Morris dancers set for early start to welcome summer sun on Mousehold Heath

Morris dancers will welcome in the summer by dancing at sunrise at Mousehold Heath on May 1. Pic: Ra

Morris dancers will welcome in the summer by dancing at sunrise at Mousehold Heath on May 1. Pic: Rachael Miller. - Credit: Rachael Miller

It will be an early morning for Morris dancers when they gather up their bells and ribbons, and make their way to a Norwich beauty spot to welcome the summer sun.

Two Morris sides – Kemps Men and Golden Star Morris - will be upholding a tradition on Wednesday, when they head to Mousehold Heath before dawn.

The dancers will perform at 5am on St James' Hill.

Tim Huggins is the squire (the Morris term for the leader of the group) of Kemps Men.

Mr Huggins said: 'Although getting up so early can be difficult, it's worth it once we're here and the view over the city of Norwich as the sun rises makes it all worthwhile.

'And of course the tradition is that without us Morris dancing there'd be no guarantee that the summer sun would rise at all!'

No one really knows how the tradition of Morris dancers welcoming in summer evolved.

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It may be related to the revival in popularity of Morris dancing in 1950s Oxford, where May Day revels were already well established.

Or it may have its roots in much older celebrations of the traditional start of summer on the first of May.

Such dances will be taking place across the country.

Rachael Miller, squire of Golden Star Morris, said: 'May Day is a particularly meaningful time in the Morris calendar and it's really special to think of all the different Morris sides across the country and even worldwide all performing as the sun rises.'

After 'dancing the sun up' on Mousehold Heath the groups will move on to perform outside The Forum at 6am, then at the West Door of the Cathedral at 7am, before adjourning to a pub for a cooked breakfast.

Kemp's Men of Norwich are named in honour of Will Kemp, colleague of Shakespeare, fellow shareholder in the Globe Theatre,.

He danced from London to Norwich in what was known as the Nine Daies Wonder after a sort of bet in 1600.

Golden Star Morris is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2019 after being formed in 1979 in the Golden Star Pub on Colegate.

Today the team has more than 40 active members of all ages and practises weekly from October to May.

They perform throughout the year at events and festivals in Norfolk and beyond.