Regional differences across the UK

Key findings
  • The South East and South West have the most morris sides in the UK, the North East and North West the fewest.
  • Styles of morris mostly show a pattern of being strongest in their region of heritage, such as Rapper in the North East and Molly in the East of England.

How does morris and sword dancing vary across the UK regions? Can the regional heritage of some dancing styles still be seen in the way sides are distributed?

Number of sides

The UK region with the most sides is the South East of England, followed by the South West and the East of England. The number of sides seems to be higher in more southerly regions and lower in more northerly regions, although Yorkshire and the Humber (84) and London (31) both buck those trends to some extent. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Scotland and Wales have very few sides.

However, if there are more people in those regions, then comparing the number of sides could be a somewhat misleading comparison. If we compare the number of sides a region has compared to the number of people that live there, a slightly different picture emerges. The South West of England has the most sides per million of population, whereas London is the region of England with the fewest sides.

These findings accord with a wider finding, that morris tends to be strongest in more sparsely populated areas. Although a fairly weak association at regional level and with London (population per hectare of 50) removed, it seems rural areas tend to have more morris sides. The relative popularity of morris in the South compared to the North is again evident here.

Dance styles

Cotswold is the most popular style among morris sides in the UK, followed by Border and North West. But how does that differ within regions? Cotswold is the most danced style across the South of England and the Midlands, but the dance styles in the North of England are very different. Rapper is the most danced style in the North East, and North West is the most danced style across the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Another way of looking at the same question is to ask in which regions different styles are performed. This gives a better idea of whether styles with a regional heritage, such as Border to the West Midlands, Rapper to the North East and Molly to the East of England, are still performed more in those areas. 

Most of the styles with a regional heritage are still most performed in those areas, with the North West danced most in the North West and Longsword danced most in Yorkshire. The one exception is Border morris, which has spread all over the country, particularly to the South East and the South West.

Is geography an important aspect of your side's identity? Please leave a comment below.

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