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News 29.7.15 - Percy West R.I.P.




We're very sad indeed to report the news that Percy West,

stepdancer extraordinaire, died after some months' illness

on Saturday 25th July 2015 at home near Diss.


Percy was a great character, his cheeky nature expressed

through his exuberant and energetic stepping style which

has inspired many younger dancers.


The funeral will be held on Thursday 6th August at 2pm in

St Mary's Church, Diss, Norfolk and is planned as a

celebration of Percy's life.


Thanks to Susan Bell for this wonderful photo which really

captures Percy's style.




What is stepdancing?


Where can you see stepdancing?


East Anglian stepdancing on film


Stepdance Day 2015


Stepdance Day 2014


Information about Stepdance Days


Previous Stepdance Days

 What is stepdancing?


Stepdancing is a vernacular form of tap dancing, where individual dancers improvise a sequence of steps, most frequently to a hornpipe tune. The sound of the steps is probably the most important aspect, and the dance, although energetic is not particularly dramatic. Dancers are usually self-taught, and dance in informal settings mostly in pubs and other social gatherings where there is a suitable atmosphere and music. If more than one dancer is present, they will often dance in turn. These days, stepdancers often carry a wooden board with them, as so many floors are carpeted. Some dancers add blakeys to their shoes to enhance the sound, others prefer a pair of leather-soled shoes.


  Brian Whatling                      Percy West                     Richard, Ben & Fiona Davies       Doreen O'Connor        Amy & Jess Chilvers

                                                                                                                                                                     & Lenny Whiting


 Where can you see stepdancing?


In East Anglia, stepdancing survives outside the rarefied air of the folk festival and club, and is still danced freestyle in pubs and village halls wherever there's some music. Some of the events are listed on our website, and others organised by Rig-a-Jig-Jig in Norfolk or in Suffolk in village halls and pubs will include stepdancers. Our Traditional Music Day attracts many stepdancers every year, and we run several events during the day where you can watch stepdancing, talk to the dancers and have a go yourself, although there is no formal teaching on the day. Since 2006, we have also run a Stepdance Day in the summer, which is a magnet for dancers from all over the region, and includes informal dancing and competitions. See below for details of this year's event, and previous ones.


Outside East Anglia, you are most likely to find stepdancing in Devon - the Dartmoor Pixies are a good contact point, featuring Jason Rice in their line-up, and the Dartmoor Folk Festival includes workshops and a competition. There are now pockets of people who are researching and learned traditional stepping - Kent / Sussex / Hampshire being a current hotbed of interest. The research organisation Instep has a website in development which should be helpful in finding such groups around the country.


Aside from that, most north country clogging is found in folk circles, and there are plenty of opportunities to learn Lancashire and north east clogging styles: a good starting point to find your local teachers or teams would be to look at your local folk magazine or telephone the English Folk Dance and Song Society (020 745 2206).


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 East Anglian stepdancing on film


Cromer lifeboat crew

This film was made by Anglia Television in 1976 in the Bath Hotel in Cromer, and features members of the Davies family dancing to the music of Percy Brown on melodeon. The dancers are: Richard Davies, Dick Davies, Jack Davies, Friday Balls Davies, Shrimp Davies. Members of Richard's family still dance: his daughter Fiona and, on occasion, his grandchildren Ben and Emily.

The Barley Mow

Made in 1955 by Peter Kennedy, this captures something of the atmosphere in a rural pub on a Saturday night, with plenty of songs including old ballads and rousing choruses. With stepdancers Geoff Ling, Eli Durrant, Peter Jay and Lily Durrant dancing to Fred Pearce's melodeon.


There are many short clips on YouTube, here are some of the best:


Traditional Music Day 2010 Percy West with Katie Howson playing Albert Hewitt's Hornpipe.


Diss Corn Hall 2013 - Dominic Smith followed by Percy West with Lindsay Want, John Howson and Katie Howson playing. We were invited to play and dance in the foyer as a warm-up act for John Spiers and Jon Boden's "Backyard Songs" tour -everywhere they played the invited a local traditional musicians in and also played some local items themselves - there is stepdancing from this tour in Devon and Hampshire on YouTube as well - interesting to compare! At Diss, young stepdancers Ella Beal, Catrin & Rhys Pena also danced on stage.


