Press Release, 21 January 2016
Goodall House won the Teesdale School Interhouse Competition for a second successive year at a special “Celebration of Teesdale Talent” event held just before Christmas at Teesdale School. The team, captained by Ebony Grace-Morgan, held off stiff competition in the final from the School’s two other houses, Faraday and Newton, to retain the John Browell trophy. The trophy is named after a traditional folk musician and collector from Yorkshire, who gave the school a set of steel longswords on permanent loan.
Longsword dancing is a traditional ritual dance that was common in northern England over a century ago. It would typically take place around the turn of the year when it was danced by young farm labourers who would have little employment and could earn a few coppers dancing round the “big houses” in the dale. Mike Bettison, researching on behalf of the Music at the Heart of Teesdale project (“M@HoT” for short), discovered references to sword dance in and around Barnard Castle. Mike, together with dance tutor Patrick Langdon, and Neil Diment of M@HoT, have since been teaching a longsword dance to students from the school.
“We’ve run a full day of dance workshops for year 7 students as part of their music and dance curriculum at the school for the past four years now,” said Mike. “We’d love to hear from any older residents in the dale if they have any memories of learning such a dance at school, or indeed of being taught any other folk music, song or dance traditions.”
“It’s great that we now have a group of youngsters in the school who practise regularly, a sort of lunchtime longsword dance club,” said Neil. “We thought we’d try and run the competition to give them something to work towards and get more youngsters involved.”
The competition was judged by Co-Principal at Teesdale School Simon Maguire along with Patrick, who has been dancing longsword for over thirty years, and David Bradford, who is founder member of the Spen Valley Longsword dance team in Yorkshire, which both Patrick and John Browell formerly danced with.
The packed school hall, full of enthusiastic local primary school children and older folks resident in the dale, enjoyed a closely-fought, “Strictly”-style dance off between the three teams. “Longsword dancing requires communication, co-ordination and above all teamwork, and provides a fantastic opportunity for students to develop these skills while celebrating their cultural heritage,”said Mr Maguire.
“I was really pleased to be invited to judge this event”, added David. “Youth longsword teams are something of a rarity these days, and to see a competition with three teams within one school is probably unique. I was impressed by the skill and enthusiasm of the dancers—longsword is not an easy form of traditional dance, but these young people showed a determination that was commendable. I hope they continue to maintain the tradition.”
Goodall House now get to keep the trophy for another year. Each dancer in the winning team also received a specially engraved medal. Neil Diment presented the newly-engraved trophy to the team at their House Assembly in January. Assistant Head of the victorious Goodall House, Tina Masterman, who had organised the competition in school, said, “I was really impressed with the way students in the school embraced the opportunity to have a go at Longsword again this year. Teams consisted of students from year 7 to year 9 and were a mix of boys and girls, to show that anyone can compete for a bit of fun. I am pleased that this is becoming a regular feature in our school Celebration of Talent.”