What is it?
The Southam Gathering is an annual August Bank Holiday folk dance weekend for about 200 dancers. Invitations are emailed in January when ticket sales open. We only sell full-weekend tickets, and these must be purchased in advance.
Every year we welcome newcomers to the gathering and we also greet many old friends, some of whom have been attending since its inauguration in 1995! The Gathering was started by Wendy Crouch who invited her dancing friends and it has continued as an invitation only event.
It is an event aimed at experienced and competent dancers who are particularly keen on English dance but probably enjoy some American too. You should have wide experience outside your own clubs and go to Folk Dance Festivals such as Lichfield and Eastbourne (now May Heydays), Playford Balls and folkdance houseparties as well as Saturday evening dances.
Although all dances will be called and/or walked through, dancers are expected to understand and follow all standard calls and figures as these won't be explained.
You should be able to confidently do figures such as a dolphin hey, Grand Square, Shetland reel, morris hey, three quarters of a figure eight, and for American - box circulate, flutterwheel.
Workshops are usually on fairly specific topics - "Variations on Heys" or "Dances published by Henry Playford" - while the more relaxed evening dances are less specific and generally labelled as "Playford", "American" or "Mixed". The main emphasis will be on English dancing but there will also be some American. Overall we seem to have a ratio of about a quarter to a fifth "American" and the rest "Playford" style dances. ("Playford" includes modern dances in that style, and "American" means both Contra and traditional Squares.)
It is held in Southam, a small town in Warwickshire, some distance South-East of Birmingham. The Gathering uses three halls, two in Southam, a five minute walk apart; the other a community centre five minutes drive away. Dancing starts on Friday evening and ends at about 4.30pm on Monday. We have three concurrent dances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings and have workshops in each hall during the day, with two sessions each morning and afternoon.
A weekend ticket gives you admission to any session which has space.
You will need to organise your own accommodation. Southam is not a tourist area, but there are a few bed and breakfasts, caravan and camp sites, and boutique hotels close by. Most of the big chains (Premier Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Innkeeper’s Lodge, Travelodge etc) have hotels within a ten mile radius, so it is not usually a problem finding accommodation even at the last minute.
You will probably need a car (the nearest station is Leamington Spa, a half-hour bus ride away). Parking in Southam is not a problem although it’s ideal if people car share for travel to and from their hotels. Walking between the two Southam halls is easy, but walking or cycling to the third venue is not recommended as it is via a very busy main road.
We expect all dancers to help by doing at least one task during the weekend, this can either be stewarding a session (i.e. checking tickets, closing the doors if the session becomes full, and being available to lead people out in the event of fire), making tea/coffee in a break, or helping washing up cups at the end of a break. We like two or three dancers to sign up to each duty so you will always have a helper.
If you would like to be considered for an invitation to the Southam Gathering please email us with some details of your dancing experience, your dance clubs as well as the names of other dancers who are aware of your abilities. We will consider your request but the committee reserves the right to include or remove dancers from the invitation list at its discretion. Newcomers who are added to the list will be invited for a probationary year but if they cause any concern they will not receive any further invitations.
If accepted we will forward some introductory information as well as an invitation.
We are always delighted to welcome newcomers who are competent dancers able to enjoy the weekend.
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