THE FOOL AND HIS DANCERS
TALES OF DARK MORRIS FROM THE WILD WELSH BORDER
This is a book about friendship, fun and the bonds that unite people in a common cause. It is about comradeship, trust and mutual respect – with a healthy disrespect for the entrenched thinking of the status quo. And it just happens to be set against a backdrop of morris dancing.
Most people know something about morris dancing – seen it, heard about it or read about it. Most will also have an opinion about it, and those involved in it are enthusiastic, but what does anyone really know about it?
Come with me, Rob Elliott, on a voyage of discovery – about people, relationships and the Morris – as I take you through my personal story of what it was like to spend 20 years as a dancer and would-be musician with a side known simply as Silurian, a group of innovative, iconic and anarchic revivalists of black-faced Welsh Border morris. As much as this is a tale of a band of brothers, strong characters with a common goal, it is also a story of a paradigm shift in the concept of morris. These unconventional mavericks turned everything upside down. Forget ‘morris’ and think ‘street theatre’ and ‘flash mob’ – such was their effect. And the myriad Border dancers around today are a living legacy of the impact Silurian made.
I made an attempt to tell this tale once before in a slim volume called Don’t Blame Me, I’m Only The Triangle Player – but that was literally less than half the story! Funding this project would enable me to add to that original and finish the job, presenting for general readership a full discussion of the importance of our morris legacy and of the influence of one group of dancers who joyously helped to bring it back to life.
On a personal note of thanks, all of you whose pledges help us hit our target will see your names acknowledged in the book.
Some unique rewards for you (besides the book!)
Like condiments and side dishes for the chef’s special, we (the ‘team’) have chosen some ideas that ideally complement the flavour of this book, unique in their presentation and available only for this short period of time. We are sure they will become treasured mementos in their own right. They are offered here in strictly limited numbers, so beat the rush and make your pledge today! And don’t forget, you are not restricted to only one pledge - multiple pledges accepted. If you can’t decide which of these rewards is your favourite, just go for more!
Andy Griffin, a modest but brilliant cartoonist
Andy Griffin, an illustrious illustrator, was (and indeed still is) one of the best Silurian dancers, and he features in this story. He was also closely involved with my first book, The Triangle Player, which he illustrated throughout with over one hundred superb cartoons. In homage to his artistry, both as a cartoonist and a dancer, we have asked him to contribute to this project – and he has agreed!
So the real ‘mystery gift’ here is Andy’s personal interpretation of the title of the book, on an A4 unframed print. I just know that it will be another superbly wacky example of his cartoon talent. We are keeping this under wraps for now, because life is more exciting with an element of surprise, spiced with a little risk! So take a chance on this very special pledge – I am sure you will not be disappointed.
And there’s more . . .
We couldn’t let Andy get away with just one cartoon. His illustrations were such an intrinsic part of The Triangle Player, a valuable part of the source material for The Fool And His Dancers. With Andy’s kind permission, we have reproduced a set of three of his original cartoons as unframed A5 prints – another must-have reward!
Members of the cast
We have also unearthed a photograph taken by another member of the side, the inimitable Dave Smith, a central character in The Fool And His Dancers. The photo features some of the main characters in the story, and its period feel gives it a surreal authenticity that makes for a really impressive print that would sit perfectly in the right frame. A 16 x 12 print on the finest photo paper.
Two evocative quotes
Much has been written about morris, but we were looking for quotations that really capture the essence of Border Morris – and we found them. One is 400 years old; the other is contemporary, but each is memorable in its own way. To make them extra special, we have asked our favourite letterpress printer, Dennis Gould, to reproduce them on beautiful handmade paper, roughly A5 size and unframed. The vintage retro feel of this letterpress technique sets off these quotes perfectly. The text is set out below.
“The ashen-faced Fool and his similarly blackened-faced dancers are the initiators of the rite of purification by fire, which is the centerpiece of the turning year of the Celtic calendar.” Tracy Boyd, Sacred Threads
“The courts of kings for stately measures; the city for light heeles and nimble footing; the country for shuffling dances; western men for gambols; Middlesex men for tricks above grounde; Essex men for the hey; Lancashire for hornpipes; Worcestershire for bagpipes; but Herefordshire for a Morris dance puts down, not only Kent but very near (if one had line enough to measure it), three quarters of Christendom.” attr. William Kempe 1609
And, just for a bit of fun . . .
My first book, Don’t Blame Me, I’m Only The Triangle Player has been mentioned as part of the source material for The Fool And His Dancers. For those of you who are academically inclined, we are creating a one-off opportunity to own both books, the first of which must surely be a collectors’ item by now! Both books can be yours for a modest pledge.
One more thing!
We thought about introducing our amazing never-to-be-repeated BODGOF offer (Buy One Don’t Get One Free), but instead we have come up with something far better – the Bumper Bundle! Just pick up the whole bundle of pledge rewards for a discounted price. We sense that you might not be able to choose between all of these wonderful rewards, so we have taken the angst out of it for you with this offer.