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A close-up of the charming and whimsical knitted dolls from the charity shop window. These 'nudinits' are each uniquely crafted with expressive facial features and detailed accessories, such as a straw hat with colorful flowers, a blue bonnet, and a red neck scarf. They're each holding small signs, adding to the playful nature of the display, and they're standing against a bright interior background. The dolls are positioned in a row, presenting a friendly and inviting scene to passersby.
Knitted naked Morris dancers at the Hive in Sheppton Mallett. Photo credit: The Hive/ BBC

Nude Morris dancers prompt complaints… again?

Nude Morris dancers cause a stir in Shepton Mallett, but this isn't the first time that loose bells have made the news.

In the Somerset town of Shepton Mallet, a lively discussion has erupted over five knitted figures displayed at Hive Café and Haberdashery, three of them decked out in Morris dancing kit. These figures, crafted by local knitters during their weekly gatherings, were originally meant to “give people a laugh” and support a charitable cause, according to Mike Alford, the café’s proprietor. Speaking to the BBC, Alford revealed, “A woman came into the shop to complain about the figures, worried about her grandchildren seeing their genitals on the way to school.”

A woman came into the shop to complain about the figures, worried about her grandchildren seeing their genitals on the way to school.

Mike Alford, Hive Café

In response to the complaint and ensuing social media backlash, Alford added censor strips to the dolls. Despite the controversy, he noted a silver lining: “It actually spiraled from this complaint really. I should probably thank the lady for bringing more people in.” The debate online not only brought the community’s attention to the café but also increased donations for the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. Alford observed, “Since the debate on social media, people have been coming into the café to donate to the charity, so really, the display is doing what it needs to.” Tradfolk readers can donate to the charity here.

A playful and quirky charity shop window display featuring hand-knitted dolls, humorously dubbed as 'nudinits,' each with strategically placed accessories to imply modesty. These charming figures are adorned with hats, scarves, and small items covering their private areas, all while holding signs that read amusing phrases. There's promotional material for a charity, the Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance, including a QR code for donations and a book titled 'A Naughty Knitted Noel' on display. The dolls are seated against a storefront glass, through which a street scene with parked cars is visible in the reflection.
Nudinits at the Hive in Sheppton Mallett. Photo credit: The Hive/Sheppton Mallett

This incident isn’t the first time that nude Morris dancers have sparked media interest in England’s traditional dance. Back in 2001, the Sompting Village Morris Dancers created a stir with a risqué calendar to raise funds for stroke patients, in memory of their former squire, Lyn Mathews. “What started as a giggle among friends grew to a set of more than 30 risque poses in and around Worthing,” remarked Martin Frost, one of the dancers featured in the calendar. The calendar showed dancers in nothing but ribbons and bells, engaging in traditional morris dancing steps across various picturesque locations. The idea was the brainchild of Keith Richardson, 51 at the time, who pointed out that, even though most people had no desire to look at “fat men with no clothes on”, the calendar sold in the thousands.

A group of people engaged in a Morris dance above Old Grimsby on the Tresco Island of the Isles of Scilly. It's August 30th, 2004. The dancers are wearing minimal clothing with vivid red, blue, and yellow accessories, and they're adorned with harnesses and bells, typical of Morris dancing attire. They appear to be in motion, with some of the dancers waving white handkerchiefs as part of their routine. The background shows a tranquil sea and a dusky sky, suggesting the dance is happening around twilight.
Naked Morris dancers above Old Grimsby, Tresco, Isles of Scilly on 30th August 2004. Photo credit: Brian Marks

Fast forward to 2004, and the theme of naked morris dancing reemerged when Brian Marks posted a photo on Flickr captioned: “Just before sunrise, above Old Grimsby, Tresco, Isles of Scilly on 30th August 2004.” This image showed the playful and unguarded side of Morris dancing, once again blending nudity with cultural performance. That said, one jolly commenter pointed out the inherent dangers of dancing with your apendages out: “as a (phenomenally bad) melodeon player, I wouldn’t want that squeezebox down there.”