Steeped in tradition - Leigh Folk

June 26, 2018 by Ray Morgan

For more than 10 years, my partner and I have always run a stage at Leigh Folk Festival, but this year we decided to have a break. We love running events, but sometimes it's good to attend things as a punter to ring the changes. 
This weekend, for the first time in more than a decade, we were just punters of Leigh Folk Festival. No musicians to chase, no Open Mic competition to judge, no stall to man (don't get me wrong, we've had a great time doing this over the years). We parked up with folding chairs (not our first rodeo) in Library Gardens on Saturday with a picnic hamper, beers and suncream, and enjoyed the social side of the festival. We caught up with friends, wandered among the stalls, listened to music and watched ceilidhs and had a lovely time. 
One of the striking things that I enjoyed for the first time - properly - this year was the procession on Sunday in Leigh's Old Town. It usually happens around 1pm, which was always prime time for our stage to be "happening" - we would break for 15mins or so until the dance procession was over, back to our roster of musicians, poets and comedians. 
This year, I was determined to watch the procession in its entirety, actually outside, not squashed up against a grimy window in the scout hut (RIP) or the hot-box sailing club, peering at Morris dancers until we got back to our gig. In fact, as we walked over the bridge to the Old Town, the first thing we heard was someone walking along the street with bells jingling around their ankles. If that isn't the sound of an English festival, I don't know what is! 
Jo and I made our way, with a cold beer in hand, to Old Leigh High Street and watched the procession go by. Beginning with bag pipes, traditional dancers moved the length of the High Street to the same beat, whether they were belly dancers, traditional Morris dancers, or Leigh's own dance side, Cockleshell Clog. It really is a captivating sight and made me feel quite teary - this is part of our cultural history and people are still doing these lively, steeped-in-tradition dances. And all ages too - from the little girl who can't have been older than 5 on an accordion to the punky, blue-haired Royal Liberty Morris dancers whacking metal poles and making frankly a compelling racket. 
I can't explain why I felt emotional watching the procession but I did, and it's a massive credit to Claire Jarvis and Oliver Knight who organise the dancing for the festival. It felt great to watch, enjoy, kick back and take in all the brilliant music and atmosphere that I often missed from being inside a venue every year. Huge thanks to the Leigh Folk Festival team for making such an enjoyable weekend happen.

To read all of Ray's previous blogs please click here 


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