Boxing Day is a major date in our calendar. The team has performed at its spiritual home in Woodhouse and Handsworth every year since 1963. This fixed day replaced a much older tradition of dancing in mid-winter going back to the 1800s. Our Boxing Day performance is a key part of many people’s Christmas traditions, with spectators travelling from near and far to make up crowds numbering in the hundreds.
But in 2020 the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic made it impossible for the team to practise or perform. Longsword is a style of dance inherently unsuited to social distancing of two metres (the swords are only around one metre long!) and, like many other morris and folk dance sides around the country, the team felt strongly that putting on any kind of performance would be against both the spirit and letter of the rules designed to keep everyone safe.
So, it was with a heavy heart that all thought of a performance was abandoned. In a year that saw so much emotional trauma and economic depredation, a cancelled dance performance was far from being the worst thing to happen. Nevertheless, it was still incredibly sad that having continued through two world wars, our local tradition was halted – even if only for a year.
We didn’t want a year to pass without marking the occasion. Therefore, we put together a special compilation video of our Boxing Day performances, and others, through the years. This was published at midday on 26th December 2020 – the time we should have been dancing outside Handsworth Church.