Name: Toni (Hobbit)
Why do they call you Hobbit?: I was given the name Hobbit by Mike our Squire, once when we were dancing with another side that also had a very small women dancer like me. Mike dragged me over to measure us both to see who was the smallest and it was me. Mike then called out loudly our Hobbit is smaller than your Hobbit and the name seemed to stick to me after that. So that’s what most people in Phoenix call me. I think some of them don’t even know my real name.
How I joined: Whilst I was working for Hillingdon Libraries back in Summer 1999 a colleague told me that she was a Morris Dancer and that she was dancing at Batchworth Lock on the Saturday, and asked me if I would like to come and watch her dance. I came to watch as it sounded like fun and from that moment I was hooked. I have always danced since a child, tap and ballet and modern jazz etc. but this was something new to me. I came along to a couple of practices on the Wednesday at the scout hut in Rickmansworth, but I had a problem as I was due to start teaching Genealogy at Adult Education in Richmond in September which was also on a Wednesday evening and I couldn’t be in two places at once. So, I came along to practices during the term breaks when I wasn’t teaching, but couldn’t come in term time. In Jan 2000 I didn’t get enough students enrol, as they had raised the number required to 15 per class and I only had 12 so my class was dropped. Which meant that I could now spend my Wednesday evenings practicing Morris Dancing.
First Dance Out: My first dance out was in February 2000 at Cheltenham Festival and I couldn’t drive up there until the Friday evening until I had finished work at the Library. The weather was pretty foul; it was dark and I found myself driving up to Cheltenham in thick fog, which was pretty scary. But on the Saturday when we were actually dancing the weather wasn’t too bad and I also took part in a workshop showing people the basics of Morris Dancing. I didn’t have a full kit just a plain waistcoat without a back badge and a few small badges that people had given me, a striped shirt, breeches and socks and a hat with a few flowers.
Favourite Morris Memory: well, I’ve got two really special ones. First one was in Broadstairs on the promenade when I was presented with my bells. I was so excited I didn’t want to take them off when we finished and the Squire always says “Bells off Phoenix” I just kept jumping up and down to make lots of noise. Broadstairs is one of my Favourite Folk Festivals as there is so much going on, lots of workshops, concerts and Ceilidhs etc.
My other really good Morris Memory was when Phoenix were invited to dance at Lyon in France, we were made to feel very welcome by the local people and they gave us a big tea party with lots of cakes.
Favourite Dance: This is quite hard to choose as there are lots of good dances that I enjoy. I’ll say ‘Postman’s Knock’ but I also really like ‘Worcestershire Monkey’