EAST SUFFOLK MORRIS MEN - ESMM PROFILE
The East Suffolk Morris Men (ESMM) are based around the Ipswich area in East Anglia UK with many "guest" men who have associations with the side, but live away. We mainly dance the Cotswold traditions of English Morris Dance along with the dances from the Welsh borders around Xmas. Some of our men dance the rapper and longsword dances from the North East of England.
In summer we dance on a Monday night throughout East Suffolk, mainly at country pubs & village fetes, and in winter we practice and induct new members. We enjoy extensive contacts who provide us with many opportunities to dance throughout the UK and abroad. In all, we average about 50/60 public performances in the UK each year and several more abroad.
You will see us in our familiar summer costume of whites with blue waistcoats embroidered with the "ship" and red & yellow trimmings. The "ship" emblem has strong East Suffolk connections associated with St Felix of Dunwich (now mainly lost to the sea) and the coat-of-arms of Felixstowe thereafter named.
In Winter, we adopt a warmer costume of tattered coats to dance the (Welsh) Border Dances. Like in the tradition of some of the North West Clog dancers, we "black" our faces to "disguise" ourselves, this tradition dates from a time when employers were not keen on their men dancing in public.
There are records of dancing in Suffolk from the mid 1930s, however the Second World War saw the loss of many men and the Suffolk Morris Men, the Ipswich Men along with the Priory Heath Boys declined during the late 1950s with their last recorded appearance at the Thaxted Ring Meeting in 1957.
In 1958 a new side - the East Suffolk Morris Men, was born out of the members of the thriving Ipswich Folk Dance Club (FDC) and some men & boys from the Ipswich Men migrated over to the new side. Their first show was at Baylam Village Hall that year. In the early days ESMM and the Ipswich FDC often performed jointly at events around Suffolk. Although a few ESMM attending Morris Ring events in 1958 and 1959 (Headington Ring Meeting) the new side did not receive formal acceptance into The Ring until 1966 when Leslie Nichols and Ewart Russell (Ring Squire & Bagman) presented the ESMM Staff of Office at the Thaxted Ring Meeting.
Wrapped around our Morris Dancing we have a number of related activities. On our club nights around the Suffolk pubs, you will hear us sing and play traditional songs and tunes. Several of us play in Ceilidh / Folk Dance Bands and have solo musical activities. Occasionally we will perform traditional mummers plays and organise ritual events around country calendar events such as Plough Monday, Wassail and May Day - the dawning of Summer.