They said it would rain, but the Rain Gods were kind given the grim forecast for the whole weekend and everyone was grateful and satisfied with the cloud that hovered over the three days.
We arrived on site at 8am Friday 20th August and found our way to the Instrumental Area where FolkEast co-ordinator (and previous EATMT tutor and artist) Otis Luxton welcomed us. The site was much changed from previous years (on account of a desire to bring a mindful festival to those who felt comfortable to attend) and we had a commanding view of the festival site and its guests.
We had a super spot once again sitting alongside the talented instrument makers. This year we had the company of Alan Miller Guitars, Terry Mann Instrument maker and repairer, Jamie Swannell Luthier, Jim Parr Early Woodwind and Jack Darach Recorders and not far from the makers area, local retailer Pete Cunningham aka P J Music had his stall.
Norfolk Stepdancer Fiona Davies often is the dance tent co ordinator for FolkEast (and for many other national festivals) but this year the only dance promoted was found in the form of Morris Dancing and Stepdancing.
One morris dance side each day danced their hearts out throughout the day and working alongside EATMT and FolkEast, Fiona liaised with stepdancers from across the region who took part on different days at the various stepdancing events that Fiona had timetabled with FolkEast.
Stepdance workshops each morning took place bright and early outside on the morris dance floor. Fiona had a keen crowd of dancers on Friday morning where she demonstrated stepdancing and talked about the tradition. The participants were treated in addition to musical accompaniment from musician John Spiers.
On Saturday morning, Fiona ran the second workshop this time with Suffolk musicians Lindsay Want and Richard Cove. Lindsay and Richard are part of the Southwold Harbour Lights crowd (who run a monthly session in the pub with the same name) and this super crowd of musicians could be found all over the site striking up impromptu sessions. In the afternoon, they were found in the “pub” tent running another session which featured several steppers including Ethan Beal, Angela Peacock, Monica and Barry Mobs and Ron White.
Click HERE to see a brief video clip of the Saturday morning workshop.
Ethan Beal ran Sunday morning’s workshop with Lindsay Want accompanying on melodeon. Another great crowd gathered for footwork tips and some stayed on to take part in the FolkEast Stepdance Dance competition which, due to the only rain of the weekend, took place under the cover of the Instrumental performance tent.
FolkEast provided a copper kettle – a traditional prize for dancers in days long gone – for the overall FolkEast Champion and EATMT provided prizes for the Best Newcomer and the Junior Champion.
We were joined for the day by our Patron Gloria Buckley who kindly agreed to be one of three judges. Dancer and musician Pam Ross was our second judge and stepdancer James Abbott was our final judge though we made him dance and demonstrate at the start of the proceedings as well as judge.
We were delighted to have James Delarre join us as our resident musician for the competition with Lindsay Want playing for the demonstration.
Well done to our Junior Champion – 16 year old Stevie Chenery (who had danced at a previous Stepdance day with EATMT several years before), to newcomer Sarah Morton who had to dance in a dance off with EATMT’s Trustee Eammon Andrews following a tie break and to Ethan Beal who won the overall FolkEast Champion Copper Kettle – much deserved recognition of a young dancer who has been involved in stepdancing for around 15 years and who runs workshops and promotes this special East Anglian tradition. Young toddler Thomas charmed the crowds and so we felt was deserving of a trophy too!
We managed to sell a number of Trust publications, hire out a dulcimer, a fiddle as well as concertinas and melodeons and had some wonderful conversations with old and new supporters. It was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.
Mandy Hardingham (pictured above) was very keen to dance the lifeboat man jig doll. She explained that daughter Lizzie had been a performer at this year’s FolkEast and her recent album “Seven” which is on sale promises half of the proceeds to the RNLI.
Thanks in particular to John & Becky for encouraging EATMT’s involvement and to Fiona Davies for co ordinating the weekend of Stepdancing despite having other FolkEast roles. We’re also grateful to Judy & Eammon Andrews for helping us to achieve the plans.
Thanks too go to:
Our guest stepdancers for the weekend:
Angela Peacock, Barry and Monica Mobbs, Angela Peacock, Ethan Beal and Ron White
The wonderful musicians for the weekend:
John Spiers, Lindsay Beal, Richard Cove and James Delarre as well as the wonderful Harbour Inn Crowd.
EATMT Patron Gloria Buckley, James Abbott and Pam Ross.
Bravo everyone for taking part and getting into the spirit of keeping these fantastic traditions alive!