Swords at the seaside
The Scarborough Sword Spectacular, May 1996

The Sword Spectacular was born from an idea by Trevor Stone to hold an international festival of sword dancing 60 years after a similar event in London. Somewhere it slipped a year - and almost slipped away altogether when, for various reasons, the organising committee in Carlisle pulled the plug.

The idea was re-born when Keith Thompson of the Goathland Ploughstots phoned a few other dancers with the aim of saving what he called “a major inter-national piss-up”. So, with just six months to go, a small committee met in Goathland and agreed to give it ago. There was a suitable location at Scarborough, the Council might be amenable, the invitations to overseas teams had not yet been cancelled. A good start - but there was a money problem - there wasn't any.

The proposed budget was studied and slashed (it still ended up costing £14,000) and the UK dancers were asked to contribute. They responded magnificently and, in the end, about £10 of each ticket price went towards the costs of hosting the foreign teams.

Over the following months, three-weekly meetings in the Goathland Hotel (a.k.a. the “Aidensfield Arms”) thrashed out details of dance tours, venues, bedding, camping, programmes, publicity and the rest, as massive behind-the-scenes work moved mountains.

The feeling when the first overseas team arrived at the site was incredible - it was actually happening! A need to set up bedding and sort out each group's accommodation quickly took over and the Ploughstots in particular deserve medals for getting everything done on the first afternoon.

But the festival was under way and eventually everyone settled into the bar to develop international relations well into the night.

No less than 45 groups from 10 countries, including 14 from overseas, took part in the historic event. Apart from some fabulous performances, there were conferences, workshops, concerts, tours, pub sessions, a ceilidh, processions, a civic reception and church service, all in a fantastic atmosphere of friendship and a shared love of sword dancing. If one thing summed up the truly spectacular, it was the Sunday morning parade of 600 sword dancers which really drove home the scale of the event.

Scarborough Council together with the staff at the Scarborough Independent and University Colleges deserve the utmost thanks, as do the organising committee of Keith Thompson, Trevor Stone, Shirley Doyle, Gordon Crowther, Stuart Higson, Vince Rutland, Jeff Lawson, Mike Smith and Maureen Tinker - plus the many more who knuckled in during the event.