One of the joys of being back in North Norfolk is discovering all the local events I avoided as a teenager. As you have read from some of my previous posts- I am making more of an effort to discover and write about what is on my doorstep- and I think this one has been my favourite so far!
The Potty Festival was started by the Lobster Potties Morris dancers in 1993, by Reg Grimes the then Squire (Chairman), Clive Rayment Foreman (Dance teacher) and Penny Shepherd Bagman (Treasurer), as a way of saying thank you to the sides that had invited the Potties to visit them for a weekend of dance.
This first weekend was such a success that it has been going on for 24 years! And from what I have heard it’s got bigger each year! This year it ran for two days, with the main event on the Saturday.
The morning the Potty Festival Started I was actually working. But that wasn’t a bad thing… as the opening procession through the town went right past the front door.
The weather was glorious and the town was full of music and bells. The Shantymen were performing down by the sea and wee were super busy so my shift flew by. I was soon able to get out amongst the crowds and really explore.
(warning – this is going to be a super photo heavy post)
I first stopped at the dance spot outside my work and watched what *my* idea of Morris Dancing is. White shirts, bells and sticks. This is what I did for a year when I started high school and it’s what I have associated with Morris ever since.
I would soon be proven very wrong.
As I slowly made my way down towards the seafront the outfits got wilder and wilder. I walked past what seemed like a biker gang of dancers, and some ladies all in shades of purple and black.
Painted faces, masks and feathers galore.
It was such a brilliant clash of colours and noise that I spent a good four hours wandering the side streets of Sheringham watching all the Sides perform and talking to the spectators when I could. Everyone I passed has massive grins on their faces.
The happiness was contagious.
The age range of people taking part was the thing that amazed me the most. It was something that I had just imagined as a past time for the my parents and their parents generation, but was I was surrounded by all ages.
All having the time of their lives.
As lovely as it was to see the (what I thought was) traditional side of Morris dancing, the dancers that brought the biggest smiles to my face were the ones with the more outrageous costumes.
Are they called costumes, outfits??? I am probably insulting so many people with the generalisations in this post – but that is what these festivals are for I suppose, to show people there are more than one way to keep traditions alive.
Two of the sides I enjoyed watching the most were (I THINK -and I am sorry if I have got this the wrong way round- please correct me in the comments below) Black Pig Border Morris…
This side was the most energetic and colourful side. Each member really got in to the spirit of each dance performed. I don’t suppose there are many instances in life where you can charge at someone yelling at the top of your lungs waving a stick- so they were doing this with great enthusiasm.
Each outfit was completely different and really enhanced the personality of the dancer. And although each outfit was different when it came to the dance it all blended seemlessly together.
The other side was Sutton Masque.
For me their colours reminded me more of the folk side of this festival. Of history and tradition with nature.
Combined with the energy and enthusiasm of the Black Pig Border Side.
Now I couldn’t tell you much about the dances. I may have seen the same one more that once, but the personalities injected into the dances made it so I could have probably watched the same sequence more than once and not noticed.
Each dance had a story to it. Could I follow it- not really. Did that matter? Not at all.
So yes. I went to a Morris festival and enjoyed it. If I told my teen self this I don’t know what I would have thought.
The festival celebrates its 25th anniversary next year- and if you want a fun day out, that’s loud, colourful and fun to entertain you, children AND has many a beer garden for the grown ups – this is the festival for you.
It was lovely to see Sheringham SO busy and has made me look forward to carnival week even more. When the town is busy it really gives it the chance to shine and show what it can really do!
Were you in the crowds in Sheringham this weekend? Or where you one of the dancers? Have I got something massively wrong 😂 let me know in the comments below!
Ps this blog took a week to sort out because I took about 400 picture that I had to go through 😂