Lower Withington Royalettes

Diane, Casey and Molly of the Irlam Royalettes at Lower Withington Rose Day, 2013.

Casey and Molly take part in the street parade.

Demonstrating arm-work on the carnival field.

Irlam Royalettes meet former members of the 1955 Lower Withington Senior Morris Troupe, one of the last mixed-gender groups to perform alongside all-female teams during the 1950s.

Relaxing on the carnival field, watching the Rose Queen pass by.

Molly at the Lower Withington Rose Day.

Archive photograph of the 1955 Lower Withington Senior Morris Troupe.

Dress made in collaboration with Samantha Hamer.

Dress made in collaboration with Samantha Hamer.

In Samantha's studio. Skelmersdale, 2013.

Work-in-progress at Samantha's studio. Skelmersdale, 2013.

Participatory project with the Irlam Royalettes Morris Dancers and the 1955 Lower Withington Senior Morris Dance Troupe. Salford and Cheshire (2013).

A dialogical art project undertaken over a twelve-month period in 2013, in collaboration with Samantha Hamer, dressmaker and troupe trainer for Orcadia Morris Dancers, Skelmersdale, West Lancashire, and involving members of the Irlam Royalettes Morris Dancers from Irlam near Salford and former members of the 1955 Lower Withington Senior Morris Dance Troupe (LWSMDT) from Lower Withington, Cheshire.

Girls’ morris dancing—sometimes called “carnival” or “fluffy” morris—is a highly competitive formational team dance from the Northwest of England, characterised by heavily embellished dresses, pom-poms (‘shakers’) and precise, synchronised performance to pop music. Once integral to the street parades that were a key feature of the popular town carnival movement, today troupes with strong place-based identities perform at weekly events in private sports halls and community centres across Lancashire and Cheshire and parts of North Wales. With more than 8000 current participants—predominantly primary- and secondary-school-aged girls—the performance functions at a conceptual remove from the better-known morris dancing associated with the English folk movement, however girls’ morris dancing shares a significant parallel history with other forms of Northwest morris dancing and has been named “heir to the richest of English dance traditions” (Dommett, 1986: 5).

Dresses were created in response to conversations with LWSMDT who were amongst the last mixed-gender morris troupes to perform against all-female teams during the 1950s. The dresses were then “returned” to Lower Withington by dancers from nearby Irlam Royalettes who participated in the 2013 Lower Withington Rose Day alongside former morris performers from the village. This exchange represented the first time morris dancing had featured at Lower Withington Rose Day since LWSMDT disbanded in the early 1960s. Following the widespread “indoors” turn for girls’ morris dancing in the 1990s, it was also a rare opportunity for contemporary girls’ morris performers to experience the carnival as a performance context.


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