YET another May Bank Holiday will soon be upon us and that means a James Bond film (and we can safely guess either Ben Hur, The Great Escape or the Sound of Music), on TV, the smell of barbecues in the air (weather permitting) and a bumper helping of morris dancing!

After a bit of a lull in interest it seems May Day activities are experiencing their own rebirth. It was reported last week that sales of maypoles are leaping up across the UK while the number of morris dancing teams is also on the rise.

Morris dancing is steeped in history and has become synonymous with May Day events. This form of colourful cheery folk dancing, has been around in England since the time of King Henry VII. In fact the earliest surviving record of morris dance in England stretches all the way back to 1448 and records the payment of seven shillings to Morris dancers by the “Goldsmiths’ Company in London”.

However nobody really knows where the name ‘morris dancing’ originates from. It’s thought it most likely developed from the French word “morisque” meaning ‘dance’ but there are many different theories.

Five hundred years ago the jig was a dance for one or two people, today it is for four or more and different steps, costume styles, bells, sticks and instruments are used depending on regional traditions.

Echo: Ladies who dance -  morris members in action at the 1983 Leigh Regatta

No Spring event or summer village fete would be complete with a performance from a ‘side’ of morris dancers and Essex has several morris teams including the Mayflower Morris Men of Billericay, who will be out and about over the coming months.

The group have been going since 1973 and you can catch them in action this weekend- on Saturday (May 19) - outside Billericay Library from 10.40am-11.30am.

They will also be performing at historic Ingatestone Hall on the Spring Bank Holiday, Monday May 28.

To get into the May mood we’ve trawled through our archives to bring you a nostalgic photo gallery of Morris men and women in action in south Essex over the decades...

Echo: memories morris dancing