So what are ceilidhs?

Ceilidhs (pronounced kay-lees) are also known as barn dances and social dances. No, not the dead-slow country dancing you had to do at school when the tall girls (like me) had to wear a yellow band to show they were actually boys. Ceilidh dances are fast paced, easy to learn, great fun and addictive. Tantric, I think the word is. You have a band – there are some fantastic ones around - that’s real musicians who learn traditional music and then bend it a bit, or write their own – and a caller (that’s me) telling you how to do it. Once you’ve got the basics, I shut up to leave you to do your own tha-a-ang and listen to the music – that’s what you came for in the first place anyway.

All ages, sexes, professions and abilities can have a go. I’ve called at festivals for hardened folkies whose stamina and expectations are incredibly high, all the way through to weddings where people in their gladrags want to dip into a bit of dancing and then sit and listen to the music while they chat. Schools of all ages (yes, even monosyllabic fifteen year-olds have actually been seen laughing and dancing!) and educational levels – some of the most fun I’ve had at school events have been with children with learning difficulties.

WHY CALL CEILIDHS? Click here to find out!

Picture by Mark Alexander
Hastings Jack in the Green 1999

Bands you should go and see. Better still, book me to work with them again – it’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on!

Asha (Milton Keynes)
B & B Band (Hastings)
Banjax (Hastings)
The Bismarcks (Hampshire)
Chalktown (Hitchin)
Climax Ceilidh Band (Hastings)
Cock & Bull Band (Milton Keynes)
Ebenezer Fuller Big Band (quite the best name for a band)
Gan Ainm (Southampton)
Hoover The Dog (The Welsh Borders)
Grand Union (Stroud)
Hekety (Sheffield)
Hogs Back Band (Surrey, natch!)

The Hosepipe Band (Colchester)
MoonDance (Dunstable)
Peeping Tom (Go on, guess where they're from?)
Stocai (London)
Tickled Pink (Northampton)
Whapweasel (Hexham)

Anchor Gardens at Sidmouth 2003 Come down to Sidmouth Folk Week every August and see loads of folky-type stuff


Bromyard Festival 2005

Things they say:

"A posh bird" Gareth Kiddier, The Bismarcks

"She wasn’t drunk like {name deleted} was when she called for us" Roger Grimes, Grand Union

"Liked her style" Keith Leech, Banjax; B&B

"A caller who helps pack up the gear!" Brian Heywood, MoonDance

"Called loads of dances I didn't even recognise ... Brilliant." Michael "eclectic dances" Catovsky

"Superb calling - we had a top time" Simon Care, Tickled Pink

"Sent a lot of people home at midnight sweaty but happy, including me!"
Lawrence Heath, GBH Ceilidhs Email

Showing off in Exeter
Great Western Ceilidhs, December 2000

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Interesting links:

Mad Jack’s Morris Dancers, Hastings
Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green Festival of Morris Dancing
English Ceilidh Discussion List
Martin Kiff’s fantastic Webfeet
Martin Nail’s equally fantastic Folk on the Web
Thomas Green’s almost exhaustive Barn Dance Repertoire
Brian Scowcroft’s mostly self-penned Dance Pages
Morris Federation Front Page
Rod Stradling's on-line magazine "Musical Traditions" - a must-see thing
Godalming Borough Hall Ceilidhs - go there but take a towel!

Courtesy of Martin Kiff
Anchor Gardens at Sidmouth 2000
With Sally Wearing of Insword Rapper in Burton on Trent, September 2000
The Glamour Twins - separated at birth but together again at last!



Why not?

A few years ago, Terry Dickinson of Huddersfield (formerly of Faversham in Kent), a barn dance caller of some years’ standing, said on one of our endless telephone conversations, "So, Fee, when are you going to start calling?"

As I couldn’t give a quick answer as to why not, she said she’d send me some of her dances for me to begin on, and the rest, as they say …

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