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13 November 2014

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You are in: Dorset > Places > Places features > Morris dancing in the movies

(L-R) Andy Black, Richard Lumsden, Chaz Oldham, Jasper Britton, Clive Mantle, Adam Ewan

Morris dancing in the movies

A film about one man's struggle to modernise Morris dancing has been partly shot in Dorset - and after an independent tour of cinemas around the south west, the film could be closer to getting a national distribution deal.

A new comedy film, Morris: A Life With Bells On, following the fortunes of a Morris dancing team called Millsham Morris and its leader, caused a stir on its venue-by-venue tour of the south west, including cinemas and village halls across Dorset, that the film has come to the attention of the world's media.

Chaz Oldham, producer, writer and actor in the film says: "The regional screenings we did with Moviola were extraordinary. We hoped we'd get some publicity but we had no idea how popular the film would be. We were getting 120,000 hits on the website.

Chaz Oldham, Naomie Harris

Chaz Oldham, Naomie Harris

"And you know you've got a good story when the Sydney Morning Telegraph newspaper gets in touch with you."

Chaz says the film has also featured on America's CBS news, in Time magazine, and he's about to take it to the Seattle Film Festival.

The rural cinema tour was arranged by Dorset Film Touring. Their Moviola initiative aims to take cinema out to rural areas, through a network of small villages and community halls.

Chaz says: "[The tour] really did the trick and helped take it to a wider audience."

Bournemouth doubling for California

And the documentary-style comedy was partially filmed here in Dorset - scenes were shot in Poole, Wimborne - and Bournemouth beach even doubled for California.

In the fictional plot, Derecq Twist is the leader of the Morris dancing team, and as the film begins he's preparing to perform the ultimate Morris dance called the Threeple Hammer Damson, a long-held ambition.

(L-R) Chaz Oldham, Ben Bela Bohm, Pascal Langdale, Gary Fannin, Brodie Bass, Aaron Sweeny Harris

But Derecq is also a visionary - he's pioneering a new form of Morris dance,  Extreme Morris.

This new, free-form style of dancing ruffles the feathers of the traditional Morris Circle.

The Circle warns Derecq and his team that they're to stop with the Extreme Morris - or he'll be expelled from the Circle and prevented from dancing the Threeple Hammer Damson.

Tubs of Lard for My Old Lady

Chaz Oldham describes the film as "a gentle, funny film with no swearing, no nudity and no violence - although some of the dances do get a bit rough at times."

Chaz also acted in the film, and got stuck into the dancing - including one dance that's regarded as a real-life Dorset Morris dancing classic, Tubs of Lard for My Old Lady.

Says Chaz: "Morris dancing is not just keep fit. It nearly killed me a few times - there were a few cracked knuckles and chipped teeth!"

The film, focusing as it does on Morris dancing, received a boost following reports that the quirky, traditional dancing style was dying out, with less people taking part.

But Chaz has found that people who have seen the movie have really enjoyed it, and he's hoping that the film will receive the distribution deal he feels it deserves - people can help by signing the online petition at the film's website.

He says: "In movie parlance we are 'still talking to a number of people', and trying to get it out on national release.

"We're at that critical juncture where hopefully in the next few weeks we'll have a distribution deal so I would ask people [who want to see the film] to be patient as you can be.

"All you have to do is mention the words 'Morris dancing' and watch the reaction - it should be the hit it deserves to be, and the people in the south west have got right behind it.

"And it's a tribute to them that we managed to get the film registered on the radar of the major film distributors."

More information on film can be found on the Morris movie website:

last updated: 05/05/2009 at 14:54
created: 29/01/2009

Have Your Say

Have you been Morris dancing? Have you seen this film? What did you think?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Mecki Testroet
I saw the film in Dorset. It was very funny, especially if you Morris dance yourself but definitely deserves to be on general release!

liz wade
flim should be on genral release so we all can see it we live in kent and so far can only talk about it

Steve Earwicker
I had hoped to see this film that everyone is talking about, but it was sold out at Ferndown! What are these distributers thinking when they don't back a British success like this??

Jane Dowling
I would love to see this film. My sons did morris dancing at school and really enjoyed entering the local folk festival.I have only managed to see the trailers so far.

Mrs S Lewington
Loved it. Had not had such a good laugh for a long time.

Linda Phipps
I saw this film at North Cadbury, it was very entertaining and thoroughly enjoyed by the audience. I was very surprised to learn that there are so many overseas Morris dancers. I would go and see the film again.

Vanessa Cox
I was an extra in this film and you could tell it was going to be something really special right from the start. Go and see it - it's fantastic.

Chris Kelly
I have done some Morris Dancing in Los Angeles through friends who had a mix of Ren Faire and Celtic music backgrounds. There are several morris troupes in southern california and we would love to see the movie here!

Ive been Morris Dancing here in New Zealand for the last thousand years or so, would love to see the film make it to something like the Gore Film Festival. would be a hitJohnGaulTussock Jumpers Morris

I've been Morris dancing since 1984. A wonderful group of new friends awaits you at practice wherever you are. We would love to see the movie here in the US. Long live the Morris!

Julie James
I'm a morris dancer from Los Angeles (there's lots of us here in California). Been dancing for 18 years now. My husband is musician for two LA teams. Lots of folk in Southern California would LOVE to see the movie!