Milton Gypsy Festival, Cambridgeshire 2010 featuring Leo Temple (Baker). The clip is mainly singing (which you may well enjoy too!) and Leo dances - as ever, very briefly - to diddling by Yvette Gaskin at 3.42. (Update, November 2015: we seem to have lost this link, you may find it through a search on Youtube).


See also the Old Hat Concert Party page for some clips from the 1980s featuring Font Whatling and Cyril Barber.


If you came to Stepdance Day or Traditional Music Day in 2010, you might have seen some filming going on, and you might even have spotted two famous folkies, Rachel and Becky Unthank. All this was to do with a BBC4 programme about traditional dance across the UK. It was first screened in December 2010 and has been regularly repeated - look out for "Still Folk Dancing After All These Years". Look out for Percy West, Leo Baker, Lenny Whiting  and other stepdancers from the east - we're about half-way through it.


There is also more information about East Anglian stepdancers on our "profiles of Traditional Musicians" section. See nos 14 - Geoff Ling; 19 - Dick Hewitt - this now includes some sound clips of Dick dancing and his father, Albert, playing;  28 - Font Whatling; 30 - Old Hat Concert Party and 31 - Cyril Barber.


Rig-a-Jig-Jig researcher and fiddler Chris Holderness has written some extended articles about traditional musicians and dancers in north Norfolk. These are published on the Musical Traditions website. Click here for a direct link to his article about the Davies family of Cromer.



 Stepdance Day 2015


Lenny Whiting wins stepdance double!



On Sunday 26th July, 72 year old Lenny Whiting from Stradbroke pulled off a remarkable feat

of winning both of the annual dancing competitions held at the East Anglian Traditional Music

Trust’s Stepdance Day at Worlingworth Swan. Over two hundred people gathered to see some

of the best stepdancers in the region and more than twenty people took part in the two

competitions held during the day, with a further number of people joining in a beginners’

workshop at the start of the event.


The aim of the first competition – the Steve Monk Memorial Stepdance Championship,

held for the last 16 years in memory of Framlingham stepdancer and singer Steve

Monk – is to encourage anyone and everyone to have a go. Participants ranged in

age from five upwards, including thirteen year old Catrin Pena who has been dancing

since she was five, and Ella Beal aged sixteen, a previous winner. The Font Whatling

Traditional Stepdance competition commemorates Font Whatling, a well-known musician

and stepdancer across Suffolk and further afield, who played regularly in the Worlingworth

Swan and is for more experienced dancers, with the aim of to keeping the local traditional

style alive and in good shape.


Lenny has previously won both competitions, but never both in the same year! 17 year old

Dominic Smith from Wingfield came second in both competitions, so Lenny has some stiff

competition in future years!



  Above: a proud Lenny Whiting receiving one of his trophies from judge Marilyn Monk.



 Stepdance Day 2014


In 2014 Stepdance Day took place on Sunday 27th July at the Swan Inn in Worlingworth, Suffolk.


Winners of the 2014 competitions were:


Steve Monk Memorial Stepdance Championship: Simon Harmer

Best Newcomer: Ron Frost

Font Whatling Traditional Stepdance Trophy: Simon Ritchie


Presentations of trophies and certificates are made at Traditional Music Day, during the Stepdance Special in the afternoon, for all those able to be present.


Photos all by John Halliday for EATMT.

Top row, left to right: Judges for the Font Whatling Traditional Stepdance Competition - Dusty Smith, Brian Whatling, Lenny Whiting; Simon Ritchie and Brian Whatling; Lenny Whiting dancing to Katie Howson playing; judges for the Steve Monk Memorial Stepdance Championship - Simon Ritchie, Marilyn Monk, Ella Beal (2013 champion).

Bottom row, left to right: Simon Harmer and Marilyn Monk; Doreen West and Sue Mitchell; Billy Heffer; Ella Beal and Ron Frost.






 Information about Stepdance Day


Until 2004, the Steve Monk Memorial Championship was run by the Delarre family in Moreton near Chelmsford in Essex. In 2005 they invited EATMT to run it together with them at the Eels' Foot in Suffolk and in 2006 EATMT stepped in to run it without the Delarres when it would otherwise have been cancelled. Many thanks to Steve, Jayne, Dave and Jamie for setting it up, keeping it going and passing it on!


