|Elephants will be dancing through the streets of
Coventry city centre this weekend before moving on to Ryton Organic
Gardens to carry out an ancient ceremony.
Members of Coventry border morris side Elephant Up A Pole will be
joined by up to 100 other morris dancers from around the country for
The Earlsdon-based side will be leading their guests around
Coventry city centre on Saturday to demonstrate the different styles
of morris dancing.
They will be dancing in Spon Street at 10.30am, in the area
around the Fountain and in Shelton Square until 12.30pm, before
going to the ruins of the old Cathedral at 2pm.
Elephant Up A Pole is a border morris side, whose members black
their faces up, wear rag coats and dance with large sticks. The
tradition dates back to the Welsh borders where out-of-work
agricultural labourers would wear the costume as a disguise as they
danced for beer money.
Other sides visiting will be performing sword dances, and dancing
in the North West and Cotswold traditions.
Local sides invited include Coventry Morris, Silhill (from
Solihull), Hereburgh (Harbury), Chinewrde (Kenilworth), Anker (Nuneaton)
and Paragon Pit (Rugby).
On Sunday the focus will fall on another old tradition, when the
dancers assemble at Ryton Organic Gardens at 12.30pm to wassail an
apple tree. The ceremony is performed to ward evil spirits away from
the tree and to encourage it to grow new fruit.
Toast soaked in cider produced from the tree's apples is hung
from the tree to attract robins, which are said to bring good luck.
A wassailing dance will be performed by Elephant Up A Pole,
before a shot gun is fired at the tree to wake it up from its winter
sleep. Cider from the tree is then passed around for everyone to
Elephant Up A Pole squire Derek Grimley said:
"We'd like to thank Ryton Organic Gardens for continuing
to host this ancient ceremony. We've been performing it for 12
years now and it has increased in popularity every year, both with
members of the public and other morris sides."