Sword dancers are keeping Boxing Day tradition alive

Redcar Sword Dancers at Hartlepool Folk Festival in October.
Redcar Sword Dancers at Hartlepool Folk Festival in October.

A traditional folk dance will return to delight people in Greatham once again this Boxing Day.

For the last 48 years the Redcar Sword Dancers have performed the village’s unique dance after reviving it in the 1960s.

Every year, around 100 people of all ages, enjoy the spectacle, performed by a team of 10 merry dancers, outside the gates to The Hospital of God in the middle of Greatham.

Brian Pearce, of the team, said: “We are looking forward to it and hope to continue doing it for a few more years yet.

“We always seem to get a good crowd. It can be weather dependant but if the weather’s good hopefully we will get a good turnout again this year.”

Greatham’s traditional long sword dance dates back to the mid 19th Century but is said to have been last performed by village men in the 1920s.

It was revived by the Redcar Sword Dancers in 1967 and has been performed in the village on Boxing Day ever since.

Outlining the story of the dance, Brian explained: “It is a short play where one of the characters is killed and is brought back to life by a quack doctor who comes along.

“Then we finish off with the dance again. Afterwards we have a good sing in the Hope and Anchor pub which is always well attended.”

Brian said in the far distant past, people in the high northern latitudes were concerned that the shortening days during the winter months meant that the sun was disappearing, possibly never to return.

The early 20th Century folklorists put forward the idea that sword dancing was a survival of ancient rites to encourage return with the lock, or star, being a symbol of the sun.

Brian added: “Whether you believe this or not, come along to Greatham, near Hartlepool on Boxing Day, Saturday, December 26, to see the Redcar Sword Dancers perform the traditional sword dance and play.”

The dance takes place on Front Street at noon.

For more information about the team’s activities call Brian on 07910 479922.