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A Stunning Review of 'Carnivals, Contests and Coronations' in the Folk Music Journal 2024



With trepidation this week I opened an email from the Reviews Editor of the Folk Music Journal, published by the English Folk Dance & Song Society. I had submitted the book for review about this time last year and have waited patiently all year to find out who would review it and what he or she would say about it. Here, finally, was the judgement I had been so eagerly expecting.


First of all, who had reviewed the book? I recognised the name immediately, as would anyone involved in morris research. It was the very eminent scholar, Michael Heaney, who has recently published the most awesome study of the subject, 'The Ancient English Morris Dance', a work of the finest scholarship. What would he have to say?


Well, I could not have been more stunned to read praise for my book piled upon praise. Here are some of the things that he said:


“Richard Nelson has produced a major contribution to the morris literature and added greatly to our knowledge of the significant but neglected transformation of the North-West morris of the end of the nineteenth century into the carnival morris of today.”


“Although this is primarily a social history, Nelson does include descriptions of the choreography in many instances, in some cases reconstructing it for the first time from contemporary newsreel footage. He also places the morris dancing within the context of the other dancing styles that morris dancers both participated in and competed against in carnival competitions, often covered by the umbrella term ‘entertaining’. His contribution to this topic is truly original.


“Nelson has laid down solid foundations for the further study of the evolution of twentieth-century morris dancing in the North-West. The book is the fruit of the assiduous and penetrating pursuit of hard-to-find source material, marshalled intelligently to provide a coherent narrative of developments.


“The fact that he has unearthed so much treasure from a limited geographical area should inspire others to mine similar resources which must exist for other communities in the region. If they can do it half as well as Nelson has we shall be much richer for it."


The final sentence of the review said it all:


"Every student of morris should buy this book.”

Michael Heaney, Folk Music Journal


If you haven't already done so, take Mike's advice, and click on the 'Shop' page of this website to buy a copy for only £17.99.

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