The Monthly interviews Ann Godfrey about Set Dancing on the Antrim Coast – Part 2 – Re-establishing community based Set Dancing

Why Cushendun?

Traditionally there was Set Dancing in the area.  This area is in the Glens of Antrim and always had strong traditional cultural activity. But the dances died out because there was no teacher living in the area. It was revived in the 1980’s. I attended a Ceili in Cushendall in the late 90’s.

When I moved to Belfast in the mid 90’s I went to Ceilis and carried on Set Dancing.  For many years now I have been going to Ronan Eastwood’s class, an excellent teacher in Belfast. He has a very popular Set Dancing class at the Duncairn Arts Centre. When I relocated to Cushendun I found that there were many people I talked to who could remember seeing Set Dancing when they were younger. There was a sense that there was a tradition that existed in this local area. There were also many people who used to Set Dance themselves during the revival in the late 90’s.

Poster for Set Dancing Classes

What happens then?

I am in a community group here, the Cushendun District & Development Association (CDDA). We decided to apply for a grant to put on a day of celebration of  fun and traditional crafts and practices to encourage people to go out after Covid. When I suggested that we should put on a demonstration of Set Dancing as part of that celebration one of the committee members remembered that he had seen Set Dancing in his uncle’s house when he was a little boy. And two other members of the committee had also seen Set Dancing when they were younger.

My teacher from Belfast, Ronan Eastwood came to Cushendun and we did a demonstration and we got people up to dance and they loved it. They thought it was fun. And many people said that it was great the “the sets had come back”.

From there we were able to get another grant and we put on a regular night of set dancing with the great Set Dance teacher James Barron.

Set Dancing Poster

How do people get involved?

We advertised the events on notice boards, on social media and in the early period we were able to put the events on for free and they were open access; anyone can come along. It’s still open access – we charge £2 per class and all are welcome. We would normally have 24 people, about 3 sets, and that was very good. Let’s face it the area we live in is quite small so that’s a very good number of people.

Is it still going?

Yes. The classes and dances take place on Fridays in Cushendun. Those classes are quite mixed. There are people who have never danced before and some who have been Set Dancing for some time. People even travel to the classes. I think it is quite a special experience.

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