About Wytchwood




Wytchwood Morris are a mixed side of men and women based in the Wyre Forest area of Worcestershire.

We perform both traditional and self penned dances within the Welsh Border, Molly and Cotswold traditions. Folklore, mythology and local legend has a large influence on our style and repertoire . Our self penned dances cover subjects such as the legend of John Barleycorn and The Witch Hunts of East Anglia (see our dance lists below)

We attend some of the major Folk Festivals and Days of Dance throughout the country as well as supporting local groups and events with workshops and performances. We also do lunchtime and evening pub dance outs in the Summer months, often with one or two other Morris sides.

If you would like to ask more questions or to book us for your event then please get in contact with us via the 'contact ' page of the website. If you would like to see what we do then see us on Youtube


We practice every Thursday evening from 8pm till 10pm at St.Oswald's School ,Sion Ave, Kidderminster DY10 2YL
If you wish to come along to watch with a view to joining the side then please message us via the contact page.

Side History

Wytchwood was originally formed in October 2010 with 4 dancers , a guitar player and a drummer. The people involved were all experienced dancers & musicians with other Morris sides but who wished to set up a new side free to learn self penned as well as traditional dances from several different styles of Morris. Most Morris sides will only dance in one tradition such as Welsh Border or Cotswold. Wytchwood wanted the versatility to explore all forms of dance that interested them and also wanted to perform to a high quality. We have worked really hard over the years to acquire our own identity and have been called 'The Swiss army knife of Morris". We now dance Welsh Border, Molly, Cotswold and even the odd wild card of no fixed traditional abode!


Wytchwood Ethos

All members of the side are expected and encouraged to work hard to uphold the original vision of Wytchwood being a high quality performance side. There are not many people willing to put such hard work in to their 'hobby' so we have found that the side never really gets beyond 8-10 dancers. Over the years the side dynamics have evolved and changed slightly as people have come and gone, all bringing different ideas and energies into the group. The side today are still very much committed to quality dancing - but we also like to have a lot of fun. We like to keep our performances fresh by introducing new elements and expanding our repertoire. We like to keep moving forward. Our motto is to dance well for the audience , have lots of fun and actively support other Morris sides from all traditions.





"Why the black faces?"

This is a question we are sometimes asked. We use black face paint on our faces as we dance mainly in the traditional Welsh Border style of Morris (see info below). The origins of using black to cover our faces has a long and multi-faceted history but it is generally excepted that for use in Morris it derives from a time when Morris dancing, Mummer's plays and similar performances were regarded by the law as a form of 'begging with menace' which was either frowned upon or illegal.
These early forms of entertainment were usually done by poor working class or out of work farm labourers during the Winter months when work on the land was scarce. Disguising the face with black soot or charcoal would help the performer to hide their identity from their audiences and local Squires. There are also links back to poaching and using a black face rather like soldiers would use camouflage make up today. In the 1700s a law was passed that meant you could be arrested and jailed (or worse) for using black to disguise your face. If you were seen poaching on the Squire's land then a black face in the dark would make you harder to identify and easier to evade the law.

Whatever the true beginnings of using black on the face it is only ever used as a disguise and a mask in Morris dancing - it is NEVER used to make ourselves look like a person of colour or mimic anyone of another culture. This has nothing to do with English Morris dancing and we feel education in this matter is the way forward.

"If it is a disguise then why use black rather than any other colour?"

Some modern sides do use other colours but black is still the most common (and traditional) because it is the most appropriate colour for disguising the facial features and creating the slightly menacing look that boisterous Border Sides are known for. We want to look scary and the scariest colour to use is black! Because there is no racial overtones or intent in the use of black face paint in Morris we feel very strongly that we should be able to use the colour black as freely as any other colour. Black is our personal preference for aesthetic reasons as well as a nod of respect to the poor working class of the past and the struggle of poverty and survival in rural communities.

"Why do you need a disguise at all? Morris isn't illegal now"

This is true - but like many forms of performance and street theatre lots of people enjoy the mystery of disguise . Our 'mask' enables the performer to leave their everyday identity and inhibitions behind and become someone else for a while. Disguise means we can go a bit wild without the fear of being recognised by the crowd or indeed our employers! While we are disguised and performing we are no longer the Mother, the Teacher, the Nurse ....the responsible adult! When we are in kit we are simply one entity and that is WYTCHWOOD.






The Border side of us:


Ockington - Drowsy Maggie - a dance for four and seemingly a real crowd pleaser

Titterstone Clee - The Bad Boys of Dunkirk - another for four dancers and a shin killer! This is endurance Morris!

Brimfield- new tune adapted by Ian- a traditional border dance for four that we have tweaked a bit!

John Barleycorn - John Barleycorn - written by Kylie and inspired by the old folk song of the same name and the Celtic Festival of Lammas

Twiglet - Theme Vannitaise - written by Planet Morris of Sheffield for five dancers - we do it fast!

Manning Tree - Cuckoos Nest - Written by Lizzie. Inspired by the Witch Hunts of East Anglia that hung innocent women for Witchcraft.

