The Outside Capering Crew
Crew members failed to claim the solo jig championship by legitimate means in 2007; so we craftily secured it anyway, by recruiting the winner. Emma's membership of the team was pre-ordained: in her first week at primary school, she fell on to a metal bootscraper, which left her with a scar on top of her head in the shape of a set of bacca pipes. She also dances with Oyster Morris and Gog Magog Molly, a team that had trouble deciding on a colour scheme for its kit ("They look like an explosion in a tie-dye factory"). She says of her first jig contest entry: "I danced in Gogs kit without fully appreciating what my skirt would do on a 360 degree jump - since then I have invested in a pair of safety pants." Emma also says she plays the accordion when it is necessary. It never is.
Tracy doesn’t say much, but she can do almost anything she’s asked, including soaring over the rest of the team in a single jump, without enough run-up. This amiable willingness does not extend to leapfrogging over up-ended brooms. On the one occasion she tried it, her baggy shorts snagged on the brush and she remained stuck on top of the free-standing broom until the shaft splintered under her, narrowly missing her femoral artery. How we laughed. Tracy has won the Sidmouth jig competition twice (once as a member of Windsor Morris) and if there was a morris jumping competition, she would win that too. She may be the only chairman of Upton Parish Council ever to have performed on stage at Fairport Convention’s annual Cropredy Festival.
Dancer, costumier, horse-maker and rubber of legs
Sue is a past foreman (instructor) of Windsor Morris and a three-times winner of the Sidmouth jig competition. She is also a former physiotherapist, which was doubtless a great help when she was asked to build The Crew’s four hobby horses... but not much use when she re-dislocated her shoulder while jumping over a rubber chicken during our Big Caper show at Sidmouth 07. We'd love to see the official accident report for that one. Sue has somehow managed to dance with several teams, raise a family, hold down a job, ice cakes and ride horses (real ones, of the throwing-the-rider-against-a-wall variety). Our advice: don't ice cakes while riding wild horses.
Simon has lurked around at the Sidmouth jig competition many times and has occasionally been allowed to take the trophy home for cleaning. In 2007 he hoped to sweep the board of prizes with a broom dance; in the event, he merely swept the floor. He has been known to dress up as a slightly revolting jester and as a lady of a certain age, and to dance with fire and walk a slack rope in a loincloth. None of these activities has produced the injuries deserved. He is described as "weird" (by Brian) in Richard Lewis's book, The Magic Spring.
Musician and webmaster
Mark plays melodeon for The Crew but actually trained as a timpanist and percussionist under Professor James Blades OBE. BBC Radio 3 broadcast several of his performances, including the 1984 world premiere of a concerto for clarinet, timpani and string orchestra with co-soloist Emma Johnson. The fall came when Mark saw The World Famous Ashdown Mummers practising in the garden next door, and thanks to his classical training, was invited to bang a snare drum for them. Since then, Mark has banged and squeezed and even occasionally danced for at least thirteen morris teams. This record is unlikely to be officially recognised, for fear of encouraging others to attempt the same. Mark has also played for countless dancers in the Sidmouth jig competiton, several of whom he had never met until moments beforehand. Despite this, he’s only actually won when playing for Crew dancers (four times).
Lawrence was the squeezebox player for the legendary (now mythical) Gloucestershire Old Spot Morris Dancers. His playing has a particularly liquid quality. His tendency to play too fast has been a key influence on The Crew’s subsequent style. Two of his most frantic compositions were initially used for The Crew’s bacca pipes dances, but they were dropped because it proved too difficult to sing them to him, to remind him how they went. Lawrence has been considered the best entrant in the Sidmouth melodeon competition on several occasions, but has only won it once, because of his refusal to comply with the rules. Lawrence has various recording credits, including three albums by folk singer-songwriter Steve Ashley. Catchphrase on overseas trips: “I wonder if I could look at your boiler?”
Brian has been dancing since Cambridge University days, and so ought to be clever enough to know better. For some years he has been foreman (instructor) of Redbornstoke Morris. He also performs wooing plays and winter dances with the Brafront Guizers, whatever they may be. Brian lives in the Bedfordshire village of Toddington, where The Crew’s first dances were created on a farm track and in a couple of car parks. One of his most significant contributions to The Crew was to break his wrist on the opening evening of Towersey Village Festival, forcing his team mates to learn new material in a hurry; he will never dance on that wrist again. Brian retired from The Crew in October 2007, having been a wise and stabilising influence on the team. Please pray for us.
Barry danced with The Crew once, but was found to be too tall. He wrote the blindingly good Four Up tune - since developed somewhat by his fellow musicians - which gave the team an entirely new impetus when it became the final track on Ashley Hutchings’ Grandson of Morris On album. Barry is not currently active with the team because of other commitments as a festival compere and singer with the folk duo Life & Times, from whom we have stolen another of our best tunes. We are sanguine about Barry’s absence: it is possible to have too many melodeon players.
A number of musicians have played for The Crew, usually when our regular box-squeezers haven’t been around. They include John Leslie (Armaleggan Morris and briefly a member of The Crew at Sidmouth in 1999), Chris Leslie (Fairport Convention and Adderbury Morris Men), Edd Frost (Little Johnny England and Adderbury Village Morris Men), Jody Kruskal (Half Moon Sword, New York), John Ede Golightly (Belles and Broomsticks Morris, Guernsey), Paul Burgess (Gloucestershire Old Spot Morris), Min Wild (Great Western Morris), and members of Ashley Hutchings’ Morris On bands Simon Care (Albion Band), Phil Beer (Albion Band and Show of Hands), Ken Nicol (Steeleye Span) and a string quartet at Simon Pipe's mother-in-law's 80th birthday party. We salute them all.