ESMMM Style and Traditions

The founder members of the side, and most of the subsequent arrivals, were all totally new to Morris dancing – and thus ripe for a unique style and approach. A year at Thames Valley’s Apprentice Nights had given them a (very) basic grounding in Headington, Adderbury and Bampton. Until they elected one of their number as “Squire,” there were six blokes each with a different interpretation of what had been learnt the previous Wednesday – but they soon developed a very individualistic style of their own.

Alan Mead, the first ever ESMMM Squire, had only recently finished participating in a quite serious athletics career and so under his influence the lads produced quite an athletic Adderbury ( It was 24 years ago…!). Alan sought out Adderbury dances not often performed (“Roast Beef”, “Stourton Wake” etc) and also created the first “Ewell” dance , “Gustav”.

“Gustav” came about because Alan heard a well-known hymn tune on “Songs of Praise” and thought what a great Morris dance it would make. The tune was an adaption by Gustav Holst of an old English carol. With Adderbury steps arranged by Alan, ESMMM danced it out in Thaxted Parish Church, just yards from a plaque recording the fact that Gustav Holst had played the organ there.

ESMMM has always made a point of livening up their performances by doing traditional dances to untraditional tunes – and at Christmas time dance to a whole host of Old Carol/Yuletide tunes, in addition to the traditional Adderbury “Wenceslas” and “Bethlehem”. Perhaps the favourite is “Dick the Horse” which, of course, is a corruption of “Deck the Halls.”

Over the last few years the current Foreman, Ted Smith, has created a new tradition – “Ewell” – which is based on ESMMM’s “Adderbury” style of dancing, with lots of leaping about. Other sides we have danced with seem to like it – and perhaps the ultimate accolade is the fact that the doddery old founder members consider the “Ewell” tradition great fun to do!

Chris Pottinger
Hon Archivist/Founder Member