Leyland Morris Men are transforming the image of the traditional summer dance by bringing some added jest to the winter months.
The dancers embarked on a jam-packed November with an appearance at a busy Astley Park, in Chorley, for Derian House’s Winter Sparkle event.
Not every local dance group can say they have entertained a Dame, competed against top international opposition, or found themselves on prime time television.
But Leyland Morris Men can. The dancers have been going strong since 1889 and can still pull in an audience.
Roy Smith played a big part in the reformation of the historic group after a ten-year lapse in 1966.
He said: “The group is an important part of Leyland’s history.
“We have met a lot of famous people through dancing, often celebrities open village fetes during the summer period which we also attend.
“I’ve met the likes of Gloria Huniford, Ken Dodd and Les Dawson – people I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet if it wasn’t for Morris dancing.
The 75-year-old is the longest-standing member of the club, and he believes dancing should be encouraged.
He said: “I started ballroom dancing when I was a youngster, then I moved on to American square dancing, then English country dancing, and eventually I found Morris dancing.
“Those of my age grew up with dancing. Now a lot of people grow up without any form of formal dancing, which is a shame as it is a great way to work as a group, it is fun and great exercise. It gets me out and about.”
Morris dancing is a traditional English dance, and Leyland Morris Men were fortunate to represent the cultural dance at a global gathering.
They spent a week at Sidmouth International Folklore Festival in Devon, competing against traditional dance teams from Russia, Mexico and China.
The group travels across the UK and has always played a key role in the Leyland Festival.
Mike Bailey said: “As long as there is a festival in Leyland we will be a part of it. One of the first dances Leyland Morris Men ever attended was at the Leyland May Festival on May 19, 1889.”
Throughout November, the dancers will be visiting events across Lancashire, including Christmas events at Samlesbury Hall and Sherwood Lodge in Fulwood.
Mike said: “I’ve been dancing with the group for about 40 years. I came to Preston with work but I found myself at a loose end at nights.
“I spotted in the paper that Leyland Morris Men were reforming, I gave it a try and the rest is history.
“Only a year or so ago we were on television, we went down to just outside London for filming of the TV series Cranford. We even met Dame Judi Dench, who was very gracious and charming.”
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