tarka3In 1991, Tarka Morris Men were born out of a desire to carry on dancing from some of our members, who had previously danced with other sides, some now defunct. The “experienced” dancers came from, primarily, the remnants of the obsolete Barnstaple Morris men. However, some of these men had previous dance experience with a variety of sides over the years prior to moving to North Devon. The name “Tarka” was taken as we are based in Bideford, North Devon, the area set for the novel “Tarka the Otter”, written by North Devon based novelist, Henry Williamson.

Why Tarka Morris “Men”?

Well tradition has it that, predominantly, the dances were performed by all-male sides. There is place in history for females dancing, e.g. whilst the Men were fighting the Great War, 1914-1918. But these sides kept going to keep the tradition alive and handed back to the men when/if they survived and returned, or taught new members if experienced dancers were not available from the existing side. There are now both mixed sex and all-female sides dancing, but we believe that we should keep an all-male side surviving in North Devon

Our Kit

For costume [known as Kit] we adopted the white trousers and shirts based on the original Cotswold sides [which, were actually, cream clothes worn by farm workers but morphed in to white as the generations moved on and technology allowed mass production of white materials]. We also adopted the brown and cream and green associated with a rural area, so we wear brown braces with an otter paw emblem on a rosette on each upright of the braces also brown, cream and green armlets. We chose white socks and white trainers, as these are very comfortable to dance in and white handkerchiefs to accentuate our arm movements. We often get mistaken for a cricket team when we arrive at our dance venue; it’s only our bells around our knees that give us away!

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Tarka Morris Men have their own dance style, which is based on the Cotswold traditions, also we dance some of our dances in their collected format, e.g. Fieldtown, Bampton, Litchfield. We dance the Morris because we enjoy it, and because we are preserving an ancient and important part of our heritage. And if that’s not enough we also perform a Mummers Play on both St Georges Day [23rd April] and Boxing Day