The Hong Kong Morris was founded by Jim Carter in 1974. Many of its early members were officers of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force. The side met to practice on Wednesday evenings at Saint John’s Cathedral in Garden Road, Hong Kong Island, and practices were followed by drinking and singing sessions in the eleventh-floor bar of The Hermitage, a block of government service flats in Kennedy Road that was redeveloped in the late 1990s.
In the 1980s the side attracted a large number of British expatriates working in Hong Kong, teachers and engineers being particularly well represented. The side’s numbers reached a peak in the mid-1980s, at around 50 dancers and musicians. Due to the increase in the team’s numbers the practice venue was moved in the early 1980s to South Island School. The Hermitage remained the side’s default watering hole, though by the late 1980s a number of hardy spirits tended to continue the festivities into the early hours of the morning at the Godown in Wanchai.
During the mid-1980s one member’s government quarter in Gort Block, Victoria Barracks, a location conveniently close to The Hermitage, became a venue for a final glass or two of port to round off the evening. This agreeable custom came to an end when Victoria Barracks was converted into Hong Kong Park. ‘Port Block’, as it had by then become known, was demolished along with most of the other government quarters in the Barracks.
The side has typically danced either at open-air venues in Hong Kong such as fetes and festivals or in air-conditioned shopping malls. During the mid-1980s the Hong Kong Morris performed on most weekends, though in recent years performances have been less frequent.
In 1984 China and the United Kingdom issued a Joint Declaration providing for the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997. In the late 1980s, largely due to localisation policies implemented in preparation for the 1997 handover, many of the side’s members returned to the United Kingdom. These members met for a weekend of dance at Wimborne (Devon) in 1991, at which the decision was taken to form the Hong Kong (UK) Morris, colloquially known as the Brackets. Initial Brackets gatherings took place at the annual Sidmouth Folk Festival in Devon, normally held at the end of July. In January 1993 a recently-returned Hong Kong Morris member organised a weekend of dance for the Brackets and the Brackley Morris Men in Northamptonshire. The idea of a January gathering in addition to the July Sidmouth reunion caught on, and the Brackets now regularly meet and dance together in the first week of January as well as at Sidmouth.
Many of the Brackets became members of local morris sides after their return to the UK, butall retain a deep-seated allegiance to the Hong Kong Morris. Throughout the 1990s members of
the Hong Kong and UK sides met up annually at the Sidmouth Folk Festival, and links between the two sides remain strong. Many members of the Brackets returned to Hong Kong in 1994 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the Hong Kong Morris, and several Brackets members also helped to celebrate the side’s 30th anniversary in 2004. A strong side of Brackets visited Hong Kong in October 2008, and the local and UK sides danced together in Stanley, on Lamma Island and in Macau.
A number of events in the side’s history have been particularly memorable.