Monday, 3 October 2011

Beer, bells and badges

I like beer. And I like living in Sussex. So I suppose I should regard myself as exceptionally fortunate that I live in the county that is home to a beer to which I am particularly partial. I speak, of course, of Harveys beer. Harveys was founded in 1790 and is still, I'm pleased to say, going strong. And it was to Harveys brewery in Lewes that I and my morris dancing compatriots made our way last Saturday to dance in the Old Ale.

Dancing in the Old Ale has become an annual tradition, and this was my second visit to the festival, having been dancing with Long Man for just under two years. Long Man and other morris sides entertain the crowds, Harveys (by whom we are sponsored, incidentally) lay on a plenteous supply of Old Ale and a buffet lunch, and there is more dancing and general merriment in the afternoon.

After our first dance, I was called forward by the foreman (our 'dance master', if you will), who announced to the assembled public that it was time to present me with my badges. Our Squire (the head of the side) shook my hand and awarded me the much-coveted badges. For a morris dancer, being given your badges is a significant event. It means that the side's 'officers' believe you have reached a satisfactory enough standard to be awarded full membership. So, for the first time on Saturday, I was able to dance with my badges. And The Hat!

Of course, this is just the beginning. I still have a long journey to be anywhere near as good as the long standing members of the side, and there are still many dances from various traditions to learn and retain. But I am extraordinarily proud to be a member of the side and to wear its badges.

Oh, and the beer was pretty good on Saturday, too.

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