Boxing Day sword dance tradition is performed in village

A community came out in force as a Boxing Day tradition which dates back almost two centuries was performed.

The Greatham Sword Dance was carried out outside the gates to The Hospital Of God in Greatham Village at noon on Bank Holiday Monday for the past 50 years.

The annual Greatham sword dance underway on Boxing Day. Pictures by Tom Collins

The annual Greatham sword dance underway on Boxing Day. Pictures by Tom Collins

The ritual dates back more than 150 years but it was actually revived by the Redcar Sword Dancers in 1967.

Almost 100 people gathered outside the Hospital of God to see this year’s event, which combines long sword dancing to accordion music with the performing of a play unique to the village.

Brian Pearce, leader of the Redcar Sword Dancers and ‘King’ of the Greatham dance, told the Mail: “It’s been a really good event and it’s gone well yet again.

“We had rain last year but thankfully this time it’s stayed sunny and that has probably brought more people out to watch the performance.
“It’s very important for the area that we carry on traditions like this and there are always quite a few people who turn out for it.”

The annual Greatham sword dance underway on Boxing Day. Pictures by Tom Collins

The annual Greatham sword dance underway on Boxing Day. Pictures by Tom Collins

The play of the dance centres on one of the dancers who loses his head during the sword dance.

He then is brought back to life by a travelling ‘quack’ doctor and one of his mysterious remedies.

Over the years, the Redcar Dancers have performed at various different events and festivals both at home and abroad.

Venues have ranged from the bleakness of Northallerton Gaol to the grandeur of the world famous Royal Albert Hall in London.

However, they only perform the play element in Greatham on Boxing Day.

“We hope the tradition of the dance carries on for years to come,” added Brian.

“We practise this play and other dances every week, but we’d like it if more people got involved in the group as there isn’t that many of us.

“If anyone would like to join us they are more than welcome.”