Folkies cross swords at music fest

Five weeks today, the streets of Cleckheaton will be soaked in music, dance and merriment as the annual Folk Festival extravaganza bursts into life once again.Over the next few weeks, we will be looking ahead to this year's festival and what it holds in store for the thousands of folk fans flocking to the Spen Valley.This week, festival organiser Jim Saville looks at the traditional types of dance that will get your toe-a-tapping into the wee small hours.

Thursday, 3rd June 2010, 4:45 pm

Most people will have heard of Morris dancing but what about Rapper or Longswords, Coconut or Cotswold, Border or Black Face or even Molly?

Each is part of what was simply known as Morris in days gone by but has developed into a new distinctive style as each region has developed their own version. The dance steps often depict local stories or activities through movement.

There are many colourful, often hand-made costumes, catching your eye as the dancers weave their intricate patterns., accompanied by fiddles, accordions, whistles and drums.

The moves are intricate and enthralling - often mirroring some natural scene from an early age - but requiring agility and energy.

What at first glance seems to be random cavorting is a carefully crafted sequence that leads to an eye catching finish. For example, the seemingly aimless movements of the longswords culminating in a fusion of metal as the individual swords are held aloft in a perfect geometrical shape depicting, perhaps, the sun.

Many of the performers will be Spen locals, others from farther afield and a few will have travelled hundreds of miles to join in and produce the spectacle.

The Wickham Arms will once again play host to a dance-off for the Wickham trophy as each side, whatever their style try to out-do each other with the precision of their stepping, the intricacy of their formations and the musicality of their performances.

Many of the sides taking part such as the Spen Valley Longswords have been coming to the festival almost since the beginning others are coming fresh for the first time.

All are here with a two-fold purpose, to have a good time and entertain themselves and others.

Just listen for the tinkling of the bells and join them and be beguiled for a few minutes or for hours. You'll enjoy it.