Slightly Notorious Ebor Morris team on the lookout for new members after practising in car park during lockdown

Few customs can top the cadenced appeal of Morris Dancers flying full ditty.

As the ribboned bells ring the dancers swirl, with a kick and a jump, and the concertina's skirl taps a rhythm.

All it takes is a sense of timing, the bagman of York's only mens' team has said, as the Slightly Notorious Ebor Morris marks a major return. And as mildly eccentric as routines may be, it is appealing for new blood to help keep its beat.

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"The tradition is there, and we want to keep that alive," said bagman Kevin Holland "If we don't bring new people in, we only age.

The Slightly Notorious Ebor Morris teamThe Slightly Notorious Ebor Morris team
The Slightly Notorious Ebor Morris team

"It's brilliant exercise, it really is, but what tends to happen is the arthritis gets you. If we don't continue to recruit new blood, our traditions die out because we're only getting older."

The Ebor Morris was first formed in a pub in 1973 after a few too many between members of a folk society at York University with Rowntrees and Railway workers.

This is the stuff of folklore and legends though, with dances performed since 1974 dating back to a time so lost in history that nobody knows of their origin.

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First dubbed the Ebor Morris, from the Roman word for York 'Eboracum', the team's name has evolved over time to add 'Slightly Notorious'.

Some say this stemmed from a routine danced backwards through a Grassington procession, while others recall a ceiling tap dance which disrupted a formal feast.

The name has stuck and the team, having grown in acclaim as members of the Morris Federation, now performs for celebrities in places like Castle Howard and even featured in the Eurovision Song Contest party in Harrogate in 1982.

"We are not out-and-out notorious, just a little bit different," said Mr Holland. "It's about the enjoyment we have, and that we give to people who watch.

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"For us as a team, that's why we do it. It's putting on a good show."

The team hasn't danced properly until now since New Year's 2020. Members learned solo jigs online instead, before practice began in a car park at York University in June.

To ensure social distancing, they have been cautious about using sticks until now and modified routines, and cannot perform a famed longsword routine from Escrick village.

This is traditional dancing though, passed down from tiny Cotswold villages with names like Adderbury and Ducklington, each with its own subtle style and competition steps.

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By focusing on one or two traditions the team can "hone them to perfection", said Mr Holland, and while members were "rusty" after a year's break they are now back on form.

Finally now the team marks a return to a regular slot on Monday evenings in the city's Kings Square.

"We have good fun. It's like being in a rugby team, but without the ball," said Mr Holland. "It's that same sense of being a part of something, with a shared interest.

"All you need is a sense of rhythm. The best way to learn is to be thrown into it. Just so long as you're not bumping into people too often."

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