FOREST of Dean Morris were given a warm welcome in Germany last month after joining a trip organised by a local twinning association.
Squire of the dancers Stuart Cox is a member of the Monmouth-Waldbronn Twinning Association, and he persuaded some of his Morris colleagues to join the trip to the municipality, located on the Northern tip of the German Black Forest.
The dancers were on the first trip to Germany back in 1986, but have not been back there since 1992.
The visitors from Monmouth were warmly welcomed by the Burgermeister of Waldbronn, Christian Stalf and the Morris side performed – with Herr Stalf joining in the final dance.
The following day the Forest Morris joined a parade to celebrate 100 years of the Lyra Wind Band in Reichenbach.
Forest Morris member Dave Evans gave us a round-up of a historic trip for the group, which was steeped in German culture with a plethora of dancing, music and art, and saw old friends meet again after many years.
Dave writes: "Waldbronn and Monmouth have been twinned communities since their partnership agreement was signed in 1986. The first visit was made to Waldbronn in that same year by the Monmouth Group and accompanied by the Forest of Dean Morris. Every year since then the two towns have taken it in turns to visit each other.
"From 2020, however, all visits ceased because of Covid restrictions. This year’s trip was, therefore, particularly enjoyable when old friends met again and first-time visitors made new friends. At the first visit in 1986 the people of Waldbronn took the Forest’s Morris Dancers to their hearts and now always look forward to seeing them again.
"On arrival at Frankfurt Airport the visiting group was whisked off to Waldbronn in bright red mini-buses, courtesy of the Waldbronn Fire Service. Most of the visitors were hosted by German families with a few booked into a local hotel and one camped. On Saturday the visitors were warmly welcomed by the Burgermeister, Christian Stalf, outside the Town Hall. The Morris performed several dances and enticed the Burgermeister into joining in on the last dance.
"This was followed by drinks and a light buffet in the Town Hall. In the evening everyone was invited to a marquee in the Park for a party held by a local Brass Band which was celebrating its 100 anniversary. There was a variety of diverse performances on a stage including more dances by the Forest of Dean Morris who were greatly appreciated by the large audience and made to take an encore.
"On Sunday there was a Music Festival beginning with a grand parade though the town. The Morris Dancers processed and danced through the town in the 30 degree heat. In the evening Waldbronn treated the visitors to a very informative wine-tasting evening with wines of the Baden area being expertly presented. The State of Baden-Württemberg is the third largest producer of wine in Germany and supplies the majority of the country’s red wines.
"Monday was a free day so the visitors were treated by their hosts to visits to places of interest in the Baden region, such as bathing in the naturally warm spas, forest walks, and sightseeing. In the evening everyone was treated to schnitzels and beer at the local Black Forest Clubhouse. In spite of the continuous heat, the Forest of Dean Morris Dancers did a number of impromptu, but energetic, dances with the Germans encouraged to join in as best they could.
"Monday was a visit to the nearby Gasometer at Pforzheim. That may seem a strange choice, but whereas the remaining British gasometers are just rusting eyesores Germany has invested in turning them into major tourist attractions by displaying gigantic 360 degree murals within them. The current attraction at Pforzheim is an incredibly detailed mural of the ancient city of Pergamon. It measures 105 feet high by 360 feet in circumference, with a four storey viewing platform in the centre of it.
"The visit was followed by a traditional German lunch at a riverside Biergarten restaurant. The last evening of the visit was spent by everyone together in the Lindenbräu Pub and Brewery in Waldbronn.
"On Wednesday morning the visiting group was returned to Frankfurt Airport in the shiny red mini-buses.
"Hopefully the Waldbronn Members of ‘The Friends of Monmouth Club’ will be visiting Monmouth next year. Its Chairman Manfred Czychi remarked that, “with the current troubles and conflicts in the world , international understanding and friendship is as important as ever and must be encouraged”."
David adds: "In the 19th century most Forest of Dean Villages had their own side of Morris Dancers. Now this ancient Forest dancing tradition is represented by the The Forest of Dean Morris Dancers who continue to perform the dances from Ruardean and the Cotswolds."
Those who would like to learn more about the Morris Dancers are encouraged to check-out their website, or search for them on social media.
There is also a taster-workshop at Soudley Village Hall on Saturday September 2, stating at 1:30pm, with people encouraged to go along and give it a try.