Lost Rapper Teams:
I arranged to have lunch with two ex-work colleagues the other week. We had at different times been made redundant, droplets from the UK manufacturing industry as it was and continues to be wrung out. They had decided retirement was their best option and although we kept in contact we had not met for several years. So we remedied that. Since one of them lived in Adel, Leeds, and the other near by, we agreed to meet at the Lawnswood Arms. This meant a nostalgic trip from Merseyside to Leeds and a chance to visit/pass by old university haunts. After we passed a pleasant lunch time remembering the people we worked with, with head shaking for those who have passed on and in some cases jaw-dropping at those who had survived, I decided to pass by Sadler Hall of residence where I spent the first two years of my university life. I drove to where I knew it should be but I didn't see it, and going on I knew I had driven too far. Turning back I passed again the place it should be.... yes there was the wall surrounding the grounds... yes there was the entrance in the wall... but no, the dozens of red-brick detached houses had replaced the Hall! Another loss! Thoughts of those days at Sadler and the people I knew flooded back... Ernie... Dave Oliver... Nig... Dave Henson... and many faces I could no longer put names to.
It was a murky damp day when I turned up at Sadler for the first time. Back home in Manchester it would have been a day for pouring rain but not in Yorkshire, the rain had been dropped on the other side of the Pennines and Leeds got the cloud and gloom. The round-faced round man with the wavy unkempt reddy¬blond hair brightened up the day with his impish smile, rosy cheeks and keen penetrating eyes...
“Ah, so you're John... I've got someone for you to meet.”
Without much ado I was introduced to Dave Oliver, President of the Hall, as many others, seated at a table in the dining room: little did I know this was in fact the Rapper recruiting-ground. Ernie had, apparently, as was his want every year, perused all applications for university accommodation and selected all those he considered suitable for life in Sadler revolving around Rapper dancing. All those who put leisure activities such as folk dancing or folk music went to the top of his pile but football and rugby players also made good starting material and of course musicians, musicians, musicians. I guess I made Ernie's day when he was sifting my year since I was I alreadya Rapper dancer having been trained at school by my geography teacher, Jack Mainland, who was also a Manchester Morris Man. He had also taught me and others north-west clog. So Dave started the spiel about Sadler traditions and Rapper dancing and how I ought to try it out. It being my first day and a bit overwhelming I let him carry on until he came to a natural conclusion then he waited for some sign of Rapper curiosity that he could work on. Nothing...
“Do you think you would like to learn Rapper?”
When I told him I was already a Rapper dancer he gave me a few choice words for letting him expend hot air!
The next weekend was Rapper try-out time and I passed my ‘audition’ to join the Sadler team. Eventually I made the first team dancing with the big names of my era - Nig Brown, Dave Oliver, Dave Henson and the rest. The team would dance out at various venues arranged by Ernie aimed at earning money for the annual trip abroad, which for various reasons I never got to go on. On one night out in a rough mining pub with brawny lads playing darts, dominos, cards and pool, we beat a hasty retreat when Nig said that the bar looked a bit like a kiddies' playroom. Now, was that or was it not the night we left the bag on top of Ernie's car? The resulting bump and tinkle led to us to pick up all the coins by headlight. Highlights for me were the tours of Harrogate (ending in the clubs when all the pubs had closed) and the annual Sadler Folk Concert. This featured singing and dancing, (Rapper, longsword and three-handed clog) together with invited guests mainly, but not exclusively, our brethren from the north-east of England. In preparation for one of those events I tested out the stage to see how slippery it was and woops, it was! I didn't think we could do our Rapper dance without coming a cropper and needed to do something fast as the audience was beginning to turn up. The only thing I could find that might help was Ajax. I sprinkled a little around and sure enough it provided some grip. What I didn't bank on was the dust that we kicked up as the dance proceeded. The faster the dance got the more dust rose until our feet disappeared in a blur of fast stepping and Ajax dust. The front row of the audience was reserved for dignitaries, including the VC and wife who enjoyed the rest of the concert covered with a fine patina of white dust. Little did I know that a young Irish clog dancer was watching and thought it a damned good idea to have the mist rising from a group of dancers as if from a river...
And then it all ended for me. I got married, got a job (yes in that order - I know what it is like to be a kept man) moved away and stopped dancing. 25 years, two children and two stone later my daughter decided it was time I took some exercise. She heard through a school friend about a local Morris side and remembering Dad's stories of his youth, pestered until he contacted them. And so I joined Mersey Morris Men. They are essentially a Cotswold side but had in the past done some Rapper and had Tyzacks to prove it. Compared to Sadler their dance was... well... pedestrian and limited. With work, and a Stone Monkey workshop, we built the dance and expertise to a highpoint of bronze medal at DERT Sheffield. Our reprise at DERT Preston convinced us that there was a crying need for an over 50's category - you know a bit like the seniors at Wimbledon.
While Mersey were enjoying an evening of drinking, I mean dancing, with Chester City Morris Men, I met a set of very nice young people in the pub who had been teaching dance in local schools and it was not long before I discovered that I was talking to the son of Dave Oliver, Sadler President and Rapper dancer extraordinaire. (Dave is now Folkworks Programme Leader, The Sage Gateshead, so his education at Sadler was the more appropriate part of his stay in Leeds!) Thoughts of Dave prompted me to dream of recreating the Sadler dance which was all too soon dashed as I discovered he had dicky knees and Nig had loaned his figure notes out (30 years ago) and never got them back. He could remember how to get into a few figures but getting out of them was a problem!
So, are there any ex-Sadlerians out there still Rappering, or connected with Rapper who can remember the Sadler dance or be prepared for a senior's revival?