Clog dancers descend on Hexham for contest

When it comes to the title of champion clog dancer of the North East, the ladies have what it takes

Pupils from Burradon Community Primary School, learn how to clog dance with Brenda Walker
Pupils from Burradon Community Primary School, learn how to clog dance with Brenda Walker

When it comes to the title of champion clog dancer of the North East, the ladies have what it takes.

In the 36 years since the championship was revived, female dancers have kicked their male counterparts into touch.

Since 1977 all of the championship titles have been won by women.

And tomorrow that won’t change as the bid for the Northern Counties Clog Dancing championship belt will be contested by an all-female line up when current champion Rebecca Christopher from Wall in Northumberland will be defending her crown.

The championships event will see competitors from County Durham, Tyne & Wear and Northumberland taking to the stage at the Queen’s Hall in Hexham.

 

The event includes both junior and senior dancers, with classes from under eights, under 12s and under 16s through to open competitions for novice dancers and groups, as well as the Northern Counties Championship itself.

A section where participants dance on a two foot square, six-inch high glass-topped pedestal, will also form part of the programme, which begins at 10am and runs through the day.

Clog dancing championships can be traced back to the mid-19th Century, when competitive events were held in halls and theatres across the north of England. This was especially the case in mining communities, where clog dancing was very much a male pastime.

The Clog Championship in the North East lapsed in the mid 1950s but was revived in 1977 by champion Johnson Ellwood, and aside from a short break in the mid 1990s, has taken place annually ever since.

Organiser and five-times former champion Brenda Walker lives in Newbrough, near Hexham and has written three books on the subject.

Brenda said: “Clog dancing is deeply rooted in the region’s industrial heritage, and competition among mining communities across the North East was as fierce as in any modern day sport. Dancers need to combine accuracy, grace, creativity, rhythm and physicality, as clog dancing routines are very physically demanding.

“The standard is very high across both our senior and junior sections, and we’re looking forward to a very competitive and exciting event. Clog dancing was traditionally a male preserve, but female dancers have dominated the championships since they were revived. Miners used to do it so it isn’t as if the boys can’t do it.”

But that could change in the coming years.

Brenda said: “We now have a group of boys who are very keen and competitive and are working hard. They have loads of potential. Perhaps we might see one of them following in their 19th Century ancestors not too far in the future.

“More people are dancing now than for a long time. It’s a good way of keeping fit and people also want to keep the tradition going, “

The 2013 Northern Counties Clog Dancing Championships are sponsored by Tynedale-based Footprint Public Relations.

Tickets for the event can be purchased on the day at £4 for adults, children free.

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