STICKS will be clattered and handkerchiefs will be fluttered in Ledbury, as the Silurian Border Morris Men celebrate their 50th anniversary.

And they’ll be among friends, with Morris “sides” from all over the UK and further afield set to travel to the market town to make the occasion extra special.

Among them will be dancers from Vancouver, Canada, and The Hague, Netherlands.

Veteran Silurian, Keith Francis said it had already been a very busy few months for the Silurians.

He said: “Our year started with the Wassail at Westons in January. It was attended by over 1,000 people, a record for us, and we collected £1,638, which was matched by Westons and so we have sent a cheque for £3,276 to St Michael's Hospice.

“Our next event is a Ceilidh at the Cube in Malvern on Saturday, April 13 from 7.30pm and then on Sunday, April 14 we are having a day of Morris Dancing in Ledbury, called a ‘Black Meet’, as the sides that are attending all colour their faces black.”

Traditionally, this was probably to stop malign spirits or unfriendly employers from finding out who exactly was in the line-up, or to disguise dancers out “begging.”

Mr Francis said: “We have about 14 sides coming from as far afield as Lancashire, Northamptonshire, Birmingham and Wales as well as several local teams.

“Dancing starts under the Market House at 11am and there will also be dancing at the Talbot and the Masters House throughout the day. We hope to have a music session later in the day.”

Mr Francis added: “We are organising a Morris tour by our side in early October, visiting many of the towns and villages where the dances originated.

“This year, of course, Silurian Border Morris Men are celebrating their 50th anniversary.”

Founded by folk legend Dave Jones, the Silurians began dancing in 1969 in Ledbury and have kept faithful to the dances which Dave and others collected from documents and old people in the Welsh border counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire.

Border dances use basic steps and figures “accompanied by vigorous sticking and an enthusiastic musical accompaniment.”

Fifty years on, some of the original members are still dancing and playing.

A spokesman said: “Members come from all walks of life: university professors, mechanics, civil servants and businessmen, united by a love of dance and music.

Over the years the Silurians have performed all over the country and even further afield, gaining them many friends and admirers.