May Day 2005 in Santa Cruz

On May Day 2005 in San Cruz, the Wobblies marched from the Tom Scribner statue to a rally at the Clock Tower. Rabble-rousers played guitar, sang and spoke about the past, present and future of the labor movement. Speakers and singers included Faith Petric, Fred Hirsch, Mark Levy, David Winters, Fellow Worker Will and Brian from the Santa Cruz General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World.

Our march down Pacific Ave. gained the support of many people as we chanted, “We Don’t Need the Bosses, the Bosses Need Us!!!

For better or worse, there were more people that wanted to watch The Wobblies than could fit into the main dart room of the Poet & Patriot. Those of us that did not make it into the film screening celebrated 100 years of the IWW with a live performance of Rebel Girl by Phil Free and a birthday cake.

The first seven tracks were recorded at the Clock Tower and the last two tracks were recorded outside the Poet and the Patriot.

(Total running time is 49 minutes)

Fred Hirsch (15:26)

Joe Hill’s Ashes by Mark Levylyrics (3:17)

Victor Jara performed by Mark Levy (4:08)

Brian Hemle of the Santa Cruz GMB of the IWW (7:56)

The Preacher and the Slave performed by Fellow Worker Will (5:11)

Tragic Moment performed by David Winters (1:55)

Solidarity Forever sung by all of us! (4:37)

Joe Hill performed by Mark Levy (2:15)

Rebel Girl performed by Phil Free (4:13)

I was on my way to the Tom Scribner statue to meet up with the Wobblies for a march to the Clock Tower when I came across an interesting gathering of dancers on Cedar St.; a group called Seabright Morris and Sword. After taking a few photos, I tried to figure out the significance of the festive gathering. I was handed a pamphlet that said, “Morris dancing is a tradition of dance and music which survives as the most living (and lively) part of a ritual designed to shake off the dark and gloom of winter and celebrate the coming of spring.”

Seabright Morris and Sword had begun their day at 6am at the Lighthouse and seemed to be finishing up as I rode on to meet up with the Wobblies around 11:45am. The timing was good as they had just begun marching to the Clock Tower.

The following is text from a descriptive leaflet by Gereg Blaiddllwyd and Steve Allen.

What Is Morris Dancing?

These are the things we really know about morris dancing:

  • It is either 300 years old, 800 years old, or 3,000 years old (or it’s not).
  • It originally developed in England (unless it didn’t).
  • It was a fertility rite danced in the springtime (or just a festive dance, performed anytime).
  • It was danced exclusively by men (except when women danced, too).

An Historical Note

Morris dancing is a tradition of dance and music which survives as the most living (and lively) part of a ritual designed to shake off the dark and gloom of winter and celebrate the coming of spring. While the origins of the tradition are lost in ancient times, the general opinion is that the dance is quite old, possibly derived from pre-Christian rites, passed down by word of mouth (and jingle of bell) from father to son, generation after generation. Villagers in secluded Bampton, Oxfordshire, say morris dancing has been performed at Whitsuntide every year, except in time of war, for over eight hundred years. Even then, there are indications that morris was a custom “from time out of mind.” Shakespeare mentions the dance in several of his works, and one of his star actors, Will Kemp, was a “Morrice Dauncer.”

No one really knows the origin or meaning of the word morris. Some think the dance entered Europe with the Moorish conquests. Others associate the word with the Latin moris, meaning custom or tradition. Some of us savour the notion that the morris has Druidic roots, connected perhaps with fertility rituals to bless the land and ensure the year’s bounty. Some of us don’t care a fig for the history, but enjoy morris as the expression of something elemental and timeless in the human spirit. The morris tradition includes jingling bells, colourful ribbons, clashing sticks, and a fondness for good company, good song, and good ale.

In Tudor times the morris was widespread in England, enjoying patronage of church and nobility. The Stuart monarchs encouraged the morris in the face of Puritan opposition, and the Restoration of the crown catalyzed a morris revival. Thereafter morris was one notable sport at annual regional fests called ales, and morris sides from different villages competed for favours. Alas, the tradition was brought near extinction by the erosion of village folklife in the Industrial Revolution.

Our dances are based on those recorded near the Cotswold Hills of England around the turn of the 20th century by folklorists and musicologists — most notably Cecil Sharp. He uncovered the few villages with remaining morris sides and sought pensioners who had danced as youths in other villages. From their legacy this Terpsichorean tradition has spread around the globe and to Santa Cruz, where Seabright Morris and Sword sprang up.

A Fine Tradition

Your enjoyment of our performance makes you, in a very real way, a participant — for as we dance our energy out to you, so we receive the energy you give us in return. And (on a more tangible note) a contribution to “the hat” will help the dancers quench their thirst, and ensure a year and a day of good luck, fertility, and success for you and yours.

And Furthermore

We of Seabright Morris & Sword dance because we love it. We hope that you have enjoyed the experience half as much as we have, and that you have felt at least some small touch of the morris magic. If you would like to know more about Seabright or the morris in general, please talk to us when we are not dancing. We accept apprentice dancers each fall, and we would like to remind you that we are available for hire. Morris adds a splendid touch to weddings, parties, or public occasions.

For more information, visit the website for Seabright Morris and Sword, “the first morris team on the World Wide Web.”

For background information, check out:

May Day 2005 in Santa Cruz and a Look Back to 1886

Crossposted at Santa Cruz Indymedia: Part I, Part II, Part III & Audio.

Author: Bradley Allen

Bradley Allen is a reporter and photographer in the Monterey Bay Area, and a collective member of the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center (Indybay). Follow him on social media: @BradleySA.