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Dr Pig's Homespun Philosophy: Page 2 - On What We Are About


Edited from an email Saturday, August 20, 2016:

As you are probably aware, the officers of the side have a meeting once every blue moon to address any issues that have cropped up or have been brought before us. The other night was one such occasion and the Bagmen have already circulated comment on 'proper' face blacking up and on kit (not enough black on one and too much on the other!). We also discussed selection of future gigs and who is to participate in them - especially the higher profile ones. Hence this missive:

I think sometimes in the all-embracing, 'family social' atmosphere of pig we lose sight of our core purpose: WE EXIST TO PERFORM TO AN AUDIENCE.

The social aspects are very important to us but they must always be second to our core purpose otherwise we would just be a 'social club', 'self-help group', 'session musicians' or whatever - but we will still be all of those things as well . However, as long as I have been in pig we have rebelled against any attempt to tone us down in any way. This is because our audience - or rather our public - like our noisy colourful displays. They don't come to see the best dancing (or hear the best music?), they come to see the best entertainment .

So it has been that people who could not cope with this 'in your face' - and often bluntly honest - attitude have fallen by the wayside. So it should remain - otherwise we will devalue what has evolved. However, as a number of people have remarked over recent years, there is evidence that this has been happening. Events like Bakewell (and even non-pig events like a member's wedding) have brought this into focus because they are so much of what pig used to be/ought to be/is sometimes like.

I and the other officers agree that there is no point in teaching people who are not interested in becoming part of this. It doesn't matter how nice they might be - but they need to have (or to develop) the commitment which was spoken of so earnestly in Parish Notices the other week*. Otherwise it is not just a waste of the teacher's time, but it is a waste of everybody elses time too because people get used to dancing and interacting with each other in certain ways, in particular dance positions and having particular conversations and partnerships. So, when those people are not there it leaves gaps. These are the same gaps that cause people to be in different groups when socialising. It thus divides up what should be a cohesive whole.

We are not, and have no wish to be, highly disciplined and authoritarian like 'certain other morris sides', but we nevertheless need to be of one mind in what we are trying to do. Whatever that is (have fun entertaining?) and, whatever peripheral groups there may be, the 'core purpose', referred to above, has be embraced by all. No exceptions.

I would remind everyone that the weekly rehearsals are not the only time you should think about your dancing. I often make light-hearted (but nevertheless genuine) suggestions about practising stepping in a few moments alone, about doing ankle strengthening excercises when you find yourself standing still in a queue somewhere, about learning the figures in the dances you do so you don't really need them calling out, and so on. I hope you all do this?

As for bookings, we need eight competent dancers and two competent musicians - at least one of which needs to be able to play the melody. Yes, we can do it with less, and have, but that is not a good performance and will never be as memorable, or as enjoyable, as a dozen or so dancing pigs with a 'wall of sound' of at least half a dozen musicians. Note my use of the word 'competent'! Just any 8 dancers is not enough for a proper show. Whether you are a paid up member or not, if you can't perform (as per constitution), you don't (necessarily) get in to the paying gigs.** Either way, from now on, the officers when deciding on whether a gig is a goer or not, will also look at everyone's capabilities (and infirmities).

It was suggested recently that we should write certain booked events in stone and just add a few to these as the year goes on. We officers have agreed with that in principle too - although I suspect there will be some fighting over the detail! We also agreed to do more weekday pub tours in lieu of practices. I would add to this that we should limit our interactions with other sides to certain events (eg Pottys, Upton, Rochester etc) and resist the urge to join in at every opportunity on dance-outs etc. We need to do our 'own thing' more if we are to retain our identity.


*Commitment incidentally means you do what you say you will (usual disclaimers apply!). It doesn't necessarily mean you have to attend everything, nor can't attend those you didn't originally intend to.

**(I did discuss this at length a few months ago when I talked about the '3 types of gig'.)

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Current update: Saturday, August 20, 2016