Morris Competitions

The morris troupes and the entertainer troupes were highly competitive and the competitions were a major influence on how the perfomances evolved over the years. The dances and the design and colours of the uniforms were revised and changed each year and were always a closely guarded secret. It was not unknown for rival troupes to have spies!

The competitions were in 3 age categories:

'Tinies' - under 11 years old
'Juniors' - under 16 years old
'Seniors' - any age (including Tinies and Juniors if good enough)

The judges of the entertainers troupes awarded equal marks for the following aspects of the display:

  1. Entry 
  2. Uniform 
  3. Figures 
  4. Timing & Rhythm 
  5. Manner of Performance 
  6. Content of Programme 
  7. Formation 
  8. Exit

"Figures" refers to the static tableaux shapes formed, and "Formation" refers to the danced movements on the ground. 

1955 Scorecard for Pamela Stars

Competitions often went on till quite late and if troupes used the same music then they would sometimes dance at the same time in order to fit all the troupes in. Pauline remembered one occasion when they had to dance in car headlights. 

The morris troupes tended to use traditional tunes picked from a handful of about half a dozen possibles but the entertainers performed to any music they wished.

The decline in the popularity of carnival troupes at village fetes, May Queen and Rose Queen celebrations etc. over the years is always regretted by those involved in the heyday, because the presence of many troupes "made the processions". All mourned that in the later years the troupes danced to recorded music, and remembered with delight the joy of dancing to live bands. They danced to what they described as "the old band music" and tunes like 'Blaze Away' and 'On the Quarterdeck' were mentioned.

The troupes became increasingly less interested in the processions, which tired everyone out, because they attended the fetes solely to win the competitions. When there were many troupes, these competitions would take all or most of the day, which didn't always suit the organisers.

Nowadays the troupes tend to arrange their own competition venues and invite the other troupes to attend and compete. This means that the carnival morris troupes have become very insular and isolated and are very rarely seen in open public performance.

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Text © 2002 Geoff Bibby
Site maintained by Andrew White, Thelwall Morris Men