"Ceilidh... a ceilidh?!" The Brum choir's summer social, by Andy

“Would you like to write a blog about the Ceilidh, Andy?”

Yes, of course I would. I have no idea what a blog is, as yet. But! Well, here goes.

So the event was the Choir with No Name Birmingham’s annual social. Every year the Choir with No Name Birmingham has an event to thank all the members and volunteers for their support over the last year. At our last members’ meeting, we all made different suggestions for this year's social, and one such suggestion was a ceilidh...which initially put a frown on a lot of our faces!

“Ceilidh?...a ceilidh?” was the cry that was heard around various cups of teas and coffees.

However, luckily members Robert, Victoria and Deanna knew exactly what a ceilidh was as they had recently attended one at different event, and enjoyed themselves so much that they were able to convince us that we’d love it too.

FYI, it turns out that a ceilidh is a Scottish folk dance - the sort of thing that you can wear your kilt to (if you have one) and all the ladies can wear their smart frocks and everyone gets to dance around each other and generally have a good and sweaty time (dancing is energetic...!).

We meet every Thursday evening from 6pm - 9pm at the Carrs Lane Centre, which happens to be on Carrs Lane right in the centre of Birmingham - a great central location for all members and volunteers to get to. This particular night, everyone was running late. The traffic was awful (although it seemed normal to some...!) as there had been a road incident close by. So we arrived to find a lot of us outside, waiting and wondering what was going on. But finally they opened up and our trusty volunteers were there awaiting with tea and coffee pots in hand.

The nice thing about everyone running late was that we all ended up chipping in to help set up and make the place look a little more festive. So balloons were blown and streamers put about. The band arrived in their tartan attire and set up their guitar, accordion and drums - really good of people to give up their time to do things like this for others.

It was nice to see their familiar faces: our wonderful choir director Pete Churchill playing the accordion, with Paul Carroll on drums and Steve Ison on guitar who have both played for some of our concerts in the past.

And then we were ready and the dancing began. Or so we thought. Turns out that for ceilidh dancing you need to be told exactly what to do by a ‘caller’ (this helped some of us at least...!). And we had the lovely Nicola there to do that for us. And didn’t she do it well! She spent the evening calling out the specific movements and directions for us to take. I’m sure we almost trampled over her several times during the evening!

Jigging and spinning and running around, sometimes the right way sometimes not, as you can imagine. It was great with the boys in the band playing and us all running around and laughing and trying to get us much air in our lungs for the next dance.

Why is it that dancers can only count to eight?!

Nicola chose a nice mix of couple dances for us to try, all with rather funny names! ‘Dashing White Sergeant’, ‘Flying Scotsman’, ‘Gay Gordons’, ‘Orcadian’ and ‘Strip the Willow’.

Partner dances. Small group dances. Swapping-partner dances. Line dances. Circle dances. You name it, we did it. We learnt how to skip, hop and jump. To walk backwards, forwards, to the side. To do-si-do, promenade and spin. All in time to pretty pacey music.

The final one had to be the best dance of the night: 'Strip the Willow'. We all faced our partner and formed two long lines down the length of the room. The idea is to literally imagine that you are stripping the willow off a tree: the top couple spin together, then spin the next person down the line, then come together, then the next person down the line, etc. until the whole willow line has been stripped (or danced with...!). Once the first top couple are halfway down the room, the new top couple can start. Turns out that this was a very energetic and exciting dance. I was dancing with volunteer Michelle and we nearly flew away we spun round so vigorously!!

So the highlight of the evening:

No, not getting to dance with all the volunteers(!), but the Haggis Supper. What a treat to have such holy food served up to us. Fresh from the glens, you could smell the heather on the haggis (well I hope that it was heather).

So the traditional supper of haggis, neeps and tatties was served, or mince for those who might not like haggis. There was also a veggie haggis option although I'm not sure if that’s not a oxymoron - I'll have to check?

Also, we had lovely themed cupcakes and shortbread made by the lovely Beth, who makes us cakes every month so that we can celebrate our members’ birthdays! Totally yummy!

But the whole evening was a success IMHO as they say these days. This might be my first blog, but I'm a little street!

It was a fun evening had by all, everyone seemed to enjoy it and join in; those who didn't, sat and watched and gave encouragement to those dancing (well, to those of us trying to dance at least).

And I think that if you had a vote (very topical these days, especially if it’s Scottish) we’d all vote to do it again.

This blog post was written by Choir with No Name Birmingham member Andy, with the support and input of volunteer Michelle. Thanks both for a lovely piece!!