‘Stone the crows’ I exclaimed with incredulity, what is happening in Otley at the Maypole.
Regulars will know that each September for the last 21 years there has been a folk festival in Otley and it now attracts some of the best dance teams from the North of England. In 2012 there was also a Scottish sword dance side Mons Meg Rapper.
Not only that but Otley is the home for several sides of dancers including Wharfedale Wayzgoose.
A “Wayzgoose” was a celebration by printers that dates back to the seventeenth century. This is appropriate as Otley was a printing machinery town where the famous ‘Wharfedale printing press’ was manufactured. Dawson Payne and Elliot, Waite and Saville and latterly Crabtree Vickers have all disappeared under Waitrose car park.
The Wharfedale Wayzgoose offer an almost credible explanation of the recent history of Morris dancing. As you will see Wayzgoose paint their faces black and white and style themselves a ‘border morris’ side. In this case ‘border’ is the English – Welsh border region where many of the dances originated.
The Stone the Crows are a totally black-faced Border Morris side that perform energetic stick dances and need to be fenced in by orange fencing to prevent an outbreak of stick fighting (see photos) Woops it is too late there they go again.
Older than the Otley Folk Festival is another Yorkshire side of Morris dancers The Flagcrackers of Craven are based in Skipton. Well traveled and well connected via the Morris Federation They are usually dressed in extravagant multi-coloured costumes with hats and also have painted black faces.
See our report on 400 Roses