Portsmouth in awe as armada of Morris dancers hit the streets for festival  

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HUNDREDS of Morris dancers invaded Portsmouth over the weekend in a spectacular display of the ancient tradition.

About 200 people took part in the fifth Day of Dance staged by the Southsea-based Victory Morrismen.

Eighteen groups – or sides, as they are known – from across the south of England flocked to the city on Saturday to join the day-long affair.

Starting with a massed dance in The Hard, in Portsea, the contingent spread out across to Gosport, dancing on the ferry, before heading back to Old Portsmouth and showing off their skills near the Hot Walls in a stunning finale.

Scores of people stood in awe to watch the show. Among them was Janet Joyce, 44, of Chichester, and her sons Peter, seven, and Jacob, nine.

She said: ‘We could hear all this commotion and went over to investigate. It was a truly amazing sight. It’s incredibly rare to see Morris dancing these days so it was a pleasant surprise.’

The sides were driven across the city in vintage buses as they travelled to their destinations.

As well as various forms of Morris dancing on show, their were other styles from continental Europe on display.

Keith Walter, travelled from Datchet, near Windsor with the Datchet Border Morris side. The 57-year-old, who has been Morris dancing for 25 years, said: ‘Today’s been good fun. You get to meet other sides that you don’t normally see. But the best thing is to entertain people and put a smile on their faces.’

Morris dancing has been has been around since the 15th century and, while the world around it has changed considerably since then, it has remained a steadfast part of English culture.

Mark Taylor, of Victory Morrismen, was one of the organisers of the day. He said the event wasn’t about promoting the activity but having fun. Speaking of the reception the sides were given in Portsmouth, he added: ‘It has been absolutely terrific. It’s been a wonderful day. Everyone is enjoying themselves and the public has really enjoyed the spectacle.’ 

The day raised cash for the Tom Prince Cancer Trust.