Members will remember the Extraordinary General Meetings of 2016, occasioned by opposition to the EFDSS' plans for the English Country Dance and Morris classes, which had been led successfully by experienced and highly respected "volunteers" over many, many years. The Committee thought members might welcome a report on developments so far.
Camden Folk Dance Club
Most of the old Thursday Beginners regulars formed a new folk dance club, which meets at the Primrose Hill Community Centre, just up the road from Cecil Sharp House. Dave Kerridge went with them as the regular caller. It is early days, but the hall is nice, the camaraderie born of the determination to found a new club is encompassing new dancers and attendance is good, usually in the low twenties. Dave has been presenting some slightly more challenging dances and the club has just purchased its very own amp. Most club members miss the live music they enjoyed at Cecil Sharp House and many hope to be able to have a band again someday. The club faces the usual challenges of publicising itself and recruiting / retaining new members. As a new FDC, it also needs to accumulate a small financial cushion and develop an experienced committee. But Camden FDC has begun well, bolstered by the loyalty of its members.
Judith De Witt
English Folk Dance Class
The new class at Cecil Sharp House was launched this term, with Mike Ruff as lead caller and teacher, assisted by Mary Hartwell and backed up by a live band led by Ian Cutts. I have enjoyed 5 sessions with them so far, alongside a small mixed group ranging from 'never done it before' through to 'done it quite a lot', and there's something for all of us in the class. Mike teaches a range of dances — mostly English Social Dance — including steps, figures, timing and spacing. He also explains the historical and geographical context of the dances, their origins and variations; encouraging questions and contributions. So the evening consists of a mixture of listening, watching, practising and dancing — with a tea break in the middle. Mike and Mary demonstrate steps and movements, and relate the dancing to the music, showing how it fits together — while the band, obligingly and cleverly, play examples as Mike is explaining them.
It's a tricky business running a class to meet the needs of the absolute beginner as well as the experienced dancer and Mike has made a good start. The dancers are keen to learn and participate and all of them are enjoying themselves. Despite EFDSS' laudable investment in publicity, it would be good to have more dancers in the class — and see them "graduate" to join clubs in London and beyond.
Most of John Russell's morris class decided to form an independent group:
Early days with our breakaway Morris group but making progress. We practice weekly on Tuesday evenings from 7pm very close to St Pancras station at Coopers Lane Tenants & Residents Association (communal hall), 2 Hampden Close, NW1 1HW.
We are in the process of creating a website and updating our Facebook page plus printing some leaflets so we can start a recruiting campaign. We need more dancers for sure!
John has retired as Squire and comes along occasionally. We have elected a new Squire, Bagman and Foreman (dance instructor). New Squire is Micha Cole-Wilkin, Bagman is Benjamin Walker and Foreperson is Michelle Griffiths (who dances with The Belles). Michael Jewitt and myself support the side as musicians and I have also taken on the responsibility of marketing and recruiting.
Morris Class at Cecil Sharp House
The Morris teaching sessions at Cecil Sharp House have also been reorganised. A well paid, employed and all round talented Andy Richards has taken over from likewise good egg volunteer John Russell. As far as I know, a syllabus suitable for new learners attending regularly through the term has been implemented. Despite a professional publicity offensive (photo shoot, social media blitz, article in Time Out, etc.) numbers have proved disappointing to the point of non-viability. This is not in anyone's interests. Even local morris team London Pride are asking themselves how, although clearly not part of the target market, they can help preserve a morris presence in the home of the folk revival. Historically, the Friends of Cecil Sharp House (FCSH) has helped EFDSS financially with funding for projects, general assistance etc. to promote folk activity at the House. With a restructuring of the running of events, this is no longer so practicable and it makes sense for the FCSH to help increasingly with non-monetary inputs: advocacy, publicity, volunteer support. To this end, I have approached the dance development manager to discuss the situation, and whether and how FCSH can assist.