Morris group bring community spirit to Ripley

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For Mick Buckley, Morris dancing isn’t just handkerchief waving and bell ringing – it’s about camaraderie and community spirit.

The dedicated dancer has been committed to showcasing the age-old tradition for nearly 40 years, and is still going strong.

Mick is a member of the Ripley Morris Men – a group which was originally formed in 1924 and flourished until the 1950s. Unfortunately the movement lost popularity, but was later re-formed in 1981, with Mick at the forefront.

Morris dancing is of unknown origin, it may be an ancient pagan ritual and it’s ancestry is a matter of much debate however, it is thought that the bells and handkerchiefs frighten away evil spirits which ensure that the crops grow.

The dance is a form of English folk dance usually accompanied by music. It is based on rhythmic stepping and the execution of choreographed routines by a group of dancers, usually wearing bell pads on their shins. Implements such as sticks, swords and handkerchiefs are also often wielded.

Long-term member Mick, who was born and bred in Ripley, said the performances were not only a tradition but also a way of keeping fit and giving something back to the community.

He said: “Morris dancing is a way of maintaining a valuable English form of dance, it also keeps us fit and healthy.

“Performing gives us enormous enjoyment and we hope that is communicated to our audiences.

“Over the years I have been deputy squire and squire of Ripley Morris Men. I am currently the bagman, which is equivalent to the secretary in other organisations.”

For Mick it is not just a happy, it is a way of sharing experiences and socialising too.

He added: “One of the great attractions of the group are the friendships which hold the group together. We enjoy each others company and welcome newcomers to the group.

“The enjoyment of Morris comes from the experience of dancing – it is well known that dancing contributes greatly to happiness. Dancing is also an excellent way of keeping fit. There is a great sense of achievement and pride in dancing a dance as well as possible. There is also enormous pleasure to be gained from introducing new members to the community of the Morris and seeing the enjoyment that they are getting out of it.

“One of our new men recently said ‘It’s not just about the dancing is it?’ And he couldn’t be more right.”

The group also raise charity cash as a result of their performances and so far has raised more than £33,000. These funds have been donated to the Ripley Hospital League of Friends.

As well as doing their bit for charity, Mick and co also take part in many competitions and shows around both the borough and the country.

“As a Morris side we organise our own programme of dance shows during the summer months. Last weekend we travelled to York to take part in the Joint Morris Organisations Day of Dance alongside 50 other Morris groups.

“In previous years we have performed in France, including at Ripley’s twin town Chateau Renault, in Germany and in Denmark. There is also a full programme of Thursday night pub tours across Amber Valley, Erewash, Derbyshire Dales, Derby and Nottinghamshire.

“We like to get out and about as much as possible and we welcome new members.

“Aspiring musicians and dancers will receive expert support in learning the steps to complex capers – as well as gaining a new set of friends.

For more information visit ripleymorrismen.org.uk.