What’s the best way to save the ageing breed of male Morris dancer from extinction? Richard Macer infiltrates the endangered world of bells, beer and beards to discover an unlikely saviour of this ancient masculine tradition in the form of women.
The Morris Ring, the oldest Morris organisation in the country, has voted to admit women dancers for the first time with the hope that its member sides – as the teams are called – might stem the tide of declining numbers. But there are hardliners who believe females will dilute the very essence of what makes men’s Morris great. So, is Morris better when danced just by men or are women and mixed sides just as good?
During this journey, Macer is invited to join his local side the Manchester Morris Men, where the average age is over 70. Macer might represent an injection of youth to this team but does he have the talent to perform at one of the biggest festivals in the Morris Ring calendar?
What emerges during a long hot summer of folk dance is a bitter conflict as one of Britain’s most enduring traditions tries to reconcile itself to the modern world of gender equality. It also becomes a fascinating meditation on the nature of masculinity in a society in thrall to the idea of political correctness. And there is a personal development too for Macer, which sends his journey off in an unexpected direction.