- With 13,000 individuals in 765 sides it is probably true to say that there are as many morris dancers in the UK today as there have ever been at a single time before
- 10,000 are members of one side and around 3,000 are members of more than one side
I combined two pieces of information to estimate the number of morris dancers in the UK:
- the total number of UK morris sides; and
- the average number of members each side has.
Each morris organisation regularly updates and publishes on its website a list of the sides that are members of its organisation (here, here and here). As of July 2014, there were 753 sides registered as members of a morris organisation, plus at least 13 others that were not a member of an organisation.
Assuming that 766 is a reasonable estimate of the number of UK sides, I then used responses to the Morris Census to estimate the average number of members in each side. Members was defined in the survey as ‘musicians and dancers/performers that regularly perform out with the side’, so is wider than just dancers and includes those that participate regularly in morris dancing.
The average UK morris side has around 19 regular members
Of those, 13 are members of one side and 6 are members of more than one side. Some sides have lots of members, while others have relatively few. North West and Border sides tend to have around the most members on average, and Appalachian and Rapper sides the least.
Members of more than one side (so-called "tarts") make counting the total number of morris dancers challenging because they will be counted at least twice. I account for this in estimating the total by counting them as half a member. Typically, 10-30% of sides' members are also members of other sides.
Sides also reported in the Morris Census having, on average, 2 occasional members that perform ‘once or twice a year or less’. Many of them may be regular members of another side, but it is hard to know exactly how many: I count occasional members as half a member as well, adding them to the estimate of the total.
The estimated total number of morris dancers in the UK is 13,000
There are no previous estimates of the number of morris dancers to put this estimate in a historical context, but because the number of morris sides in the UK has been growing in recent years, it is probably true to say that there are as many morris dancers in the UK today as there have ever been at a single time before.