Whilst the death knells have been tolling the demise of an apparently quaint but quirky past time, the release of small but not insignificant film “Morris: A Life with Bells On” is set to prove the doomsayers so very very wrong. This is despite the big boys in distribution not taking this picture seriously.
When I tell people that I would like them to go and see a film about Morris Dancing it is perhaps not surprising that I get a mixed bag of reactions. For the most part everyone loves to have a good time and many are up for almost anything. However, for some, poncing around waving hankies and tinkling wherever they skip is not what many view as being full of street cred coolness. The request is swiftly followed by a suspicious ‘Whhhyyyy?’ and my retort of “Because we worked on it” doesn’t seem to be enough to convince them to jump in with both feet and say yes. Instead their eyes flicker rapidly from side to side as they try to conjure my not so elegant frame dance to some merry ditty being pumped out of a wheezy squeeze box.
A superb cast list – that would place many a film on a pedestal of huge credibility, the film is set to be the next ‘Sleeper Hit’ with audiences clamouring to see it where they can. So far, after only just a couple of weeks, the Facebook group has over 2600 members, an online petition has over 6600 signatures, and there are over 850 followers on an unofficial Twitter ID – word about the film is being spread far and wide.
The most astonishing statistic proving that there is a huge demand to see the film is the number of hits the website is getting: over 100,000 each week and climbing. To put this into perspective this is the expected number of hits a normal film release would get with a normal promotion and advertising campaign costing vast sums of money – NOT just by word of mouth. Considering that the budget for the whole of the making of Morris: A Life with Bells On is less than some catering budgets on the big films, we can only assume that the film is a good ‘un.
This sentiment has been corroborated by the many journalists who have seen fit to feature it prominently in many of the national papers (Daily Mail, Observer, etc). Chat show hosts such as Alan Titchmarsh has sung Morris’ praises on his afternoon show, Philip Schofield too on This Morning, Chris Evans on Radio 2 and I believe that the Culture Show are talking about doing something too. And yet the distributors still have difficulty in understanding that people really want to see this film?
The fact is I am particularly keen to see this film succeed – it is a story in itself of how a small film company with a tiny budget can make a work of art that rivals many of the heavily financed companies. Organisations who churn out mass produced commercially cling film wrapped works pumped out by conveyor belt film producers only in it for a fast buck would struggle to portray such an honest expression of human nature. It is also a story about the people who want to see films like this. They are the driving forces behind the increasing demand to see a fun portrayal about something other than guns, blood, guts and horrifying gore designed to feed the extreme adrenalin junkies.
Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that we have a vested interest as Charles and Patricia Lester designed and made the costumes for one of the characters – Magenta played by Hilary Wood. Although this is not a lead role – she is a central character running the local pub around which the world of Millsham Morris is centred.
The message is quickly understood that this film is a must see and those I have told about it have readily accepted my invitation. The enthusiasm from the public at large continues to grow at a fantastic rate. The film is really a people story about our human need to grow and move with the changes. Success can be achieved despite any resistance we might experience from surly stick-in-the-muds who throw every obstacle in our way. With our current global crises – this is more important than ever. The Morris dancing is a wonderful foil for exhibiting our truly British quirkiness and eccentricity and if our lead Morris dancer Derecq Twist can make a go of it with something as bizarre as Morris Dancing then there is hope for us yet to live our own life to the full – and with bells on!
Visit the Morris: A Life with Bells On website – see the trailer and find out about the press
Join the Facebook Group
Follow the unofficial Morris Dancing Twitter ID
A bit of History about Morris Dancing (from Morris: A Life with Bells On website)
Charles and Patricia Lester – designers and makers of costumes supplied for Magenta played by Hilary Wood