Wolf Moon - King of the Faeries - written by Kylie. A dance for three then four then three again celebrating the February Full Moon of Imbolc.

Who put Bella in the Wych Elm? (aka Bella) - Ian's own tune - A new dance for 7 inspired by the unsolved mystery of a female skeleton found placed inside a tree near Hagley Woods, Stourbridge in the 1940s.


Raggle Taggle Wytches - folk Tune 'Raggle Taggle Gypsies' - new dance for 2016 written by Angie with lots of twirls, gypsie turns and a bit of sword play! The true tale of Lady Sarah Emery who ran off to join the Morris!

Rochester Thistle - written by The Witchmen and danced with their permission. An excellent border dance with gusto. The Witchmen wrote it for 8 but at the moment we can only muster 6!

NEW FOR 2017! Black Sheep - a dance for probably 5 - tune written by our amazing musician Paul. Watch this space!


The Molly side of us:


Katy Cruel – Katy Cruel - Stolen from across the pond - danced to an early settler's Folk Song of the same name probably Scottish or Irish in origin.

Sorting Hat - The Morning Star - written by UK based Gog Magog, a lovely little dance for 5 and we sometimes dance it with a REAL Sorting Hat!


Mrs Lubbock's Lantern - written by our very own drummer , Steve, to a tune adapted from William Taylor's by Ian - inspired by the legend of 'The Lantern Man' from the Norfolk Broads. Believed to be Evil Fairy Folk , they were said to dash the lanterns from travellers hands and then lure them from the pathways to drawn in the marshes. It's a creept story but we can't dance it without smiling!






The little bit of Cotswold in us......


We have been working on the Oddington tradition from the world of Cotswold Morris but with some 'Wytchwood' uniqueness

Jimmy Brooks - tune 'Jimmy Brooks' adapted from 'Lord of the Dance' by Ian - lots of left feet and galley hooks!



Other dances we just fancy doing:

Janes Dance - Manx Tune - a Manx/Scottish/Northwest dance for six - kindly taught to us by our good friends Black Adder Clog of Birmingham




New Dances......?

We are always working on new self penned dances. We wanted to keep the side fresh and inspired so we will continue to experiment, innovate and move forward pushing the boundaries of what Morris dancing is supposed to be like. We don't want Morris preserved in a bottle on a museum shelf - we want it living ,breathing and evolving out on the streets to entertain and inspire the next generation of Morris dancers...







WHAT IS IT WE DANCE AND WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?



Morris is a form of English Country Dance, usually accompanied by music. Various forms exist today, of which the predominant are Cotswold, North West, Border, Molly, Rapper, and Longsword.

Although ritual dancing has probably been performed since the islands were first settled, Morris is a relatively recent phenomenon. Despite the best efforts of pagans, historians and wistful romantics, no records of “Morris” have been found before the late 15th century.

The term “Morris” itself is shrouded in mystery, possibly the most convincing explanation is that the word is a corruption of “Moorish” and was brought back by English soldiers from the continent. Certainly there are Morisques in France, Morisca in Italy and Spain, and even Moreska in Croatia.

By the time of the English Civil War, the peasantry up and down the country were engaging in dancing at various times of the year, often as a form of raising cash when times were hard. However, during the Commonwealth, such activities were banned by the puritan government of Oliver Cromwell, possibly giving rise to the forms of disguise practised by various sides even today. After all, it's not the sort of thing you want commonly known, that you're a Morris dancer.


WELSH BORDER MORRIS


Traditionally from the English/Welsh border counties and predominantly danced with big sticks and black faces. Jackets covered in scraps or fabric and paper, known as rag coats or tatters, are worn to hide the wearers own clothes from the local squire and landowners. Sooted (blacked) faces and a top hat all added to the disguise. It has been suggested that the black faces arose when Cromwell banned the dancing of Morris as it was considered a form of begging with menaces.




MOLLY DANCING


Originally from the East Anglian fen-lands of England (but now danced widely throughout the UK), was again a form of begging. Black faces were used to hide the dancers identity as often the landowner didn't pay up and fights would ensue! Usually danced by men but it is thought women often “made up the numbers”. Outfits were what they found around them including horse brasses, ribbons, rags and “borrowed” ladies clothing. This use of womens clothing is where the name supposedly derived from; a Molly being a man dressed as a woman. Today's molly outfits vary from the traditional farm clothes to outlandish colours and modern cloths. Traditional molly has a unique form of stepping of same hand and foot raised together, but this has also evolved over time.






COTSWOLD MORRIS


As the name suggests this tradition is from the Cotswold regions of England and is the most recognised form of Morris with its white outfits and handkerchiefs. Each village produced a style of stepping and specific movements for their dances. Traditionally thought to have been danced by men but often now performed by mixed groups. each villages tradition would most likely include handkerchief dances, processional dances, stick dances and hand-clapping dances. Often there are also jigs for one or two dancers. Outfits are usually a white shirt, white trousers or dark breeches and black shoes. Bells pads are worn below the knee, and each side can be distinguished by either a baldric or a waistcoat of their chosen colours.