The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Try anything once…


…except incest and country dancing. So the saying goes.

Well the Sweep’s Festival in Rochester is all about that most maligned of traditional English arts, Morris dancing, and I think it’s great fun and well worth going to. Let’s get this straight: it’s not all guys with hankies and bells prancing around like loonies while wearing flowers in their hats. Okay the Cotswold style of Morris Dancing is a bit like that; indeed it’s the quintessential Morris everyone knows and easily makes fun of. I must admit I find it kind of twee.

But the portrait above is a man called Ant from Beltane Morris group of Torbay in Devon who do a form of Border Morris that is darker, more primal and though supposedly less intricate than some forms certainly moved me with haunting music and swirling, spinning, black-faced men and women.

I love festivals and like Japanese matsuri these events always have a longer, more interesting history to them than you are at first aware. The Sweep’s Festival only started in it modern form in 1981 but is part of a Spring fertilty celebration dating back hundreds if not thousands of years. I mean, what do you think a Maypole really represents? It has now grown into one of the largest and most important traditional dancing festivals in the country with teams visiting from as far away as Cheshire and Devon (like above).

I can’t dance at all but I love the idea of this tradition. I love Spring in the UK and the energy it just gives you when you wake up to sunny mornings that are not yet brittle dried from Summer’s wasting sun and it does make you want to dance a few steps for the sheer joy of it. Yes it is an odd sort of tradition but so is the last festival I went to in Japan here. In fact there is no logic to lots of these celebrations worldwide so lets just enjoy them yes.

See you later.



4 responses

  1. Andy

    Try any thing once………….to get those site hits up from that popular google search of incest and c(o)untry dancing!!

    I don’t blame you if you don’t approve this comment!!

    I’ll get my coat…………

    May 6, 2008 at 9:27 pm

  2. Funny as always Andy. I think Boris draw more hits than incest. Though what that means is not for me to ponder on.

    May 6, 2008 at 11:06 pm

  3. Your photograph of Ant is the best portrait I have seen this year. Brilliant.

    May 12, 2008 at 3:37 pm

  4. Thank you so very much Paul. It was a good day, one where you feel oddly proud to be English.

    May 13, 2008 at 5:10 pm

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