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Friday May 27th 2011

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Early in the morning of the 27th May the ground shook as 250 horses converged on Plumpton Ridge. It was not 1264, the year of the Battle of Lewes but 2011 and the event about to unfold was the third Plumpton Festival of Traditional Dance for primary schools, held at Plumpton Race Course!

A special feature this year's Festival was for the children to find out about the different types of English hobbyhorse and then make their own to parade at the Festival. Children taking part were from years 3 & 4 of Plumpton, Chailey, Hamsey, Newick, Fletching, Wivelsfield, Ditchling & Danehill schools. As in 2009 & 2010 Dave Johns, teacher at Plumpton & member of Ditchling & Long Man Morris was the Festival Director, supported by John & Ann Bacon (SEFAN & Ditchling Morris)

HOBBY HORSE                      PARADE
Preparations started earlier in the year with each school learning a dance from one of the following regions, North-West, Welsh Borders, the Cotswolds and the Fens. Each has its own distinctive style. The North West dances are mainly 'processional', originate from the age-old 'rush-cart' processions, when new rushes were taken to the local church to insulate the feet of the congregation from the cold stone floor. The wild, robust dances of the Welsh Borders were performed by agricultural workers in the winter when work, money & food were scarce. Cotswold Morris may derive from medieval Court dances & is typified by sets of 6-8 dancers wearing bells below the knee, performing stick or hanky dances. 'Molly dancing' from the Fens has 'agricultural roots' dating back to the custom & festivities of blessing the parish ploughs on Plough Monday.
Ditchling                      Primary performing a Molly Dance

above:Plumpton Black Brook Morris dancing Cotswold
left: children from Ditchling Primary performing a Molly Dance

Tuition for dance & activities was organised & underpinned by Ditchling Morris with valuable assistance from members of local Morris 'sides', Long Man, Knots of May & Hunters Moon, some of whom are also school staff members. Funds were raised to stage the Festival & to cover the cost of specialist tuition from Gail & Lucy Duff of 'TRADS' who ran a workshop for teachers about the history, use & construction of the various regional types of hobbyhorse. 

hobby                      horse


Bright & early on Festival Day the organisers welcomed the teachers & streams of excited children clutching a brilliant array of hobbyhorses, closely followed by a team of trainee 'Play Leaders' from Chailey Comprehensive. They were a tremendous help with all aspects of the day, from setting out chairs, acting as 'Gofers', or helping with the face-painting plus persuasively selling draw tickets at the afternoon performance to raise funds for the 2012 festival.

The programme of morning activities for the children included putting the finishing touches to hobbyhorses and dance costumes, rehearsing their dances and joining in a lively barn-dance workshop run by Gordon & Joy Allen of the 'Dead Efnic' ceilidh band.

The afternoon festivities were opened by Mrs Annie Rogers, Head of Plumpton school who welcomed special guests - 
Lewes MP Mr.Norman Baker; Shirley Collins MBE President of the English Folk Song & Dance Society & Patron of SEFAN, representatives of the Morris organisations, festival supporters, parents & friends. 
There was an audible gasp as more than 200 hobbyhorses trotted through the audience to the tune of Blaydon Races, filling the dance area to create an amazing atmosphere & a moving kaleidoscope of brilliant colour. Each school performed their special dance. This was followed by a ceilidh dance producing a sea of smiling multi-patterned faces whirling round the dance-floor. Then everyone joined in the 'Plumpton-traditional' Morris dance called 'Shepherd's Hey as a fitting finale to the fantastic 2011 Festival.

Funding for the festival was made possible with the support of 
SEFAN, a facilitating and umbrella charity dedicated to the support and promotion of Traditional Arts to children, adults & the wider community.

Funds enabled SEFAN to provide workshops for staff & children, venues, resource packs & PA systems.

Ann and John Bacon
Ditchling Morris


SEFAN would like to thank

Plumpton Racecourse for their continued support and assistance
the Estate of late Mr. George Pheby for a further donation for 2011
Sussex Community Foundation for a further Grassroots grant 2010-11
Long Man Morris Men
The Rotary Club 
Harveys Sussex Brewers Lewes 
Brighton Morris Men
and all the trainee Play Leaders from Chaily Comprehensive for all their help on the day.

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