East Anglian Traditional Music Trust

In Touch Community News

We’re very happy to announce our first event of the season. Everyone is welcome at Walsham Le Willows Memorial Hall on Sunday, 24 March for another afternoon of free entertainment, although donations are gratefully received.

Doors open at 1.30 and the fun starts at 2pm. We welcome not only an audience but anyone who can bring along, stories, songs, tunes, dances, or poems that give us an insight into our local history. Tea, coffee, and cakes will also be on sale. This will be our third free afternoon of East Anglian traditional entertainment and it promises to be as popular as the previous two.

We are designing a new banner and logo to promote the second year of Stowmarket Traditional Day of Music Song and Dance. This year the date to diarise is 21 September. The event promises to be bigger and even better than last year.

Letters and contracts are being sent out to artists and many have already confirmed they are looking forward to coming. Tickets will soon be on sale so please go to our website to find out how to obtain them.

One of the many traditions founded in East Anglia and strongly associated with the Fens is that of Molly Dancing. Its origins go back hundreds of years and Molly teams are well known for dancing on Plough Monday, that being the day the Plough Boys had a holiday.

It is believed by many that on this day the Plough Boys disguised themselves in whatever outfits they could muster and blackened their faces, often with peat. They would then dance to collect money and could sometimes be known to get a little too persuasive in their collecting and therefore did not want to be recognised by employers or neighbours.

There are several Molly teams in East Anglia some of them like Old Glory limiting their displays to Winter dance outs. Every 26 December on a dark cold Winter’s evening in Middleton, Old Glory perform the Cutty Wren ceremony. A service of words and songs takes place in the village hall in honour of the Wren.

A wooden wren concealed in a bush of ivy and ribbons is solemnly carried through the village to the Bell Inn, by the light of lanterns and flaming torches and to the steady beat of a lone drum. For centuries the Wren was believed to be the King of Birds, being so tiny he could get through the smallest hole but could rest on an eagle’s head and could therefore sore higher into the sky than an eagle.

One of the biggest get-togethers for Molly teams is held in January “The Ouse Washers Molly Day of Dance”. You will rarely see such a collection of strangely dressed people, balloon-busted men and women, in long dresses, mini skirts, 1950’s style pinafores, gaily coloured hats, or heads covered in curlers and scarves, trousers, and jackets cobbled together from various materials, some carrying brooms, trousers tied round the legs with string and hobnail boots, faces decorated by masks or various mixtures of face paint and makeup. It is a truly fun event.

The day begins at The Cutter Inn by the river in Ely where teams perform their favourite dances, rather haphazardly in some cases. All the teams simultaneously squeeze together along the waterfront and dance Birds A Building.

They compete against each other as to which team can prolong the dance the longest. The teams then dance at various pubs in Ely. One of the highlights is the broom dancing competition. This year 15 teams attended, including one from the USA, the biggest Molly gathering any of us can remember.

The Straw Bear Festival held in Whittlesea originally began many years ago. It seems the Bear was originally constructed to be taken to perform through frantic and clumsy gestures to the townsfolk in the hope of collecting rewards.

The modern-day bears are constructed of straw attached to a material body, with the head on a metal frame being supported on the wearer’s shoulders. This adds something like five stone to the person’s weight. The Bear can be seen on a January Saturday in the town amid a host of up to 250 Morris dancers. On the Sunday the poor bear is destroyed at the Bear Burning ceremony.

For more information about our free afternoon of entertainment in Walsham Le Willows Memorial Hall on 24 March and latest event news updates please look on our website: www.eatmt.org.uk.

If you have any information you think might interest us or you would like to volunteer your help with events please email: info@eatmt.org.uk.

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