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May Day dancing postponed due to lockdown but morris men pledge to stage the dance when restrictions end

Traditionally thousands of morris men across the county and beyond would dance as the sun comes up today on May Day.

And although lockdown has put paid to the very British pastime this month, dancers in Kent have pled that they will stage their celebration when restrictions allow - whenever that is.

The Hartley Morris Men performing at the Rose and Crown at Wrotham in past times Picture: Chris Davey
The Hartley Morris Men performing at the Rose and Crown at Wrotham in past times Picture: Chris Davey

Terry Heaslip, foreman for Hartley Morris Men, said: "Starting our summer season by dancing at dawn (5.30am) at the Coldrum Stones annually on May 1st has been a traditional custom for the Hartley Morris Men since 1975.

"Only on one year did we have to relocate our activities to the top of Wrotham Hill - during the Foot & Mouth crisis. Unfortunately the present lockdown restrictions mean that it will be impossible this year and we have to break with tradition completely."

Due to social distancing, and pubs being shut where many dances take place, events and the year's programme have all had to be put on hold.

He added: "This has not been easy. May Day will be particularly difficult as we had a full programme planned for these important dates in our calendar. Naturally, we will be following government guidance and staying at home.

The Hartley Morris Men performed in Jubilee Square, Maidstone for their 65th anniversary
The Hartley Morris Men performed in Jubilee Square, Maidstone for their 65th anniversary

"Looking forward to the end of the current restrictions, we are planning a huge catch-up, starting with our normal May day celebration dancing up the sun, at whatever time of the year this happens to be, hopefully later this summer."

The group are still maintaining contact with each other with a weekly video conference call.

May day at Hever Castle with the Jack in the Green
May day at Hever Castle with the Jack in the Green

Other activities forced to be curtailed due to social distancing on May Day include maypole dancing, including at Maidstone's Kent life, which is currently close.

Festivities at Hever Castle, which normally include a May Day Festival with both morris and maypole dancing on the castle forecourt and an appearance by the mythical Jack-in-the-Green, but which have not gone ahead as the castle is currently closed, though the annual tulip festival has moved online.

To find out more about Hartley Morris men visit facebook.com/hartley.morrismen or hartleymorrismen.org.uk

For ideas of things you can do during lockdown click here.

Kent Life May Day Celebrations a few years ago Picture: Matthew Walker
Kent Life May Day Celebrations a few years ago Picture: Matthew Walker

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