Morris dancers want more stick

Morris Dance Troupe, Stone the Crows
Morris Dance Troupe, Stone the Crows
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Sticks and stones may break your bones - but, as this morris dance troupe found, it’s pretty tough on the sticks too.

Leyland’s well-known Stone the Crows morris dancers are sending out a desperate appeal for coppiced hazel after they keep breaking the sticks they traditionally clash together while dancing.

The Border Morris dancing troupe, who practice at Leyland’s Farington Primary School each Thursday night, go through so many of their sticks that they are struggling to replace them.

And, even though they grow on trees, the morris men (and women), who next perform at Croston Christmas Fair on December 8, cannot find enough to keep them sticking together.

Founder member Murray Riggs said: “There are now over 40 of us in the team.

“With weekly practice and lots of dance displays in the local and wider area, our sticks take quite a hammering with the constant clashing together they get in all of our dances.

“Although they do literally grow on trees, we are struggling to find fresh supplies.

“At the moment, most of our very limited stick collection is bound up with gaffa tape to stop them deteriorating further.

“This does help to preserve the sticks but deadens the sound of them clashing together - which spoils the impact of our displays.”

Stone the Crows, who dress all in black with blacked-up faces to perform the age-old dances at local fairs and folk festivals, have very specific requirements for the traditional wooden battens.

And, even if they do find a reliable supply, they will still have to make do with what they have for a while at least.

Murray said: “We have tried many different types of wood but have found that hazel is the most robust and when it has been coppiced or cut back tends to grow nice a straight.

“We need sticks about 30 inches long and somewhere between a broom handle and a pick axe handle in girth.

“If anyone has any suitable hazel we would be more than willing to cut and collect it.

“We then need to strip the bark and leave them to season for at least six months before we can use them.”

If you can help the Leyland based troupe, you can contact them through their website, at www.stonethecrows.org.uk, or call 01772 499074.