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Grenoside Sword – Sheffield Christmas Traditions (Part 2)

December 28, 2010

“It doesn’t matter what the weather’s been like all up to Christmas, it’s always horrible on the day we go and dance at Grenoside.” – wise words from a friend yesterday, whose Irish dancing on the street outside had been rudely impeded by the snow coming down and forming an icy, slushy layer on the tarmac.

The Grenoside Sword Dance is a tradition that dates back to…well noone’s sure really, but traceable to 1750, which is the oft marked start of the industrial period. What this does mean, then, is that unlike many of the traditions in Yorkshire and the North of England, this one predates the industrial revolution around here, and unlike (for example) rapper sword, or step clog, did not come out of the working class communities of industry, but more likely a rural setting. The ‘kit’ worn by the team is particularly elaborate compared to other sword dancing traditions, including a thick jacquard paisley jacket with red trim, and my favourite ‘Freddy Mercury’ trousers.

The dance is part of the ‘Long Sword’ tradition, danced to a slow, marching 4/4 rhythm rather than the hair-raising rapper dance which is danced to fast 6/8 jigs. In common with rapper however, is the locking ‘star’ shapes that many people recognise. This in fact features on the municipal sign as you enter Grenoside village, which states ‘Home of the Grenoside Sword Dance’.

The Grenoside Sword team is made up solely of men from the area, or have connections to it (truth be told I’m unsure of the recruitment rules!) and is not danced anywhere else in the world. The dance starts bang on 11am on Boxing Day, after which everyone soon retires to one of Grenosides pubs, which provide hot drinks for people from around 10! As you can see, people come from around the region to watch the dancing, and Grenoside nowadays invite guest teams to come and perform too. This year this was two female dance teams, Pecsaetan Women’s Morris, and Sciorr Irish Dance. Unfortunately (and I was playing for Sciorr on the day) Irish dance shoes don’t fare too well on wet slush, so the girls danced inside the pubs, being careful not to kick any punters or bump into the low beamed ceilings.

As the pubs fill up and the increasing unlikelihood of getting a drink in under twenty minutes at the bar means it seems like it might be time to leave. It also feels like 4pm, but really it’s only barely lunchtime! On better days it might be nicer to stay longer, but sadly the cold and the damp mean I want to get off quick this time. The best thing (for me) about this day is seeing lots of friendly and familiar faces after the Christmas slump. Below are some pictures I took in 2008, when the weather was decidedly brighter, and more lovely women’s teams.



Persephone Musicians

Sciorr - with dry ground!

Sciorr - with dry ground!

Pecsaetan in 2008

What are you all doing this ‘Twixtmas‘ week?

Hope you’re indulging and catching up on various things – I’m back to work tomorrow before New Year.

Have a good one,

Rosie @ LS


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