Over 550 children gathered at venues across Portsmouth this week for three days of live music and dancing. Called ‘The Big Ceilidh’, the events saw children from 21 Portsmouth schools come together to learn English folk dances under the expert guidance of Hampshire step dancer and teacher Jo Harmer.
Big Ceilidh Week is the culmination of six weeks’ dancing and music making in the schools. For the third consecutive year, the events have been run by FolkActive, a locally based company whose aim is support schools who want to raise awareness of our traditional culture in active and creative ways.
For the first time this year, teachers in six schools prepared young musicians to play alongside the professional folk musicians.
Different music groups played at each of the six Big Ceilidhs, including:
- beginner ukuleles, Highbury Primary and Newbridge Junior schools
- recorder group, Northern Parade Junior School
- young violinists, Craneswater Junior School
- a 25-strong Primary School orchestra from St Swithuns
- and a music group from St Edmund's Secondary School.
Popular local band Jigfoot supported the musicians from the schools who played for their classmates to dance. The young musicians performed like true professionals, and the rest of the children had a great time dancing with children from other schools and getting to know their new partners.
So that the children could practise in advance, the schools were sent instructions for the dances; these were selected to be suitable for older KS1 and KS2 classes to learn within a limited time.
The Big Ceilidhs are generously funded by the Portsmouth Music Hub, and are free to participating schools. Some of the schools have also benefited from in-school workshops provided by the Hub’s ‘Live Music Portsmouth’ initiative, which are led by folk dancers and musicians.