The Potty Festival was started by the Lobster Potties Morris dancers in 1993, by Reg Grimes the then Squire (Chairman), Clive Rayment Foreman (Dance teacher) and Penny Shepherd Bagman (Treasurer), as a way of saying thank you to the sides that had invited the Potties to visit them for a weekend of dance. So the following year in July with Briggate Morris, Belchamp and Old Bull Morris, we set forth on a coach tour of North Norfolk stopping off and dancing at various spots along the way.
The weekend proved such a success that it was decided to hold it again the following year. And so it began. Firstly in a small way inviting one or two more sides and still travelling out and about. Two years later it was decided to make it a static event along the lines of the Rochester Sweeps Festival which we had first been invited to in 1993 and had enjoyed meeting and making new friends there.
To begin with the sides just danced in Sheringham High Street and Lifeboat Plain. We relied on donation/sponsorship from the town council and the Lobster Landlords Barry and Jill Horner to help fund the festival.
Gradually over the years the Festival has grown and grown with more sides coming along each year, including several European groups, so much so that we now also have to close and use more roads to fit everyone in.
Because of this increase we now have to restrict the number of sides we can safely have coming to the festival to about forty.
Development into a Sheringham Festival (aka Potties)
In 2013 after 27 years the Lobster Potties sadly disbanded due to the lack of dancers, but it was decided by several ex-Potties not to let the festival go the same way. A new committee was formed to keep the festival alive now headed by Clive Rayment (ex squire) as chairman. We intend to build on the experiences gained over the years.
With the help of the traders and townspeople the festival now draws a large crowd of visitors and holiday makers into Sheringham each July. Its popularity with the dancers and visitors keeps them coming back, some booking their holidays to coincide with the festival each year.
Incredible as it may seem, 2018 will be the 25th Anniversary of the Potty Festival here in Sheringham, we've come a long way since our early beginnings in 1993.
Guinness World Record 2018
To celebrate our 25th anniversary in 2018, it was decided to have a go at the Guinness World Record for the Largest Number of Dancers all doing the Same Dance at the same time. Everything was meticulously planned and the attempt took place on the Saturday morning of the Festival.
On the 17th September 2018, it was confirmed by Guinness that the Potty Festival with the help of 369 Morris Dancers from 33 sides, had set a new world record for the Largest Morris Dance. An amazing feat by any standard.
Thanks to everyone that helped us achieve this record.
The Sides who took part were :-
Aald Heilpen, Alive & Kicking, AnnieMation, Bakanalia Border, Barley Brigg, Beorma Border, Black Pig Border, Bows 'n' Belles, Briggate, Bury Fair, Crosskey Clog, Danegeld, Dark Horse Morris, Fenstanton, Fiddlesticks, Gong Scourers, Green Dragon, Holt Ridge Morris, Hoxon Hundred, Kemp's Men, Lady Bay Revellers, Little Egypt, Loose Women, Manor Mill, Peterborough Morris,
Pretty Grim, Rattlejag, Rumburgh Morris, Slack Ma Girdle, Sutton Masque, Westefelda, Wicket Brood, and Young Miscellany.
In 2020 and 2021 the Festival had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are now back up and running. The 2023 festival was a great success, and we very much look forward to welcoming you to Sheringham on 6th and 7th July 2024!
2023 saw the retirement of Tony Chadwick (TC to almost everyone) from the festival committee, after serving for many years, most recently as Chair. His work ethic and his all round knowledge of Morris dancing and dancers is the bedrock upon which our fantastic festival is built. We hope TC can now take a back seat and enjoy the Festival without the organisational pressure.