Orkney Ceilidh Weekend 2019 took place in Kirkwall from 12th until 14th April.   

What an opening on Friday 12th – the strains of Dawn and Tina playing the pipes on the steps of the Pickaquoy Centre on a nice Spring Evening then taking their music into the Arena to mark the 13th Orkney Ceilidh Weekend. 

There was something for everyone to choose from – 8 workshops over the three days, a ceilidh each evening and the Sunday afternoon family concert with Kirkjuvagr Ceilidh Band. Three bands played for the events over the weekend – Robert Whitehead and the Danelaw Dance Band, Kirkjuvagr Ceilidh Band and Lee’s Band who played in the first Ceilidh.  The programme of dances for the three evenings had 70 different dances on it!  In addition each class demonstrated one dance learned at a session.  All the events were very well attended.  The choices for workshops were, Sequence by Lesley Gunn from Thurso, Set Dances with Stuart and Carol Hay, Dances from Orkney’s Past with Neil and Daisy, Dancing in the Isles with Dawn Johnston and Ceilidh Dances with Mabel Besant.  A great way to share dances.

Thank you to Kirkjuvagr Ceilidh Band for making a super afternoon on Sunday and to the acts: Belt Hid Oot, Jo Phillby & Elaine Grieve, Karen Tweed, Move Orkney and the Kirkjuvagr dancers. Between acts the floor filled with grannies, grandads, mums and dads and bairns of all ages for dances like the Gay Gordon’s and Eva Three Step.  The two hours passed in a flash.  


Fringe Events

Birsay:  The Scapa Flow Bus Tour to Birsay left Kirkwall at 1.30pm with guides Dawn Johnston and Kathleen Wood on board telling the history of Kirkwall, its’ Distilleries, Scapa Flow, Standing Stones of Stenness, Kitchener’s Memorial plus adding many facts about farming, fishing, wildlife, the seasons and much more.  Once at Birsay Hall, Lorna Fotheringhame delivered a super workshop taking in dances connected with the route taken. The Kirkwall Two Step, The Distillery Reel, The Longhope Lifeboat, The Stenness War Dance, The Ring of Brodgar, The Barony Waltz and A Reel for Johnny (a dance written by Jessie Stuart for Johnny Johnston, from Birsay, who was our Chairman for 18 years) .

Following the workshop the hall filled to capacity for the lovely dinner served by the Birsay Committee.  Numbers were swelled by the 30 members of the Edinburgh University Renaissance Singers, who were in Orkney for two concerts, booking at the last minute, making it a sell-out event. What an enthusiastic dance followed to the lively music from Kirkjuvagr Ceilidh Band!  At half time the Birsay Hall Committee served delicious home bakes with tea and coffee.  Many thanks to all who worked hard and made this such a memorable event. We are so lucky to have Birsay Community Association willing to host a Fringe Event. 


Rendall:  On a cold but clear evening, and a bus full to capacity, we headed out to the Rendall Hall for the second and final Fringe Event of 2019.  We were served super mince and tatties on arrival then it was on to a lively programme of dancing with music from Robert Whitehead and the Danelaw Dance Band.  There was a welcome break in the middle where we were served bannocks and cheese, shortbread and duff with tea and coffee.  Yum!  Again 1st class Orcadian hospitality! After the drawing of the raffle it was back to the second half of the programme of dancing. 


I note that there has been a suggestion this year for going to the isles in future – this has been done in the past (Rousay and Hoy) but sadly it came to an end due to the cost of hiring a ferry to take dancers back to the Mainland.  We are so fortunate that Rendall and Birsay Community Associations took on board to host the Fringe Event experience for dancers again this year. Thank you!

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