It’s been an exciting time for us… as it has been for the world outside our lovely Littleborough bubble.  I have had a bit of an exciting time at work too, and some time in London, which meant some time to myself… which, naturally led to some time to take stock and reflect.


Now, some of our childerbeast are about to take part in the Lancashire and Cheshire Clog Dance championships, which is fantastic.  The best thing about it, for me, is that our young folk are going "out there" to represent our group.  To show people what we do and what they have taken from what we do to make their own individual and collective pieces.  It’s fantastic.  Now, I know there is a certain degree of trepidation and nervousness that comes with such things.  Putting yourself on a stage to be judged is a very brave thing to do.  And I have to say that I’ve been concerned about the stress and anxiety that some of our young-uns have expressed about this.  There’s a sort of excited ambivalence about these championships:  On the one hand, they seem (quite rightly) pleased and motivated by their abilities and potential.  On the other, there are signs of the inherent risk that comes with being judged.  What will people think of me?  Will I let myself down?  Will I represent my group well?  Will I be able to be at my best?  I’ve looked into this:  obviously, this is not unusual about any sort of performance, but it seems that it’s  a particularly tricky and complex thing with dance.  I’ve had various conversations with various young-uns throughout these weeks to try and understand this and I find myself unable to stop myself from responding - by saying the same thing (in different ways).  Be proud.  Please.  Be proud.  


Easy for me to say, I know:  I’m proud of you all, you glorious youth of Oakenhoof.  Of what you have learned, of how you conduct yourselves.  Of your seemingly endless supply of talent and creativity.  Of how you are able to be yourself, within this crazy diverse group of people, and simultaneously manage to retain your own identities and blend beautifully with everyone else.  It’s amazing and magic.  


And there are too many people in this world who don’t get to say what they think or be who they are.  Those of us who are lucky enough to be free should enjoy that.  Blimey, it’s not that long ago when it would have been unthinkable to have women clog dancing!  


Pride was amazing, wasn’t it?  We were very busy trying to be good at maypole dancing whilst walking at the time, so we perhaps didn’t appreciate how amazing it was.  But, this week, I was in a lovely bookshop in London called Gay’s The Word, purchasing literature for my lass.  And I was having a chat with the very helpful and kind shop person about Pride.  I found myself full of pride, telling him about our maypole.  And he was thrilled for us.  It got me thinking about how we are proud.  I’ve seen that from the surveys you’ve very kindly completed.  We’re proud on so many levels, from just being glad to be part of a lovely group and happy to share that with others to the full-to-bursting we feel when our youngsters perform their championship steps.  And there’s no better way than gathering behind our beautiful banner and walking or dancing in procession.


Our banner is truly beautiful.  It moves me when I look at it and I can’t quite believe it’s ours.  The painting by Geoff is sublime.  To me, it is somehow alive.  Geoff tells us more about the banner here.  We often talk about our banner and I was chatting to Wodge this week about it and the song, “Raise Your Banner High”, which we’ve been thinking about singing.  It’s a song written in 1984 by John Tams, as part of a play to mark the 150th anniversary of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.  The song became part of the repertoire of picketing miners and trade unionists.  John said: "it got sung on the picket line, which I thought was about as big a tribute as could be paid to anybody, to be so incorporated - that was enough for me."  This song resonates with the values that are important to many of us and I think it’s as beautiful as our banner, which references the importance of communities standing for equality and liberty.  


So we’re going to give this beautiful song a go.  Let’s see if we can capture some of those values in our performance.  


This is therefore, a very long-winded way of letting you know that this Tuesday, at the music practise session after Cloggin, I’d like us to have a go at learning this song. I’ve asked Wodge if he’s ok to lead it and he’s happy to give it a go.  Lyrics attached iin the music section of the site and I’ve also included a little video so you can get a feel for the way it sounds.  

See you soon!  Hels x