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If you wish your side to attend Swanage Folk Festival 2014 please apply to David Blakely, email:

Spaces are limited and there were well over 50 sides at the 2013 festival.

At the heart of Swanage Folk Festival are many  dance sides who come from all over the country to perform and entertain. Swanage is lucky to have a few other dance sides outside of the traditional ‘Morris’ that add variety. Look out for belly dancers!

To the uninitiated, Morris dancing may be seen as all the same but with different costumes. Here follows some guidelines as to some of the different styles and traditions.

COTSWOLD : This is probably the first traditional style of Morris to come to people’s minds. Dancers are usually dressed in white with crossed bands or waist bands in colours, fancy hats, and bells on legs and feet. They often dance with white hankies to accentuate hand movements. The Cotswold dances are most commonly displayed by a team of six dancers, although some feature eight. Sometimes sticks are used instead of the hankies. You will see modern variations of this format, but all based on dances from an area mostly in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire; an established misnomer, since the Cotswolds overlap this region only partially.

BORDER: Border Morris, as its name implies, originates from counties along the Welsh border, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, and Shropshire. The tradition involves blackened or painted faces, costumes of strips of rag (tatters), bells are optional. Sticks are used predominantly, although you will see hankies on occasions. The dance patterns tend to be simpler than Cotswold Morris but carried out with vigour and energy. Today’s Border sides often favour top hats with long feathers round the crown which, together with blackened faces, create an impression of height and size, quite formidable when wielding big sticks.

NORTH WEST MORRIS : The North West tradition is named after the North West region of England and has always featured mixed and all female sides. Although originally danced in work boots or clogs, modern sides tend to favour clogs. The dances have a military air to them, often with a marching theme and processional. The dances historically were often called 'maze' or 'garland dances' as they involved a very intricate set of movements in which the dancers wove in and out of each other. Some dances were performed with a wicker hoop (decorated with garlands of flowers) held above the dancer's head. Modern variations on this use hoops or arched bands, some sides use hankies, decorated plaits, or short beribboned sticks with bells on.

MOLLY : Molly dance, which is associated with Plough Monday, originates from Cambridgeshire and is a parodic form, danced in work boots, and with at least one Molly man dressed as a woman. The dance steps are almost robotic and precise. The largest Molly Dance event is the Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival, established in 1980, held at Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire in January.

SWORD DANCING : Usually regarded as a type of Morris is the sword dance tradition, which includes both rapper sword and longsword traditions. In both styles the "swords" are not actual swords, but  specifically made for the dance. The dancers are usually linked one to another via the swords, with one end of each held by one dancer and the other end by another. Rapper sides consist of five dancers, who are permanently linked-up during the dance. The rapper sword is a very flexible strip of spring-steel with a wooden handle at each end. The longsword is about 2'6" (0.8 metres) long, with a wooden handle at one end, a blunt tip, and no edge. Longsword sides consist usually of five to eight dancers. In both rapper and longsword there is often a supernumerary 'character', who dances around, outside, and inside the set.

APPALACHIAN: Not a true 'Morris' style, Swanage welcomes several Appalachian dance sides, demonstrating lively footwork American style

Information for Dance Sides Visiting Swanage Folk Festival

Swanage Folk Festival welcomes over 50 dance sides each year. As well as regional 'regulars', the festival welcomes other Morris dance sides from around the country and extends an open invitation to any Morris dance side, clog dancers, rapper, and molly dancers who may wish to join the festivities.

Please contact David Blakeley on  email: to register for 2014.

Please note change of email address!

Dance sides (performers) will be sent tickets for their members attending the festival, including band members, and these are to be exchanged for wristbands on the Sandpit Field on arrival in Swanage. There is no need for performers to purchase a weekend season ticket for the festival. Performers wristbands entitle the wearer to free entrance to all paying concerts apart from the Saturday night Mowlem concert. It entitles the wearer to a reduced price entrance ticket to the Saturday night ceilidh.

Steps in Time at Prince Albert Gardens

Our belly Dancers

Bourne River Morris strut their stuff

massed border sides

Quayside Cloggies

Holly Copse Molly

Dorset Buttons Rapper

Cornucopia Appalachian dance

Ring of Eight

Morris dancers

Where did you get those hats?

Dorset Buttons Band and dancers

Massed dance on promenade