Academic journal article Folk Music Journal

The Whorlton Sword Dancers

Academic journal article Folk Music Journal

The Whorlton Sword Dancers

Article excerpt

I have recently discovered a photograph of the Whorlton Sword Dancers published in the Illustrated Chronicle of 31 May 1921 (Figure 1). The image portrays six dancers, one of whom is displaying a six-sword nut, plus a musician with a concertina. (1) Four of the dancers appear to be wearing boots. The occasion was a distress fund procession in which the sword dancers participated. The procession paraded by way of Whorlton, Westerhope, Denton Burn, Scotswood, Lemington, Newburn, Throckley, Blucher, and North Walbottle. An accompanying photograph shows a soup kitchen on a float with, nearby, a banner headed 'North Walbottle Soup Kitchen' and bearing the message 'Please Help to Feed the Children' (Figure 2).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

The Whorlton rapper team came to prominence in 1919 when, together with Westerhope, they were the first traditional sword dance entrants in the inaugural North of England Musical Tournament. Figure 2 These two teams competed against each other in Class 72 Traditional Sword Dance, teams consisting of the recognized exponents of the traditional dance of their village. The contest took place on the last day of the tournament, with Cecil Sharp acting as adjudicator. A full report of the day's proceedings was published in the Newcastle Daily Chronicle on 30 June 1919, from which I quote the following extract:

  The Palace Theatre, Newcastle, was on the occasion of Saturday, the
  last day of the the North of England Musical Tournament, the scene
  of one of the most pleasing and interesting series of all the
contests, the whole day being devoted to folk-dancing for grown-ups and
  juveniles. … 
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