Keeping tradition alive

The traditional Greatham Sword Dance performed by Geoff Harrison (centre) and (from right to left) Brian Pearce, Mike Loftus, Geoff Porte, Tim James, Dominic Price (hidden) and Dan Iceton. Photo by Christine Pearce

The traditional Greatham Sword Dance performed by Geoff Harrison (centre) and (from right to left) Brian Pearce, Mike Loftus, Geoff Porte, Tim James, Dominic Price (hidden) and Dan Iceton. Photo by Christine Pearce

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AN ancient traditional dance will be performed in Greatham on Boxing Day – hot on the heels of the dancers’ appearance on national TV.

Redcar Sword Dancers have performed the dance in the centre of Greatham for more than 40 years.

But its roots in Greatham are believed to go back more than 150 years.

The distinctive dancers in their red jackets, decorated with ribbons, will perform to the public at midday on Boxing Day.

The team have bene entertaining the villagers since they revived the old custom in 1967.

Brian Pearce, sword dance leader, also known as the king, said: “This will be our 46th appearance at Greatham on Boxing Day.

“The last team to dance in the village on a regular basis was in the 1920s.

“We usually get a good crowd, probably about 100 people turn up and watch every year.

“If the weather is nice, which we are praying for, we should get another good turnout.”

The team and The Greatham Sword Dance was featured in the BBC4 programme, A Very English Winter about English winter customs and traditions last Sunday.

Brian added: “We were very pleased with how the dance came across. The programme makers did a good job in showing all these different traditions that still exist in the country.”

He said the Greatham dance is a unique survival of an ancient custom that was once widespread across the north of England.

Interwoven with the dance is the “beheading” of one of the actors and his revival by the use of miraculous cures of a travelling doctor.

After the 1920s, it is believed the dance was only performed occasionally in Greatham, including by a schoolboys’ team in 1953 to celebrate the Queen’s coronation celebrations.

The dance will be performed outside the gates of the Hospital of God, in the middle of the village, on Wednesday.

Afterwards everyone is invited back to the Hope and Anchor pub nearby for a drink and sing-song.