Flamborough sword dancing centenary celebration

The Flamborough Sword Dancers
The Flamborough Sword Dancers

SWORD dancers from across the region are expected to descend on Flamborough this weekend to take part in a very special centenary celebration.

The special event will be held on Sunday July 15 to mark 100 years since Cecil Sharp published ‘The Sword Dances of Northern England’, a book which helped ensure the Flamborough Sword Dance became widely known throughout the folk world.

And what makes it extra special is the fact Flamborough have never hosted a traditional sword dancing team from elsewhere but on this occasion will be visited by three - from Goathland, Handsworth, and Grenoside.

And as an added special feature of the day the Flamborough juniors will be performing along with the seniors, an event which normally only happens on Boxing day.

Richard Traves, of the Flamborough Sword Dancers said: “This is a hugely significant event for us and one which we are very much looking forward to.”

The centenary celebration starts at 12 noon on the Green at Mereside, with dances to be performed by the various teams at 1.30pm at Thornwick Camp, 2.30pm on North Landing, 3.30pm at the Lighthouse, finishing at Chapel Street at 4.30pm.

Back in 1912 more than 70 villages had a sword dance team of their own or had been visited by a team from another village, but only 26 variants of the Longsword dance survive today, the Flamborough Longsword dance being one such survivor.

Most of these recorded versions were collected and published by Cecil Sharp, the founder of the English Folk Dance Society.

In late 1910 Sharp visited Flamborough to gather information on the sword dance with a view to publishing in the second part of a three part book he was working on called ‘The Sword Dances of Northern England’.

Sharp returned to the village in January 1912 when he got first-hand information from brothers-in-law Richard Major and William Emmerson.

The book Sharp produced, together with later publications and publicity from his many talks and demonstrations, ensured that the Flamborough dance became widely known throughout the folk world.

News of Sharp’s discovery of the Flamborough dance spread rapidly, and in 1913 two dancers from the village were invited to London to teach it to members of The Esperance Guild.

From then on the dance became a popular feature of many folk events and festivals throughout the country.

Within a decade it was being performed as far afield as Germany and the USA.