History

Early Years

 

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.   

 

The Brackets

 

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. 

Notable Events

 

A number of events in the side’s history have been particularly memorable.

 

  • In 1986 the side danced on top of a decorated container swung out over Kwai Chung Creek on a crane to mark the opening of a new berth at Kwai Chung Container Terminal.
  • In 1988, in order to benefit from the waiver of fees granted by the Urban Council to charitable, religious and educational groups for the use of its premises, the Hong Kong Morris successfully argued that it was a religious group on the grounds that morris dancing was a survival of a pre-Christian fertility rite.  This myth was exploded with the publication in 1999 of A History of Morris Dancing, John Forrest’s magisterial study of the historical roots of morris dancing (no earlier than the fifteenth century), and is no longer an argument that the side could make with a good conscience.
  • In 1990 and 1991 three four-person teams from the Hong Kong Morris took part in the annual Trailwalker competition, an event that involves walking the 100 kilometres of the Maclehose Trail within a period of 48 hours.  On both occasions the walkers changed into morris kit near the end of the trail, danced across the finishing line, and took part in a vigorous display of morris dancing afterwards. The walkers’ success was then celebrated with a hearty meal of roast goose and Tsingtao beer in nearby Sham Tseng.
  • In 1991 the side danced at Hei Ling Chau refugee camp. Its audience consisted of several hundred Vietnamese boat people who had fled from Vietnam and had been interned upon their arrival in Hong Kong.
  • In 1994 the side celebrated its twentieth anniversary in Hong Kong. A large number of former members returned to Hong Kong from the UK and Canada to take part in the celebrations.
  • In 1997, shortly before the handover of Hong Kong to China, the Hong Kong Morris held The Last Ale of the Empire.
  • In 2004 the side celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. Again, several former members returned to Hong Kong for the anniversary. The celebrations included dancing in Hong Kong Park, in Stanley, and outside the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui.
  • In 2008 and 2009 the Hong Kong Morris celebrated May Morning by dancing next to the Wishing Tree in San Uk Tsai, a locally-celebrated banyan tree believed to bring good fortune to its devotees.