout, in order to keep the community stocked with essential supplies) to name just a few. We’re all still keeping sane (just about!) and as positive as we can, and can’t wait to dance for you all again, when it’s safe. What a joyful occasion that will be! I’d like to thank everyone in the Morris, for their ongoing emotional, spiritual and practical support and friendship during this strange time, and for making it so much easier to bear as a result.
Toby Goss, Secretary