photo of John

The Tribute from Fee Lock,
Secretary of the Morris Federation
at the
 Funeral Service to Celebrate the Life

John Bacon


on January 10 2020

in St. Margret's Church, Ditchling
If anyone has ever had to speak for two or three minutes on someone’s life, you will know that you could speak for two hours or two days, and still not cover even the basics of a life lived. For a structured history of John’s achievements, I commend you to Barry Goodman’s citation on the EFDSS’ website, on the occasion of his receiving his Gold Badge in 2018.

John was the first male president of the Morris Federation, elected in 1999, the year I was elected secretary. This was an important milestone for the former Women’s Morris Federation. There had been two other candidates, another man and one woman, and John had been elected by a significant margin.

We both had very clear views about breaking down artificial barriers, and of working together. I frequently mention our sitting in John Frearson’s garden, the then bagman of the Morris Ring, along with Chris Hall, the then Chair of Open Morris, talking about our similarities rather than our differences, and how we could make Morris better for everyone. This was the beginning of the Joint Morris Organisations, which is now a routine meeting of Morris minds.

I have always been a hot-head, and John most definitely not. However, during our many committee meetings he never patronised me, never said, “Calm down, dear”, but simply responded to my regular outbursts of righteous indignation with, “Let’s just think this one through …”  This is a phrase which I now use with similar cunning effect. His calmness and willingness to listen patiently, whilst carefully summing up a situation with devastating accuracy, stood us all in good stead in the early days of shaking down the different relationships with other Organisations.

His ability to walk with kings and avoid traps for fools was the perfect combination for dealing with the then Culture Secretary, Dr Kim Howells, when we were attempting to secure an exemption for Morris dancing from the Licensing Act 2003. To understand the importance of this, every single Morris team would have had to have had a Temporary Event Notice for every single dance-out – so, three pubs in a night?  That’ll be three TENs for you, at £10 a pop, squire. As the Bill went to the Upper House, John approached Lord Redesdale, using persistence, courtesy, persistence, legal knowledge, and … persistence to wring a concession from the government and bring about the exemption.

His determination to bring Morris and traditional dance to a wider audience has seen him become involved in dozens of projects across several organisations, both in the UK and overseas, including running Morris workshops; playing for members of Ditchling Morris in the John Gasson Memorial Jig Competition at Sidmouth Folk Festival; helping produce the ‘Morris Futures’ project to promote film material to young dancers whilst on the National Council of the EFDSS; working in two European Communities dance projects, one of which was to produce 3-D images of a moving dancer, the kind of thing that is now so easily produced on all hand-held media.

In 2001 John, Penny & AJ Allen, and I started the Meltdown Ceilidhs in Clair Hall at Haywards Heath, picking up the old Newick ceilidhs crowd.  Our bywords have always been, ‘best bands + best callers = best dances’.  

I was proud to call him my friend, and I shall miss him.

Fee Lock

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