Sword dancers to keep Boxing Day tradition alive

The Greatham sword dance.

The Greatham sword dance.

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A revival of an ancient Boxing Day tradition unique to Greatham village will mark its 50th anniversary this year.

Folk dancers will perform the Greatham Sword Dance outside the gates to The Hospital Of God at noon on Bank Holiday Monday.

It is very much part of the calender and we are looking forward to it

Brian Pearce, Greatham Sword Dance King

It will be 50 years since 1967 when the Redcar Sword Dancers revived the tradition which is believed to date back more than 150 years.

The performance combines long sword dancing to accordion music with the performing of a play unique to Greatham.

Brian Pearce, leader of the Redcar Sword Dancers and ‘King’ of the Greatham dance, said: “It is very much part of the calender and we are looking forward to it.

“I expect we will see lots of people that we haven’t seen since last year.

“We usually get a good crowd watching us. Hopefully the weather will be better than last year which was the first time it rained on us in 49 years.”

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

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

Over the years, the Redcar dancers performed at many different events and festivals both at home and abroad.

Venues have ranged from the starkness of Northallerton Gaol to the opulence of the Royal Albert Hall in London.

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

Brian added: “I think it’s important to keep these traditions going as best we can.”

Everyone is welcome to watch the dance, which takes place on Front Street opposite Greatham Community Centre.