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29th April - 12th June 2016
Open Daily 10.30am – 6.00pm
Two years ago the museum began an ongoing project to document the hundreds of Morris sides currently active in Britain by getting the teams to replicate their distinctive costumes in miniature. To make the process easier and to allow the characteristics of the costumes to be highlighted, a plain cloth doll was commissioned. The doll has no features, allowing makers the freedom to embellish it as they see fit. Enabling contributors to have complete artistic expression ensures that the project is truly collaborative, with the resulting dolls being an accurate representation of their respective sides.
The completed dolls have exceeded all expectations - the immense time and care that has been taken to recreate the costumes as faithfully as possible is evident in the finished articles. They have been made with amazing attention to detail: from the inclusion of human hair, to miniature buttons and accessories.
As well as being a more generic document, the dolls sometimes reflect a point in time in a Morris side’s existence. For example, Bakanalia Morris’ captain - or ‘squire’ in Morris parlance - had a broken leg whilst the side’s doll was being created. Consequently, the finished doll is replete with miniature leg splint. This kind of feature is typical of the spirit in which people have contributed to the project.
Talks on MORRIS FOLK and the Museum of British Folklore will be held in the Jerwood Gridshell Space at the Food & Folk Festival on Sunday 1st May at 11.30am and 2.30pm
Many of the dolls have been returned to the museum with complex notes about their making and the stories behind their makers - often, the dolls have been dressed with the help of more than one person, making this a truly collective effort. All of this accompanying information has been logged to establish a contemporary record of Morris dancing in the 21st century.
To date, 437 dolls have been sent out to sides across the country, with 57 back fully- dressed. The project continues to expand and develop, with new dolls arriving all the time.
A selection of the dolls had their portraits taken by Graham Goldwater at LCC and featured in the ‘Figures of Folk’ exhibition at PARC – the Photography and Archive Research Centre, in 2015. They can be seen here again at ‘Morris Folk’.
Sussex Morris sides who have taken part, so far, include:
- Mythago Morris, whose mysterious doll wears a mask depicting a tree, moon and stars and who wears hobnail boots, complete with metal toes.
- Sompting Village Morris, whose male and female dolls are resplendent in yellow and gold ribbons.
We would like to extend our thanks to everyone who has been involved with ‘Morris Folk’: the Morris sides themselves, without whom, the project would not be possible; Graham Goldwater and Val Williams at LCC, who produced the photographs and finally, to the Weald and Downland for hosting this exhibition.
If you are a Morris side who would like to participate in the project, please email the Museum of British Folklore: firstname.lastname@example.org, so that we can send a doll to you.