Who, What, Where and Why are the Seven Champions and, for that matter, When?
Formed in 1977 with the ambitious but slightly vague aim of “being the best Morris dance side in the country”, the Seven Champions started life with the Mummers Play that gave us our name and a rough reel dance. This was followed by extensive research into what was known about Molly dancing – at that point a highly obscure (and as far as we knew at the time) undanced tradition* hailing from the Fens and danced in Winter by out of work ploughboys. It quickly became clear that there were a lot of gaps in the knowledge of what Molly dancing was and that gave us a golden opportunity to reinvent, imagine and create the best possible combination of tradition and street entertainment.
If you haven’t seen us, then maybe take a look at some videos over here but we stand apart from our Morris Dancing cousins in a few ways – no sticks, no hankies and most importantly none of those silly little bells. Instead our performances are characterised by the rhythm of our hobnailed boots, our excellent custom of dancing to unaccompanied female singers or solo musicians and our habit of appropriating tunes and songs from anywhere we please.
Quickly attaining a cult status on the folk festival circuit the Champs have come to define a certain style of Molly – energetic and precise with sharp movements and a willingness to embrace anything that might entertain an audience. It may not be exactly what Molly dancing was but the sense of otherworldliness, menace and ordered chaos would surely raise a grudging smile from a 19th century Fenland farmhand – after all, they don’t have telly yet.
We’re not quite sure when we realised that we’re actually treacle miners but the story of our origins in the Frittenden Treacle Mines makes such absolute sense that it must have always been the case. The life of a refined sugar product extraction engineer is a tough one and the occasional excursion above ground to perform our dances makes for a welcome break and has taken us to just about every folk festival in the country over the years. Our high kneed stepping comes from the many years spent wading in treacle, we wear strings about our trousers to stop the treacle rats running up our legs and the hobnail boots are essential in our caverns beneath deepest darkest Kent.
* It later transpired that Cambridge Morris Men had tried out a few Molly dances the previous year…