Before the the last meeting, I had never been to a ceilidh. I didn’t really know it was, but suspected it would be like line dancing with more tartan and less denim. My only “experience” of ceilidhs was knowing that my old high school held them for charity. But no way would my 15 year old self go to a dance with her parents in hall used for assembly! (But then my 15 yr old self thought the charity ale festivals were lame too, so…how things change).
The meeting started off as any other – business first, a little break for natter, tea and cake, then on to the activity. What made June’s guests extra fabulous is that they included one of our own. SHWI lady and leader of our Sheffield Food Festival stall for the past two years , Zoë Loveday is the caller for local ceilidh band Big Stuffed Fish. Her boyfriend Tom and his father make up the rest of the band.
Zoë had come with her own megaphone (handcrafted by super-handy Tom) and the menfolk were equppied with a washboard and melodeon. The chairs were pushed to the sides and everyone gathered in the meeting room – unbeknownst to me, this was the calm before the storm.
Anyone who had no idea what they were doing needn’t have worried. Zoë explained everything – where to stand, what moves to do and where to go. There was skipping about, ducking under arms and “stripping the willow” as the room filled with catchy traditional music and big smiles all round. I had NEVER seen so much physical activity in that room before – there were ladies dancing around all over the place! I had wisely chosen to stay out of this – someone needed to take photos of the ladies flinging each other around as Zoë called out instructions. Plus I have zero co-ordination and had a belly full of beer. So how I ended up dancing is beyond me. The moves in a ceilidh are relatively simple. But not when you have had a Russian Imperial stout. Once Vice President Jen’s shoe came off mid dance, I was gone and spent the rest of the dance laughing hysterically. Good job the other ladies knew what they were doing and were able to manouvre me to the right places.
I cannot tell you how much laughter was in that room. Everyone seemed to have a really good time and it was dissapointing when it ended after one big final dance where everyone got to strip the willow*!
The good news is Big Stuffed Fish can be found playing at events all over South Yorkshire – so be sure to check them out.
(*stripping the willow is a dance move and does not involve any actual stripping or willow. So no funny ideas!)
Laura Bainbridge SHWI Committee member