I spent a very jolly and laugh-filled twenty minutes or so in the company of the Catton Line Dancers last week, on the invitation of their leader Valerie Sparks, and I tried to capture some of their movements on camera.
After a couple of dances, the ladies all sat down with me and I was able to pose a few questions, in between the laughter! Last Tuesday was the group’s Christmas celebration, and tonight they’re off to Blenkinsopp Castle Inn for dinner and doubtless some dancing too. They save up all year for this special treat!
So I was delighted to be able to catch them just in time for inclusion in the diary, because by now the Line Dancers are an institution here in the valleys, drawing members from all over the patch: Sparty Lea, Carrshield, Sinderhope. They even have occasional visitors from Nenthead!
Valerie says that the group has been going since 1990, so that means they’ll be celebrating their 30th anniversary next year. Knowing, as I do, that Allendale’s May Fair has been running for 30 years as well, I asked the group when they started participating in that event. “It was the year that the theme was Country & Western, and we just turned up!” Valerie laughed. “And after that, they couldn’t keep us away!” It’s true, the appearance of the Line Dancers is expected, now, and always brings a frisson of cheerfulness to the proceedings.
With technical assistance from deputy leader Anne Dover, the group claim they can dance to almost anything! Valerie gets music online, burning it onto CDs at home and brings the evening’s list with her to the rehearsals. “We’ve even danced to the theme song from Titanic!”
The group is a cohesive social force, supporting its members through hard times and good, enjoying parties (Hallowe’en was another delight this year) and summer outings as transported on a big Baynes coach. Except for the occasional visit by a kindly gentleman from Nent (the Line Dancers at Nenthead have a friendly interaction with the Catton group), people of the male persuasion don’t participate in the dancing. I asked them specifically about the mutual support they enjoy amongst the members, commenting ruefully that men don’t have such a cohesive support system, though the Repair Day concept might help to address this concern. I got the distinct impression that the ladies shared their life experiences and wisdom, perhaps especially so when celebrating the ‘0s’ and ‘5s’ on the birthday calendar. And they do love to prepare food too.
Valerie wanted to emphasise how welcome new members would be, and the evening fee is still only £1 a go. Dancing starts at 7 on most Tuesday evenings throughout the year. Nowadays, she says, £1 goes a long way in the heating slot, since the air-source heating keeps the hall at a very comfortable ambient temperature that only needs a bit of topping up before the dancing starts. Once everybody is up and dancing, of course, they all get quite warm!
As I left, a couple of members came over to me, just to note that Valerie keeps the group going, as a kind of life force, and they so much appreciate her hard work in this regard.
As for me, I was glad my camera managed to capture some images, making a good rehearsal for when I’m due to try to capture a group image of the Knitting & Crocheting group closer to Christmas. And I gently closed the door on peals of friendly laughter ringing out through the hall!