Folk fatales: women in morris dancing, past and present!
The English morris dance is having a renaissance—and it’s women who are leading the charge! But some people think that women’s participation in morris dancing is a modern invention—and potentially represents a threat to the tradition. During the ‘women’s morris revival’ of the 1970s and 80s, some deeply entrenched misogyny suggested that women shouldn’t morris dance, and that the performance was a remnant of an all-male priestly rite, a belief that was never founded in facts or evidence. However, women have always danced morris, from Will Kemp’s female dance companions in the ‘Nine Daies Wonder’ of 1601, to Mary Neal and the suffragettes who ‘saved’ morris dancing during the early 20th century, and the unbroken tradition of girls’ carnival morris dancing in the Northwest—in this talk, we’ll look at some of the hidden histories of women in morris, as well as some of its rebellious new manifestations.
Dr Lucy Wright is an artist and researcher based in West Yorkshire. Following a stint as the lead singer with BBC Folk Award-nominated act, Pilgrims’ Way, she turned her attention to researching and making art about folk instead, with a particular focus on under-recognised and lesser-known practices by women and other marginalised people. A Visiting Research Fellow in Folklore at the University of Hertfordshire, she has published and exhibited widely, including at Cecil Sharp House, Compton Verney and Leeds Art Gallery. In 2021 she launched the ‘Folk Is A Feminist Issue’ manifesta to advocate for a broader, more inclusive understanding of ‘folk’, as the art that we ALL make, regardless of background, training or endorsement.
[Photography credits: Jonathan Cherry, Rachel Adams, Lucy Wright]
Curated & Hosted by
Amy Hale is an Atlanta based writer, curator and critic, ethnographer and folklorist speaking and writing about esoteric history, art, culture, women and Cornwall. She is the author of Ithell Colquhoun: Genius of the Fern Loved Gully (Strange Attractor 2020) and is currently working on several Colquhoun related manuscripts. She is also the editor of Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses (Palgrave 2022). She has contributed gallery texts and essays for a number of institutions including Tate, Camden Arts Centre, Art UK, Arusha Galleries, Heavenly Records and she is a curator and host for the Last Tuesday Society lecture series.
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