PLANS to celebrate 50 years of The Men of Wight Morris dancing group were scuppered due to Covid in 2020.

The group's usual summer programme of around 30 dates plus a celebration weekend in June all fell foul of the pandemic.

Here we look at the group's 50 years of dancing.

In England, Morris dancing goes back centuries.

On the Island, the earliest mention of Morris dancing is from the time of Queen Elizabeth I, specifically in 1567, when the Morris dancers were part of the Mayday celebrations in Newport.

The Morris dances the group perform today come from a much later period, from the records of Victorian collectors published in the early 1900s.

In around 1968 there was a revival when the local representative of The English Dance and Song Society, Peter Dashwood, taught some Morris dances at the country dance sessions at the Sloop Inn at Wootton.

Men of Wight in 1972.

Men of Wight in 1972.

Members of the Sloop Folk Song Club and Circle Wight country dance group then made attempts at learning the traditional dances.

This developed further when an experienced Morris dancer moved to the Island.

Finally, in 1970, The Men of Wight team was formed. That team was men only but in recent years the group welcomed women.

Over the ensuing 50 years, The Men of Wight became an integral part of the Island scene, entertaining on Thursday evening at spots all over the Island and performing at events and functions.

They set a high altitude record for Morris dancing, and organised and ran major meetings for the national organisation The Morris Ring.

They worked on TV programmes with Keith Chegwin, Michael Palin and Warwick Davis, featured in several news items, performed at the inauguration of Lord Louis Mountbatten as Lord Lieutenant of the Island, and performed at the opening of the Island Games at Carisbrooke Castle.

Over the years they made many friends among the Morris community and made many trips to Europe to dance at international festivals in Germany, France, Spain, Holland and Belgium.

They maintained the custom of greeting the dawn on Mayday every year by dancing at the Longstones at Mottistone.

In 50 years, the dancers performed on more than 3,000 occasions.

When the pandemic struck, members used Zoom to continue practice sessions, but it wasn't a perfect solution, so members have mainly concentrated on their solo jig dances.

When regulations became more relaxed last summer, they met for live, but socially distanced, practices.

They had to adapt their routines even further to allow for distancing and they re-invented a number of the traditional dances.

They look forward to performing in public again.