English (and Welsh) country dancing

Back to school for Photography 2

Last week we had to produce six photos, so I looked up local events. I found the Stroud Folk Festival was scheduled. We had actually been along the previous year and I knew it would be a good opportunity to take colourful, lively photographs.

A few things you need to know first.

  1. Clog dancing is great fun. Working people throughout the UK used to wear clogs to work. These were wooden soled leather shoes that enabled the wearer to walk though wet and dirty conditions without getting water logged shoes. Although associated with the Lancashire cotton mills, where I am from, they were equally popular in different industries and areas.
  2. Morris Dancing is a particular type of English country dancing, dating back to about 1450. There are many versions but what we watched included Cotswold style, Border Morris, and Welsh Morris dancing. And there is a Lancashire version too.
  3. There is a local tradition of “black face” Morris Dancing. This has proved controversial – see this comprehensive Wikipedia entry.

Clog dancing

Contemporary clogging is fun to watch – not dissimilar from tap dancing – and if you get the chance do participate do give it a go.

Modern clog dancing

The Welsh version is somewhat different. Mererid, who is only 14 and also accompanied the Welsh dancers on the fiddle, was very impressive and accomplished.

Mererid, dressed in traditional Welsh skirt, apron and jacket.

Morris Dancing


The Musicians were very talented and energetic – supported in this case by a man in sheep’s clothing. As you know the Cotswolds is wool country, and this group were the local Stroud team, supporting the ladies in their red, white and green outfits.

Gwerinwyr Gwent 

Perhaps the most interesting group for me were the Welsh dancers. Their beautifully made outfits in Welsh flannel were handmade to fit and I loved all the details down to the brooches they wore to close their scarves.


The modern blackface dancers have adapted to worries that this old tradition may be misunderstood. Nowadays they have introduced more colour and more modern approaches.


Some outtakes.

Nick and I practiced at home first, trying to understand how to set the camera to capture the movement of the dance and get good, in-focus shots of the group. Here I am prancing around with some tray cloths. Although I look quite serious we laughed our socks off. And then we were ready to drive to Stroud, find a good parking place, and get cracking. Unfortunately it rained all day. We managed to find a great shop that made Falafel sandwiches with five balls in them.

Stroud is a nice Cotswold town even when there is no folk festival to enjoy. They have a Farmers’ Market every Saturday and some nice antique and charity shops. Towards the end a dear dog, wet from the down pours, seemed to enjoy the spectacle.

Bedraggled dog


4 Responses

  1. Jenny

    These are great photos. Particularly like the one of Mererid taking up at her. An interesting angle. And I guess given the crowd not easy to stoop down and then get everything in focus. I also like the sitting older lady. I love people shots but am always too shy to ask but of course in that setting people have dressed up to be noticed so in a sense being photographed is par for the course.

    • Vancouver Barbara

      It is said of Bill Cunningham, he of NYT fame, that he never asked anyone if he could take their picture. He just snapped away.

  2. Vancouver Barbara

    I love the folk in patchwork vests with bells and ribbons at their knees. The costumes on others are beautiful – the fitted dresses in beautiful fabrics and those two little buttons…the lady with her brooch gleaming at you. The soggy doggy is a treat. Oh yes, dear Mererid. She looks marvellous wearing her beautiful costume. How could I forget the amazing sheep. Such a wonderful representation of ovine elegance. And you dancing around having fun. A great photo essay.

  3. mrsmole

    What a hoot for you to see and hear such music and dancing and passion! Clothing from a bygone era and colors!!!
    It reminds me of my Basque roots and their folk dancing and colors. They even have folks dress up in sheep’s clothing too. What a lovely albeit wet day out!

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