Sheffield hosts national folk music and dance festival

Ceilidhs are a popular part of the  Inter Varsity Folk Dance Festival, coming to Sheffield this month
Ceilidhs are a popular part of the Inter Varsity Folk Dance Festival, coming to Sheffield this month

Folk lovers from across the country will descend on Sheffield later this month (February 23-25) for the 2018 Inter Varsity Folk Dance Festival.

Organised by the Ceilidh Society (CeilidhSoc) at the University of Sheffield, the festival will feature a packed programme of music sessions, ceilidhs, workshops, and performances by hundreds of morris dancers from around the country.

IVFDF was first held in Leeds in 1951 and is now the longest-running folk festival in the UK.

Each year a different university folk society hosts the festival, with Sheffield first playing host in 1953. This is the ninth time Sheffield has welcomed IVFDF – more than any other city.

The festival usually attracts around 1000 people, many of them students, but events are open to everyone. EVents take place around the main university campus and at the Octagon Centre.

Highlights of this year’s festival include high-energy ceilidhs from folk outfits the Melrose Quintet and Steamchicken, workshops covering everything from morris dancing to Playford – a 17th-century style of music and dance – and even a techno morris dance performance.

Christopher Fish, who is chairing the organising committee for this year’s festival, said: “Sheffield has a long history of hosting IVFDF, which is not surprising given the folk heritage the city has, with sessions, gigs and various types of dancing happening almost every night of the week.

“IVFDF is a great way for people to have a go at a whole range of folk activities at a fraction of a cost of some of the bigger summer festivals.

“We’re really excited to once again be welcoming folk fans to Sheffield and want to encourage anyone with an interest in folk to come and experience the festival.”

On the Saturday of the festival Sheffield will come alive with the sound of thousands of bells and clashing sticks, as morris teams from as far as Brighton, Bristol and Glasgow entertain crowds at various city centre locations.

The day of dance is being organised by Five Rivers Morris of Sheffield and will feature 14 teams from both the local area and across the country.

James Merrylees, squire of Five Rivers Morris, said: “We’re thrilled that IVFDF is back in Sheffield and to be helping to give folk fans a great weekend in our city.

“We’ve got a wealth of great morris teams here in Sheffield – more than anywhere else in the country –- so we really can claim to be the city of morris.

“Audiences here are really receptive, making for a brilliant atmosphere, which we’re sure our visiting teams will love.”

Steamchicken appear on Saturday night at the Octagon. Their 2017 album Look Both Ways was hailed a sharp turn left for one of the country’s leading ceilidh bands.

“It mixed British and Greek folk forms with musical theatre, jazz and soul.

The band consists of Ted Crum (harmonica-Peeping Tom, Somerville Gents) and his sons Matt (sop sax-Demon Barber XL) and Joe (drums), with Tim Yates (bass-Sweet Visitor Band, Blackbeard’s Tea Party, Shake the Chains, Albion Band)and Katy Oliver (trumpet-Just Say Nay).

Steamchicken are back in Sheffield for a gig at The Shakespeares on March 2.

For the full IVFDF programme and tickets, visit ivfdf-2018.ceilidhsoc.org