THE COUNTRY’S age-old folk traditions have inspired a new book by Otley’s Town Poet.

The Garland King is a collection of verse by Matthew Hedley Stoppard that combines his experiences of taking part in activities like Morris dancing with anxieties about parenthood and the wider world.

Matthew began Morris dancing with a local side five years ago and has since gone on to take part in a number of other distinctively British customs. Other traditions that are explored in the book include Otley’s May Day celebrations, mumming, well dressing, witchcraft, Derbyshire’s Garland King and Scotland’s Burryman.

Matthew said: “The book attempts to create an uncanny space where these traditional customs and modern anxieties mix.

“In it we find that the Garland King cannot shake the inherent sexism of our society; a mummer mismanages his depression after his child is diagnosed with cancer; and Morris Dancers melt in the midst of a climate emergency.

“If you’ve ever wondered why Morris Dancers look so happy it’s because you’re witnessing a person who is shedding every distraction in their life and only focusing on movements of music and movements of their body that have been carried through centuries.

“This is what I felt the first time I danced five years ago.

“Since then I have explored other customs around the country and met people who feel the same way.

“Folk traditions have featured in poetry before, but I don’t feel previous poets have immersed themselves in them, like a method actor.”

The Garland King, which is Matthew’s second collection of poems, is available now from Valley Press at, priced £9.99.

He will be giving readings from the book at a Zoom event that wil be hosted by Leeds Libraries from 7pm to 8.30pm on Thursday, November 26. Free tickets are available at

A live book launch and folk revue meanwhile, featuring Stephanie Hladowski, Campbell and Spafford and Wharfedale Wayzgoose will be held on Friday, December 18 from 7pm to 8.30pm at Otley Courthouse. Tickets cost £12 and are available from