The North-West Morris comes from the industrial towns of Lancashire and Cheshire, the dances being more associated with a leader or a district in a town than with the town itself. Its ornate dress of sashes, beads, floral hats or caps, dancing clogs and slings, "tiddlers" or sticks, makes it unmistakable. The slings are made from twisted rope or waste; the tiddlers are made of rope. Both are decorated with ribbons. In the dance they are twirled above the head or twisted at hip level. The short sticks used in some dances are decorated, and never clashed (unlike Cotswold Morris). Dancing clogs are decorated with brass trimmings and the leather uppers may be carved or embossed.
During street dances, the soles are protected in the same way as a horse shoe protects a horse's hoof. These curved strips of metal are called "irons" and are fixed around the soles and heels of the clog. These irons are removed when dancing indoors, to avoid damage to floors! The polka and skip step accentuate the rhythmic sound of the clogs.
The dances have many figures which are either called by the leader/conductor or danced in set sequences. Although the dances were originally processionals (danced whilst traveling along), the Bedford men perform four of them as stationary dances, using a fifth as a processional. The video to the right, a polka dance, using cotton slings, comes from Royton, a district of Oldham near Manchester.
Another polka dance, this time using tiddlers, is made up from some North-West figures passed on by Roger Edwards of Garstang and subsequently ordered into a dance sequence called "The Bedford Dance". The third polka dance, from Ashton-Under-Lyne also near Manchester, uses sticks and is the one used by us for processions.
The only skip step dance performed by Bedford Morris Men comes from the Preston Plain, where the dances were revived in the 1890's for use in secular and religious carnivals and fetes. This particular dance was associated with the Catholic Church of St. Ignatius in Preston