Talks and Demonstrations

For Community groups, organizations and festivals we offer a flexible range of talks, demonstrations and workshops based on folk traditions of Hampshire and the south of England.

Contact us if you would like a presentation or workshop for your group and we can discuss the options.

New Forest Dances and Songs from the Alice Gillington Collection

In the early years of the twentieth century, Alice Gillington shared a nomadic life alongside Romany families in the New Forest. Living in “The Yellow Caravan”, she collected a number of songs and dances from the Gypsies and published them alongside collections of children’s singing games from the south of England and Brittany. For various reasons her work received little attention compared to that of contemporary folklorists.

A century later however, FolkActive and Southampton folk band Jigfoot have been enjoying revisiting her work and are developing songs and social dances based on her collections. We are keen to share this body of local Hampshire material through sessions, workshops and dances: it’s a joy to be dancing to “the music of where we are”.

Southern step dancing

Step dancing was once so commonplace that when folklorist Cecil Sharp and his contemporaries were collecting folk songs and dances early in the twentieth century, they didn’t feel the need to record the social stepping they encountered.

A hundred years later such informal social step dancing had all but vanished in the central southern counties: most percussive folk dancers in the south were either performing northern clog dance routines or Appalachian steps brought over from North America.

However we are part of a southern step dance revival, inspired by step dancers Val Shipley and Janet Keet Black from Sussex.  In May 2012 we set up a monthly Hampshire stepping session at Samuel’s Rest pub in Shedfield. The steps are based on very simple heel and toe combinations making it easy to get started, and the music is at the heart of what develops rather than being an accompaniment to a routine. Every dancer looks different because the dancing is improvised and the informal style encourages individuality. We find it then becomes a natural development to “step” through dances at ceilidhs and country dances.