That’s all, folks, as 221 join the band

Worlds Biggest Ceilidh attempt at Sheffield's Kelham Island Museum
Worlds Biggest Ceilidh attempt at Sheffield's Kelham Island Museum

THE final tally was 221.

Folk musicians strummed, fiddled, whistled, squeezed and drummed at Kelham Island Industrial Museum in an attempt to create the world’s biggest ceilidh band.

Whether they did or they didn’t wasn’t really clear. They certainly beat their three previous attempts over the past 14 years, the previously highest total being 164 in 2004.

The nearest official comparison South Riding Folk Network could find was more than 6,000 people getting together in Norway - but they were playing mainly brass instruments.

So the Sheffield supergroup could well go in the record for their collection of musicians performing English traditional music for social dancing.

But that wasn’t the main point. “It was secondary to having a good time,” said Ron Day, who helped to organise Sunday’s event with wife Jenny.

And there was another important aim - to raise money for two charities in celebration of the lives of two local folk enthusiasts, Malcolm Douglas and Mike Steel.

Proceeds were going to Macmillan Cancer Care and the Intensive Home Nursing Service. “We probably raised just short of £1,000 for the two charities,” said Ron.

The ceilidh challenge started in Sheffield in 1998 when 124 musicians got together. Further attempts clocked up 164 and, three years ago, 155.

This time the response was even greater as the band played three tunes under the guidance of Robin Garside.

“It was the biggest we have ever had,” said Ron. “It was a nice day, which helped, and the place was packed. “People had a really nice afternoon, with such a warm and friendly atmosphere. The Fat Cat did the bar.”

There was no brass on this occasion. “Last time we had a couple of tubas,” said Ron. “There were fiddles, guitars, a clarinette or two, a lot of whistles, plenty of bodhrans and a whole range of concertinas and melodeons. And there were lots of children shaking things.”

This was the last of the huge ceilidhs in Sheffield. “We are not doing another one. We have thrown down the gauntlet for somebody else. Let’s see if somebody else can do better and we’ll go along and support them.”

Malcolm Douglas, who died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 54, played regularly at local pubs and was heavily involved in local folk organisations. He was renowned nationally for his encyclopaedic knowledge of traditional folk song.

Mike Steel, who died of bowel cancer at the age of 58, danced and played for many local folk dance teams.

Ron Day said they would both have been “delighted” with the afternoon. “They would have thoroughly enjoyed it. It was their kind of event.”