Did you know this coming weekend (Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 May) the Horsham English Festival takes place? Held in the centre of Horsham, this festival includes music, a medieval market and the 26th annual Broadwood Morris Day of Dance. If you’re looking for some culture then this is the place to go!
The Broadwood Morris Day of Dance is a long established cultural tradition and starts the festival off with procession through Horsham town centre at 10.30am. It features around 25 local dance groups with fantastic costumes who play music and dance through the town; it’s quite a sight to behold.
The groups spread out throughout the town centre to perform and you will be able to watch a range of dances which include Border Morris, North West Morris, Cotswold Morris, Step Clogging, Appalachian Clogging and much more! There will be bells, sticks and drums involved as the groups put on fantastic displays of traditional dances.
The Broadwood Morris Day of Dance was originally meant to be a one-off event in Horsham to celebrate the Broadwood Morris Men’s 21st anniversary, who have been dancing since 1972. They are a rich part of Horsham District’s culture, taking their name from the the Broadwood family of Lyne House, Rusper.
Lucy Broadwood lived at Lyne House in the Horsham District in the 19th century. She collected folk customs and music and was a founder member of the Folk Song Society. Her letter in 1925 to a Mr McDermott was found later by Harry Mousdell, who was considering setting up a Morris group in Horsham. In her letter, Lucy wrote about about Henry Burstow, the Horsham folk singer, bellringer and cobbler. Lucy’s letter also contained her account of a man dancing at Lyne House on May Day in the early 1870’s, with the line “Later, I realised I had seen my one and only Sussex Morris – caperer”.
The newly formed Horsham Morris group needed a name and felt that with it’s folk history that the local Broadwood name would be a excellent choice. An internationally known fold singer, Martyn Wyndham Read, lived on the Broadwood estate and arranged for Harry and Ian Hill, an original member of the group, to meet Capitan Broadwood in 1972, who was the last surviving member of the family. They asked if they could use his family name and crest in memory of Lucy Broadwood who had died in 1929.
Captain Broadwood allowed the group to adopt his family name in commemoration of his aunt, who he felt deserved recognition for her contribution to English Folk Music. That May Day, the Broadwood Morris Men were invited by Captain Broadwood to join him at Lyne house for tea and cucumber sandwiches on the lawn, where they also danced for him. Sadly, he died soon after, however every May Day it is now tradition for the Broadwood Morris Men to visit Lyne House (now apartments) to dance for the residents who give them cucumber sandwiches.
The Broadwood Morris Men feature in the Year of Culture film and perform dances based on many centuries of tradition, forming part of our heritage and culture. They take to the lanes of West Sussex to “Entertain and delight you with the intricacies of the English Morris” so you may well see them when visiting a local pub, doing their traditional dances!
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