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 Background to the club and dances

Club history

The Run of the Mill Folk Dance Club was formed in November 1979 by folk dance enthusiasts Richard and Eileen Young who placed notices in local shops and in the local paper.

The club first met at Florence Nightingale Memorial Hall in Holloway, a small village in Derbyshire; the hall is named after Florence Nightingale who lived nearby.  After the first season circumstances forced the club to move just down the road to Cromford where they met at “The Mill” - not just any mill but Richard Arkwright’s famous water powered cotton mill, the first in the world.  And hence the club’s name which continues today.

In the early days Richard did all the calling, and membership soon grew rapidly.  Several Saturday dances were held each year, which were well attended - sometimes having to turn people away.  After a few years the Young’s moved away from the area, and Richard died in October 1997; however, his widow Eileen still keeps in touch from her home now in Wantage.

Our first Playford Ball was held in November 1980 at The Cavendish Hall in Edensor, part of the Chatsworth Estate, with Madeleine Hollis and The Derby Yeomen.  This was popular and was repeated the following year with the late Tom Cook and Jim Coleman.  Since then the Playford Ball has taken place every year except 1985, almost always at Edensor, and is now regarded as one of the primary balls in Britain.  Originally catering was provided by club members, but several years ago we changed to an outside caterer, who each year provides an excellent two course cold buffet which has become a feature of the evening.

Today we have a membership of around 60, including a few from the early years of the club’s existence.  For many years we have been back in our original home in Holloway, where we now hold all our evenings and dances except for the Playford.  We now run two Saturday dances each year, and the Playford Ball continues to be as popular as ever.

In September 2009 we held a Sunday dance to celebrate our 30th anniversary, with many former members from various parts of the country joining us again for the afternoon.

Types of dance

We dance mostly traditional English Folk Dances.

Our knowledge of old dances are attributable largely to John Playford (1623-1686), a London publisher who, with his son Henry (1657-1707), collected and published a large number of English dances of that period.  This gave rise to the distinct style of old English dances now known as Playford.  Many dances from his extensive collections are popular and frequently danced today, plus many newer ones which have been composed since in the same style.  Our annual Playford Ball, as the name suggests, concentrates mainly (but not entirely) on these dances.

After a gap of a few hundred years with not much happening, in the early 20th century Cecil Sharp (1859-1924) initiated a major revival in traditional folk.  He travelled extensively in the UK, North America and elsewhere, researching and publishing the music and dance which he found.  Many of the dances we enjoy today, and also much Morris dancing, would have been lost without his work.  He founded the English Folk Dance Society, now EFDSS, whose headquarters in London are named after him.

Our repertoire is not solely old dances.  Numerous new dances were written in the late 20th century and continue to be today.  Many of our current favourites have been recently written by several well known dance composers, here in the UK and also in the USA, who ensure a constant production of new dances to try out.  Some of our own Club members compose dances, including one who will regularly initiate a new dance for any member with a special occasion (birthday, wedding etc).  So some of our dances are almost exclusive to Holloway, while others are well known worldwide, and they are just as likely to have been writen in the 17th or 21st centuries.

The dances vary in pace and complexity.  Older Playford dances are generally quite slow and sedate.  Others we do can be simple fun dances.  And, in addition to ‘English’ dances, we also include some squares and contras more commonly associated with American dance, which tend to be more lively.

So overall there is quite a range within the term English Folk Dancing, and we include a wide variety of it during our evenings.