The Ups and Downs of Organising DERT 2004

[Rewind two years – it's Whitby Folk Week, and Martin Hanley has been cornered by Phil Heaton. At least one of them is ever so slightly tipsy]

Phil: “So when are we going to have DERT in Bath, then? How about in two years?”

Martin: “<hic>OK, you're on.”

[Fast forward now to a year later, two weeks before DERT 2003 in Glasgow]

Northgate: “We've decided we're not going to help with DERT.”

Martin: “Bugger.”

Location, location, location

The fortnight between Northgate pulling out and DERT 2003 (where I'd have to give the details of next year's competition) were a little frantic, with much visiting and phoning potential accommodation venues.

I eventually thought of the Pavilion, a spacious venue in the centre of Bath more used to wrestling competitions than sword dancing. At least the staff were used to fat sweaty men in underpants. The initial quote of 6500 for the weekend was a bit of a surprise, but I played my trump card (the leader of Bath City Council used to be in Northgate) and price dropped to a more realistic level. It was still close timing though. The call giving the final OK to using the Pavilion came while I was at Bristol airport waiting to fly up to Glasgow for DERT.

Glasgow give me another headache

The competition in pubs was such a massive success that I had to do the same, and finding that many willing pubs in Bath could have been a problem. Still, faint heart never won fair maiden and all that, so I started the year-long trawl round our favourite rapper pubs. It has to be said that it was easier than I thought. The phrase “I want to bring fifty people to your pub for an hour or two” overcame all objections. One pub even offered its upstairs as a venue for the evening exhibition.

The competition

As the day approached, a dreadful calm stole over me. There was nothing I could do now but wait. Actually, I could have been printing out judging forms and putting together welcome packs and stuff like that, but obviously that didn't occur to me until the night before everyone arrived.

During the last week or so, The Bell and The Star asked to be added to the list of competition pubs, so I reorganised the tours to include them. Then I reorganised them again to make sure that Vince ended up at The Star. Black Swan had a man pull out and asked to share a number of tours between their two teams, so the tours were reorganised yet again to make this a reasonable proposition, although one tour group ended up with marathon-style treks across Bath because of it.

The competition itself was rather boring for me once I'd managed to get all the tours started. I managed to see most of the teams and visit most of the pubs, but frankly I was at a bit of a loose end. Everything just worked. The guides guided, the judges judged, the virgin judges didn't get bored and leave, and the teams were at the right places at the right times.

The evening also went very well. Phil organised the exhibition splendidly while Mike and I furiously totted up the scores. Thank God for spreadsheets and indeed for Phil who saved me from the stomach-curdling prospect of announcing the results.

After the awards, Sallyport honoured and embarrassed me in equal parts with the presentation of an engraved rapper. This, along with the relief I felt and obvious happiness of everyone there, had me welling up so I'm afraid I probably looked a little foolish (even compared to my normal state). (It didn't show. Ed.)

Virgin Judges

There was one change in the normal rules this year – the presence of Virgin Judges.

It occurred to me at some point (near last orders in a pub, no doubt) that the best people to judge dancers in a pub would be people who had never seen it before. Virgins. The people who wondered what the hell was going on every time we burst into their pub for a crawl. Theirs would be the task of awarding the Tyzack Trophy for the most entertaining or exciting performance.

I managed to find two such people who were willing to give up their Saturdays to sit in pubs (not tricky to find) and watch and judge rapper (this bit was harder).

On the day, they were told a little about what to expect and then dumped right in it at their first pub. They even made up their own scoring systems. Matthew decided to award the first team 70 marks and then judge the others relative to that. Pete came up with four categories with 25 marks each: did he like the music, were the team smart, did he like the dance, and finally he counted the maximum number of dancers in the team smiling at any one time and awarded five marks for each. You can tell he works with computers.

Quote of the day

North British in The Star: “Two gallons of Bass and twenty pickled eggs please” – now that is class!


It seems that everyone had a good time. I did too, except for the extreme panic I felt when various things went wrong, and of course being rather useless on the Saturday. The virgin judges enjoyed the day and produced interesting results (they even agreed with the rest of the judges on the two top places). And me? I was quite relieved when it all worked... and just a little bit smug.

The obligatory thank-you section

I'd like to thank the following people, without which DERT 2004 would not have happened, or at least would have been much worse:

Mike, Estelle, Phil, two guys named Chris, Jane, a whole gamut of Daves, Andrew, Brian, Corrie, Kev, Mike, Henry, Pete and Matthew (the virgin judges, who won't read this so why am I bothering to thank them?), Emma, Ron, Jeff, and finally North British and Sallyport for their most generous collections at DERT.

And thank you all for coming, it was a blast.