Rosie writes… a word from our dance director

I’m writing from sunny Sheffield, where there’s a warm breeze (finally!) and I’m dreaming ahead to dizzy August days in the Shrewsbury Folk Festival Dance Tent. 

I’ve been the Shrewsbury Folk Festival Dance Director for just over two years now and it is a total dream of a role. This year’s festival will be my third on the committee and we have got some incredible stuff planned for you and your dancing feet. As ever, this year dance line-up will showcase the very best of dance from the UK and beyond.

Whether you’re an experienced dance or new to the whole dance world, there’ll be something to excite you in the Dance Tent over the weekend. In our dance line up, we have the best of the best in the UK ceilidh band scene. With the amazing Banter (Friday), Monster Ceilidh Band (Saturday), Crowdy Kit (Friday), and Steamchicken (Sunday) you won’t be able to keep still with these stalwarts of ceilidh.

Don’t worry if you’ve never been to a ceilidh before though, we have our wonderful callers to lead you through the dances; Sheena Masson, Annie Bolt, Tom Kitching and Ian Nichols will make sure you don’t take any wrong turns. And if you do, they’ll make sure you have fun anyway!

We also have the high energy wall of sound that is the EFDSS Workshop Ceilidh Band back led by Ross Grant, showcasing the repertoire they’ve been working on in the Saturday Folk Music workshops run by EFDSS at Cecil Sharp House. Our caller Prue Reilly will make sure that the afternoon is fun for all the family!

This year at Shrewsbury we are also very lucky to have the rare chance to ceilidh with the masters of English folk, Spiers & Boden (Sunday). We are so excited to have the legendary duo back at the festival but this time in the dance tent to play the night away, with the equally legendary calling of Phil Bassindale.

We have an amazing opportunity to dance to the renowned James Delarre, Saul Rose & Dave Delarre (Monday) where we will be led in the dance by the ever brilliant caller Jane Bird. As ever, Saturday is fancy dress night, hosted by the Shropshire Bedlams & Martha Rhoden’s Tuppenny Dish – join us for a space theme and orbit your way into another galaxy for the night!

If ceilidh isn’t your thing or you’d like to try some other styles of dance out there’s still so much on offer over the weekend. There’s Cornish dance (Saturday) with music from Bagas Fellyon and singing from Arbrevyn with dance leaders on the floor to guide you. There’s contra dancing (Saturday) with the esteemed Club Débris and Rhodri Davies, where there will even be a 30-minute warm up beforehand to teach you the terminology and get you in the contra flow!

If schottisches, bourees and mazurkas are more up your street, then we have several Eurobals for you to twirl and spin to. We are joined by Cri Du Canard (Saturday) who are blazing ahead making a real name for themselves on the UK Eurobal scene with their thoughtful arrangements. We also have the finely crafted music of Tom Moore & Archie Churchill-Moss (Sunday) playing a Eurobal, a rare appearance in the Dance Tent at Shrewsbury which we can promise will be a sonically-thoughtful and danceable experience not to be missed. New for 2024 we have an outdoor Eurobal (Saturday) on the Morris Spot stage (handily located next to the beer tent and cocktail bus!) where we will be dancing to the glorious music of our very own Sarah Matthews and Doug Eunson.

For something a little different we’re welcoming The Oakstone Trio to Shrewsbury Folk Festival for the first time to play for a Playford dance, with Daisy Black and Andrew Swaine to lead you in the dance.

If you prefer a little more guidance to your dances we have a whole handful of workshops on offer. The Dancing Mister (Tim Walker) will be leading a medieval and early dance workshop on Saturday morning to get your Bransle on. We also have the revered dancer and teacher Lucy Huzzard with us to teach us how to master the Swedish polska (Sunday). As well as all of that we’ll have morris and sword dancing workshops throughout the weekend for you to get your feet around.

Speaking of morris, we have some of the UK’s best morris and dance teams with us including lots of new faces for 2024 with Domesday Border and Liberty Hill joining us for the first time. We have more rapper and longsword teams than you can shake a sword at: Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers, Northgate Rapper and Silver Flame will all be joining us from their various corners of the country.

Great Western Morris and the Outside Capering Crew will add their characteristic Cotswold dances into the mix, as well as our wonderful local teams Shrewsbury Morris and Shropshire Bedlams and Martha Rhoden’s Tuppenny Dish. Last, and certainly not least, the infamous JD & Folk will be flatfooting their way around our morris displays. You can catch them all in action as they gather for the infamous morris party on Sunday – don’t miss the mischief and mayhem that goes on then!

Here at Shrewsbury Folk Festival we pride ourselves in showcasing dance not only as participatory but also as an art form, and we like to showcase these performances in our dance show on Saturday afternoon. This year we are joined by the incredible dancers from Ballet Folk, who will be performing their new piece ‘Rhythms of Migration‘, with musicians Eliza Marshall and Catrin Finch.

There is SUCH a magical atmosphere at Shrewsbury, and we love that the dance tent is a real hub and meeting place for people to spend their weekend. Whether it be catching a quick dance between concerts, setting up for whole days of dancing, learning new moves or just soaking up the wonderful atmosphere the dance tent has to offer, we really hope you’ll join us for a gallop or a swing!