Ethan Hay
As foreman of the Deer Creek Morris Men in San Francisco, California, I would truly love to see this movie. There is much discussion among bay area teams wanting to see the film distributed in the US, or at the very least released on DVD. One should think that with the upcoming Olympics buzz that some lucky distributor will see the film's inherent value, sight unseen. Good luck and keep us posted!

Lesley Downes
I haven't seen the film yet, but along with many friends, we'd love it to come to Devon so that we can have a chance to enjoy it. Having danced various styles for a long time, I can't imagine life without it. It seems to me that Morris, which is so much fun for some of us to participate in, may at last have a wider audience and more street cred. May this film reach the great uninitiated public! And perhaps this site is a great way to send greetings to those who I've met through dance.

Robert B
When I left England, I thought I had escaped Morris, but I've now been involved with in Australia for about 25 years. I'm sure many Morris sides think as I do: if we had the technical filmmaking skills, we could do better than this film.

brian jones
of course...32 yrs man & boy in the old world and the new thanks to the great John Kirkpatrick who introduced me to the morris world of sex ,drugs and travel with a bit of music and dance thrown in...a fine film ( or as we now say. movie )worthy of many accolades both at home and abroad

Janet Bell
Have they thought about taking it to the folk festivals? They'd get a hell of an audience there.

Morag Gardinor
I grow up with morris dancing from an early age as both my parents are in involved in sides in cambridgeshire and always enjoyed it.It a great way to met and have funBut as i live in scotland now these now chance of me seeing it so I hope the BBC will some time show it as there are a lot of morris fans up here

Marnie Goodbody
I joined a local morris side three weeks ago, and my husband joined the week after. We're loving it so far and would be eager to see the film.

Jane Addison
I have seen a sort clip and think what I've seen is fab. I hope it goes on nationwide release. I am a morris dancer, by the way, with Ely and Littleport Riot from Ely, Cambs- so may be biased!!!!! xxx

I've been Morris dancing for 17 years!Great fun, great music, great ale and great people.

chris marshall
I live in Cambridgeshire, and would love to see the film, I have seen the trailer on TV.

Shelagh Boardman
I've been involved with Morris Dancing for 30 years now, It's a way of life. I'm really looking forward to being able to see this film.

Roy Allen
I represent a morris side in Suffolk and we hope the film will be shown countrywide,albeit perhaps through film societies.There is a guaranteed audience from the morris and associated fraternities. It would be great if the BBC could screen it at some stage.The

Janet Hutchinson
I have been morris dancing as well as other dancing such as rapper sword, clog, irish set, step and appalachian dance since 1989, it's a great past-time and I've travelled up and down the country and around the world with my side and made many life-long friends. Morris dancing keeps you fit mentally and physically and is a great English tradition. I would recommend it to anyone who is fit enough to do it. I am not an old fogey eitherand my morris team have several members in their 20's, I'm in my 40's but could pass for a 20 year old too! I haven't seen the film YET as it's not in our area.

Daniel Leggett
I have been a morris dancer for 14 years. I am now 32. It is great fun. In the past, I have tried to make morris dancing a little more desirable without changing the tradition of it all, by using modern music and fire. I have been able to visit many places and people whilst dancing and would suggest it to anyone who wants a fun but disciplined hobby thats keeps you fit. I haven't seen the film yet but the trailer looks great, just what morris dancing needs. MORRIS DANCING WILL NOT DIE OUT, AS LONG AS MY BELLS ARE JINGLING.

Graham Howell
This is wonderful. Where can I get it on DVD?

Marion Hirsch
I live in New York, and although I've not seen the movie, believe from what I saw on the trailer that this movie would be a wonderful way to draw attention to and preserve a wonderful British tradition, and at the same time entertain an audience of people curious about other people's cultures.Go for it!!

Lots of Morris Sides here in Shropshire and we are really wanting to see Morris the movie, unfortunately my local independent cinema won't show the film unless distributed by a 'major' company as frightened the 200 seats won't be filled...There are many more local Folk Music fans & participants than that waiting to see the film, "sigh".

Barbara Walker
There are several Morris groups in the US and Canada. I hope we get to see the film.

Laura Schultz
I am a member of a Northwest Morris team in the Washington DC area. There are lots of Morris teams of all types around here and through out the States and we want to see the movie too!

Malcolm Bebb
I went to see this at Fordingbridge and found it thoroughly enjoyable. More to the point, so did the non-morris majority of the 150-strong audience. Loads of laughs and very appreciative applause at the end.

Kate Jones
I have been a morris dancer for two years now in the USA, and really hope that they can bring the morris movie over here. The extended morris community would love it and maybe our friends and family might have a little more appreciation and understanding about this type of dancing where we hit sticks together and wave hankies around.

Jane Armstrong
I've been a Morris dancer now for four years, along with my husband, and now my 16 year old son, and it's the most fun we've ever had. We even went along as extras for the filming of one of the scenes of this film.There are thousands of us around - and despite recent reports, we are not all old fogeys.We all want to see this film - as do our friends and families and I'm sure the vast audiences we attract all over the country would flock to see it too. It could be the surprise hit of 2009 if only the distributors would take the gamble. Go on - you know you want to!!!

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