There's no doubt that Morris Offspring is a massive part of the lives of those involved in it. It is huge, it is unyielding, it is exhausting and it is addictive. Whether watching or dancing, it's more than a morris team, it's a furnace of emotion, creativity and power.
Nevertheless, Morris Offspring's exhilarating, exciting, beautiful journey is almost at an end. One final project - The Furnace - a collaboration with Faustus is underway and we passionately believe the importance of filming and documenting this last project.
We were successful in obtaining Arts Council England funding, which has enabled a tour of UK venues for these two innovative groups. This Kickstarter project is about making the most of that funding and ensuring that the legacy it creates is maximised.
A reoccurring issue for morris dancers is negative public attitude towards morris, something often reinforced by the media! Then again, how can the media know to portray it otherwise if evidence is not regularly provided? Much of the media has a set idea of morris dance, and while true in places, it is not the only shape of it and we would like Morris Offspring's legacy to counter that image.
My Kickstarter project allows us to professionally film The Furnace and create a series of 2-3 mini-films that capture the spirit of Offspring ‘behind the scenes’: an insight into our methods, approach and personalities.
I am particularly proud of the quality of artwork and photography associated with Offspring and would like to find a way to exhibit this. If we manage to exceed the target, then we can build on the publicity surrounding the project, and also create a permanent online exhibition of photos and film.
Over the last ten years with masses of support from team members past and present, friends and family, Morris Offspring have made some remarkable achievements.
From the very first performance, Flame, commissioned by Sidmouth International Festival for which Laurel gathered 12 dancers and enlisted Chris Wood & The English Acoustic Collective in 2003 - to 2004's repeat performance with an emerging Spiers and Boden. On English Ground was to 2006's 10-day tour of UK Arts Centres and appearance on the BBC2 Culture Show - not to mention a standing ovation for the appearance at Cropredy with the Morris On band. Amazing times. After a second show, Rising, there was a period of downtime while seemingly everyone had children then the team reemerged with a completely new line up of young dancers for 2011's colossal Arts Council England and PRSF funded spectacular event, Must Come Down bringing 36 young morris dancers from England, America and Canada together with musicians including Jackie Oates and storyteller Debs Newbold. The performance had that same electrifying vibe that the first show back in 2003 had - but for a whole new set of dancers, musicians and audience. The dancers decided to reform Morris Offspring and cram as much in as possible before the return trip to the USA. So we've written fiendish new material, we've danced to a 200-piece community choir at the South Bank and journeyed to Ulverston and Sheffield. We even taught morris to conference delegates for WWF! All of this would have been impossible without unwavering support from the English Folk Dance and Song Society (and my Mum & Dad).
Nevertheless, the workload and the finances are unsustainable where there is no option for full-time touring and 2013 sees the final outing for Morris Offspring. Your support in helping us capture these last days on film and photo for those who were unable to see the live work will be invaluable. We are aware that not everyone in the morris world values our work, we are also aware of the huge impact we have had on others, and indeed on how many people outside 'the scene' view morris.
If there's one thing we've learnt on this incredible journey, it's that Morris is a survivor, a true dance of the people that will never be tamed and will always bring a heady mix of joy and embarrassment wherever it goes. We hope we've struck a good balance between these two vital life forces and sincerely hope we capture the best moments of both on this one last massive trip.
Risks and challenges
The risk with filming only one show is that there may be a problem with equipment, lighting, etc. We will film at least two shows to avoid this.
To capture the spirit of the team, we will conduct interviews, and if necessary set up at additional shoot after the tour.
We have an engaged an excellent publicist for this tour, however the risk, as ever when dealing with the media, is that no-one takes up the story, another reason to make sure we create as much high quality material of our own as possible.
This sort of collaboration between an amateur dance team and a professional band, can prove both challenging and exhilarating. We have already done the bulk of rehearsing so we know the show we are producing is of the highest quality we can achieve. It is also an extremely exciting venture for the team, most of whom have not toured professionally before, and we've been preparing for this by learning a lot of songs and stocking up on bus games. And remembering to have a good night's sleep before Easter.
We are always at risk of injury, and minimize this by looking after ourselves. Well, those of us with any sense do do, anyway.
Offspring learned a great deal about working, playing, and creating together during our exchange with Maple in 2011 and gigs last summer. Laurel has learnt a lot about leading large-scale projects and keeping everyone happy over the last ten years of working with Offspring, and we hope there will be no major incidents!
Finally, the support from Arts Council and EFDSS has taken the biggest scariest financial risk out of the project, making the logistics possible and it's down to us now to make sure that we pack out the venues to cover the rest.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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