Annual Greatham Sword Dance takes place in Boxing Day tradition

A unique folk dance with swords was performed in Greatham on Boxing Day in an annual tradition.

Thursday, 26th December 2019, 3:15 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th December 2019, 6:01 pm

The Greatham Sword Dance originated in the village and is believed to date back to 1800s.

It has been re-enacted by the Redcar Sword Dancers every year in the village for more than 50 years, having been revived back in the 1960s.

Dozens of people turned out to watch the dance and play, which was performed at noon outside the gates to the Hospital of God.

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The Greatham village sword dance. Picture by FRANK REID
The Greatham village sword dance. Picture by FRANK REID

It is the last surviving example of a play combined with a sword dance to be performed in the whole country.

The humourous play is about a family argument ending in the ‘beheading’ of a character who is then brought back to life by a passing doctor.

The play is told lines of verse by the dancers who wear distinctive red jackets combined with an intricate dance using the swords.

Brian Pearce, of the Redcar Sword Dancers, said: “It started in Greatham in about the 1840s. We’re very pleased to be able to keep the dance going year on year.

The Greatham village sword dance. Picture by FRANK REID

“This is our 53rd year. It’s a bit of nonsense but the audience enjoy it.

“We get a good turnout every year and we get a lot of support from the village.

“It is one of those Christmas traditions that we wouldn’t like to see die.”

Among those in the audience this year was father and son Chris and Andy Rutherford from Billingham and Andy’s nephew Archie Warren aged five.

The Greatham village sword dance. Picture by FRANK REID

Chris, 62, said: “Our ancestors are from Greatham and I used to come with my dad.

“It is just something we have carried on through the generations.”Andy, 24, added: “I’ve been coming here all my life. It’s not Christmas without it.”

But it was the first time for Susan Kitson from Ingleby Barwick.

She said: “I wanted to come last year but unfortunately didn’t make it.

“My daughter who is visiting from London heard about it. I thought it was very good.”