To locate a Band, ring or email our Caller, the very approachable Pete Shaw (01778 571563).

 

He's a Musician (fiddle, melodeon, banjo, piano) with several bands and a Caller with others. If Hannibal's Heroes can't fulfill your booking, he'll almost certainly be able to find you a Band and Caller that can. Lots of Bands refer bookings to each other as a matter of course.

 

Ceilidh Bands come in all shapes and sizes: a piano accordionist through to a rock band, via the more traditional instruments like the fiddle, melodeon (a sort of button-keyed accordion), flute, concertina, guitar, etc. Band prices vary and, like most things, you usually get what you pay for.


To locate a Band, ring or email our Caller, the very approachable Pete Shaw (01778 571563). He's a Musician (fiddle, melodeon, banjo, piano) with several bands and a Caller with others. If Hannibal's Heroes can't fulfil your booking, he'll almost certainly be able to find you a Band and Caller that can. Lots of Bands refer bookings to each other as a matter of course.

If you've never been to a Ceilidh yourself, it's a very good idea to attend one before you get too far with organising yours. You should have a go at the dancing if you get the chance, and pinch any great ideas you see.

Make sure that you book your Band early enough - many get booked up over a year ahead! Remember to send a map and precise directions, and to have the hall open one and a half hours before the official start time, so they can set up and have a sound check.

The evening will need a "Caller" to act as MC. Most Bands bring their own Caller, or will find you one. Alternatively, you can book a Caller, who will organise a Band as well for you. You pay just one fee to include Band, Caller & PA. If you need any help or advice in planning things, just ring Pete.

 

To get the idea over, call it whatever you like. The most common word these days is “Ceilidh”, pinched from the Irish and Scots Gaelic, and pronounced "kay - lee". It means dance & music, so that's what I'm going to call it here.
-Barn Dance is another very common name. Folk Dance is OK, if a bit twee. People also like English Country Dance as a title. Country Dance alone may get confused with American countree-and-western. Yee - ha!

You may have a committee whose help you'll need with jobs, or just people to sell tickets to. Even if you're running a "compulsory attendance" ceilidh at a wedding reception or birthday, you'll need to give guests the novel idea of them having a good time by joining in and dancing, rather than just by watching (and sometimes getting tipsy at weddings).

 

This is up to you. If you do, work out the feeding arrangements beforehand as many a good Ceilidh's been spoilt by a one and a half hour's break for the food to be served, eaten and cleared away, and a raffle held. A 20-minute break is ideal if there's no food - or 45 minutes, if you can manage it, if there is.

The easiest way to disrupt the enjoyment of a Ceilidh is to have a badly organised barbecue or hog roast. The food can be superb but human nature makes people join a food queue when they see one (there always is one with a barbecue), and the dancing stops for queueing, which is much less fun. If you have a barbecue, make sure all the food's ready to be instantly and quickly served before you declare it open.

The usual food at a Ceilidh these days is a Ploughman's but, whatever you choose, think about preparing or packaging it beforehand, so that you only need a couple of recruits to hand it out. Ploughman's, covered in cling film with pickle on a table in the middle, for instance, or even fish and chips brought in from the local shop, can be successful. The bigger your numbers, the bigger the problem if there’s a delay.

It is normal to feed the Band as well if everyone else is eating. Make sure that someone remembers and you could serve them early, so that they're ready to play before the dancers are ready to dance again.

If you need to book an outside bar, do that when you book the Band. It goes without saying that the earlier you get your publicity machine into action, the more people will come.

 

Anywhere that's big enough. Village and church halls are well liked by Bands because the acoustics are usually better than the average modern school hall, and the floor's often wooden and easier to dance on. Schools are sometimes warmer - an advantage in winter. Check out the costs and times available and don't forget to formally book the venue. Check out if it is Licensed for music, etc – if not you may have to speak to your local authority about Temporary Event Notice well in advance (but don't worry if you do, these are inexpensive and easy to arrange).

The room will need enough space for dancing. One "square" set of 8 dancers will take floor area of about 8 feet by 8 feet minimum. Hopefully, there'll be space for all of those attending to dance at once, and a seat for everyone to sit down at once to get their breath back. Seats around the dance floor are best - the nearer people are to the dance floor, the better atmosphere you’ll get. If they’re in another room, the Caller will have problems getting enough people up for each dance.

You don't need a stage for musicians, but it's great if you do. In either case, leave plenty of room for the band and clear their area completely. The Band will provide amplification and let you borrow it for the raffle draw and other announcements. They'll need at least one 13 amp plug within easy reach, good lighting, and their playing area to be completely dry (of rainwater, that is).

Ceilidh dancing can be done almost anywhere. Make sure there are no obstructions - loose carpets need sticking down with gaffer tape, and dusty barns need sweeping out at least twice to save bronchial attacks. Even a rucked-up mat or unlevel floor could give you a nasty claim for personal injury damages.Thick carpets and/or central heating make dancing feel a bit like swimming in treacle, but even then it's still possible.

If you're thinking of holding the dance outside, or in a marquee or a barn of any sort, then you've got the temperature to consider if it’s going to be draughty, particularly for those sitting-out a dance. Even English summers can be cool outside after 9.15pm. Options include starting earlier, or hiring one or two of those gas turbine-looking space heater thingies to give the place a blast of heat before the dance and in the break. Or you might not need any of those.

The Band must be under cover whether your dance is inside or out. A sprinkle of rain could make their amplifiers and microphones go up in smoke, their expensive instruments to warp and their hair go rusty.