May people are no doubt aware of the famous May Morning celebrations in Oxford where Town, Gown & Morris Dancers mingle in a wonderful disorganised throng which captures the essence of the perfect misty summers dawn. Crowds throng to Magdalen Bridge and a choir sings it age old litany to summer from the top of Magdalen College Tower.
Fewer I am sure have heard anything of the alternative event which has for the last 9 years now played itself out at Botley on the western edge of this fine city.
Following the experience of increasing organisational control by “hired in” Security men at the City event and wishing to capture the spirit of an earlier and simpler village celebration, the founders of this event have purposely kept it small to engender a more personal relationship with the begining of Summer for those attanding. Depending on whether 1st May falls within the week or at the weekend, attendances have ranged between 20 and 50 people.
The tradition of climbing a hill to greet the first rays of the sun at dawn is maintained and the gathering is set also within a beautiful clearing in a wood on the hill. Arriving before 05:00 we are gauranteed of this experience and also of the most beautiful dawn chorous as the woodland birds come awake.
Those attending are free to contribute songs, stories, and poetic readings to awaken the voice and dances are shared to enliven the body. A Beltane Fire light by the stoic few who have been up all night is jumped to re-energise friendships, a may staff is decorated with flowers and a strangely random ribbon dance is performed to weave magic of the day in to a tail recording the day for posterity which is then added also to the staff.
As time has gone on the contributions to this day, brought by the variety of people attending, continues to produce deep emotion in those there. So much so that the favoured place to stand for some is in the path of the smoke from the fire so that some excuse for the watering eyes is available.
I would encourage all who feel the excitement of the early summer to find and join in with one of the many local celebrations (often organised by a local Morris side) The sense of community which is missing in so much of our lives nowadays can be found in bucketfuls at such events.
For interest in this event see contact details on Armaleggan Border Morris MySpace page