Duncan Barkes: compulsory morris dancing?

DO you remember my column of a few weeks ago about a school that was using knitting to teach pupils various skills and improve behaviour?

Thanks to the internet, my supportive comments went world-wide and were even picked up by Vogue in America! That was a bit of a shock! My tinkering with the curriculum continues this week with a ground breaking idea: compulsory morris dancing in schools.

The origins of this fine English tradition are not 100 per cent certain, but it is widely believed that it stems from pagan fertility rites as part of a ritual to encourage a good harvest.

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A glance at the history books shows little written reference to the beginning of the morris, but it was certainly knocking about when Shakespeare was at the height of his powers.

In West Sussex, the first recorded incident comes from the accounts of the church wardens of West Tarring Church, in 1561, which refers to the purchase of morris bells for five shillings. I learned this fascinating fact while supping a pint in the Bell Inn, a Chichester boozer that often plays host to the county’s Martlet Sword & Morris Men.

History lesson aside, you may well be wondering why I feel morris dancing should be taught in English schools. There are many reasons.

Increasingly, in our ever diverse country, people claim that the English are losing their identity and are no longer allowed to be proud of their country.

I believe this is utter rot – it is a view held by those looking for division.

But I do believe more could be done in schools to teach pupils about the English way of life.

What better way than to include morris dancing as part of the school curriculum?

Practically, it has its benefits, too.

As our kids seem to be getting fatter, it would help tackle the obesity crisis.

It would teach children co-ordination and provide an excellent outlet for aggression.

Far better a schoolchild indulges in some orchestrated stick fighting than walloping a fellow pupil or teacher.

Teaching morris dancing in English schools would have many benefits.

It would also go a long way to ensuring the promotion and protection of this fine traditional English pastime.

Incidentally, I hear the Martlet Sword & Morris Men are always looking for new members. Anyone who would like to find out more should visit www.martletmorrismen.org.uk