All about Morris Dancing
Morris Associations
There are three major Morris associations, and in their time, like most organisations operating in a similar field, they have often clashed over differences which have previously seemed insurmountable. Thankfully, there is a much better understanding now between the three associations, and a greater amount of co-organised events and initiatives are taking place to the overall benefit of Morris Dancing.
The Morris Ring
The Morris Ring was the first of the current organisations to form. In 1934, the Cambridge Morris Men resolved to form an association of Morris dancing clubs. Initially membership consisted of University-based sides and six other teams based in the south of England.
2003 Morris Ring Annual Reps Meeting, Monmouth Rugby Club, Monmouth
copyright 2003 Woodside Morris Men
At that time, Morris Dancing was seen as a men's pastime, reflected by the fact that there were few or no women's teams performing in the manner of the the original membership. Thus, the Morris Ring became an association of male-only dancing teams, which has since become the main cause of friction between the different Morris associations.
The Ring holds a regular annual meeting (the ARM) at which representatives from member sides vote on officers and discuss policy, as well as four or five feast weekends per year which are open to all member sides..
Member sides in the Ring tend to also hold their own Ale or Feast nights locally, inviting nearby or associated sides along for dancing, eating and drinking. These events vary from the very formal, with speaches, toasts, etc., to the very informal, mainly consisting of dancing with a pause to eat and no finery.
The Morris Federation

The Federation, known until 1982 as the Women's Morris Federation, was formed in 1975 in order to support the growing number of women's sides that were being formed amid the 1970s revival. The atmosphere under which the Federation came into being was often quite unpleasant, with a number of the more traditional male side's resenting women's involvement in Morris, and many of the new women's sides resenting what had been, up to then, the near male exclusivity, and the growing common belief that women were not supposed to dance. However, times and polotics change, and following a general change in attitude, almost certainly due to the impact of the formation of the Federation, things started to change, and by 1980, the Federation had opened its doors to mixed sides, and within the year had opened up membership to all comers.
2011 Wimborne Folk Festival, Town Centre, Wimborne
copyright 2011 Woodside Morris Men
Open Morris
As a result of the rivalry, and single sex status of the two older Morris associations, a group of East Anglian dancers decided to form their own association to support all teams, regardless of gender, who wished to join. Ironically, within a few years of Open Morris forming, the Federation also opened its doors to mixed and men's sides. From its East Anglia roots, Open Morris has grown and grown, and now has a membership of around a hundred sides.
2014 Gog Magog Day of Dance, Town Centre, Cambridge
copyright 2014 Woodside Morris Men
Combined efforts
There is now a real will to act together to ensure the future of Morris Dancing, both in its 'ancient' form and in its growing, living traditions. The three associations now meet regularly to co-ordinate efforts to raise the profile of Morris Dancing across the country and keep the dance alive and vital.