We are The Buttercross Belles from Otley in West Yorkshire. We are a women's North West Morris dancing side.
We were established in 1992 and have been performing traditional North West Morris dancing all over the UK and Europe ever since. North West Morris originated in the Lancashire textile mill towns during the Industrial Revolution and this is reflected in the figures of the dances, the use of the milling bobbins and in the names of dances. We also dance with garlands and hankies which comes from the Cotswold style of dance.
We have a good age range of dancers and musicians from 18 years upwards. We practice on Thursday evenings at St. Joseph's School in Otley from 7.30 pm until 9.30 pm. We currently have around 20 dancers, many of whom also play instruments in the band.
"The Buttercross Belles"
took their name from the Buttercross on the edge of the market square in Otley town centre.
A tiled roof structure with open sides, the Buttercross was used by the local farmers' wives to sell their fresh produce on market day. Situated next to the Clock Tower, Farmers' Markets are still held in the Market Square each month.
Dancing at the Buttercross - Otley Farmers market 2007
As well as the Farmers' Market, the Buttercross is used for organised fund raising events held on a Friday or Saturday morning. Each year in the Spring, The Belles hold the 'Buttercross Stall' selling bric-a-brac to raise funds for the side. The The Buttercross Stall - 1996
Jenny Liston and a group of enthusiastic friends founded the team in January 1992. Jenny had been a member of Betty Lupton's Ladle Lakers, a woman's morris side from Harrogate and wished to form a similar group in Otley. The Belles made their debut at Westgate School on May 1st 1992 with only two dances to their name, but have gone from strength to strength during the succeeding years.
Annual events include Mother's Day at a local venue such as Harewood house, Fountain's Abbey or Bolton Abbey. May Day involves dancing up the sun on 1st May. Along with Wayzgoose and Briggate Morris, we meet on the top of Otley Chevin around 4am and dance until sunrise to welcome the first dawn of the summer. In the evening of the 1st May, the Belles along with local school children meet at the Maypole in Otley, for a traditional Mayday celebration. Boxing Day is the team's firm favourite with friends and family. This was held at The Woolpack until 2009, when it sadly closed. Since then The White Swan have been happy for us to dance outside, along with Otley's Border Morris side, Wayzgoose.
In addition to these annual fixtures, the team dances throughout the year at a variety of events, both locally and nationally. Previous years have seen the Belles venture across the Channel to France, Belgium, Switzerland and Prague.
The entire square has also been transformed from a run down car park into an attractive paved and planted area.