Although the competitions are the main event of the day, stepdancing is not usually a competitive activity, and there are always demonstrations from some of the best dancers and some informal dancing after the competitions as well.


We do not run a separate children's competition, as many of the youngsters are as good as the adults. The Steve Monk Memorial Competition has three times been won by under-16s: in 2005 teenager Jessica Chilvers won and in 2011 and 2013 it was won by Ella Beal aged 11 and 13. In 2012 eight year old Alfie Matthews won Best Newcomer.


It has been held at the Worlingworth Swan since 2007. The famed stepdance Font Whatling lived just opposite the Swan, and the pub is still very welcoming to musicians and dancers (See Village Portraits page for a new article about the pub).


The day is usually enhanced by the arrival of some pony-and-traps as well as a few tunes, songs, and food and fine beer from the pub. The stepdancing takes place in a marquee in the pub’s large garden. There’s plenty of room, but not too many chairs, so bring your own camping chairs if you wish. Simon Ritchie provides an introduction to stepdancing at around 1pm, and there are two competitions open to all-comers, starting at around 2pm. It’s a very informal day, when you are assured of seeing some of the best dancers around, and if you would like to have a go, it’s a good chance to do so, even if you’ve never done so before!


The event is free, but we do try and sell you a programme and some raffle tickets in order to cover costs and maybe raise some extra for the Trust. Donations of raffle prizes are gratefully received, either before the date, or on the day.


The postcode for the Worlingworth Swan is IP13 7HR. Telephone 01728 627772. For more details, a map and event the OS grid reference (TM224 682), have a look on the Suffolk CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) website.


Steve Monk Memorial Competition


Open to allcomers - even if you've only had a go for the first time in the preceding workshop, you're encouraged to enter this competition. Dancers have a free choice of music and musician for this competition - there are always several really experienced stepdance musicians around!


“Monkey’s” family came from the Framlingham area, and he moved back here from Essex in the 1990s. He was a gifted entertainer, with a relaxed and humorous approach to the sessions he ran. He died suddenly in 2000, and Jayne & Steve Delarre felt it would be a fitting tribute to set up a stepdancing event to encourage other people to take part. One of Monkey’s best mates, Simon Ritchie, a fine stepper himself, remains at the centre of this event every year, and Steve's widow, Marilyn chairs the judging panel.


Font Whatling Trophy


Started in 2008 by EATMT in memory of the Worlingworth Swan's resident musician and stepper (1919-1998) who was also for a number of years a member of the Old Hat Concert Party and became well known at folk festivals around the country. The aim of this competition is to keep the older style of dancing with hard-soled shoes going and encourage a higher standard. Entrants are not permitted to wear clogs or tap shoes, and have to dance to two specific tunes: Pigeon on the Gate (hornpipe) and Oh, Joe, the Boat is Going Over (polka) played by the same musician for all dancers.


Font lived for many years in the house just over the road from the Swan, and played and stepped here on many occasions until his death in 1998. He became interested in playing the melodeon through Walter Read, a renowned local player. Read was blinded in the First World War, but had a tandem, and Font would often steer the two of them through the lanes to a pub that welcomed music. Later he teamed up with Wattie Wright and Eddie Woolnough as “The Three Ws”. Font and Wattie were known for their habit of stepping together, with their arms on each others shoulders, but Font’s personal party piece was to play the melodeon and step at the same time. His stepping style was very rhythmic, and is evident in the dancing of his sons. Font came to wider attention through recordings and books in the 1970s, and through outings around the country with the Old Hat Concert Party in the 1980s and 90s. Font's son Brian is usually on the judging panel for this competition.


Dancers are welcome to enter both competitions.


Judges include winners of last year's competitions.


See below and also the link at the foot of this page for more photos of previous Stepdance Days.





Link to Previous Stepdance Days


Home      News      Diary of events    About EATMT     Friends of EATMT     

What are the musical traditions of East Anglia?

Traditional Music Day     Melodeons & More      Workshops, classes & schools      Community Projects       

          Profiles of traditional musicians        Research         Jig Dolls        Dulcimers     Stepdancing

Resources      Shop        Links      Press Room     Contact Us