Abbey Folk Dance ClubAbbey Folk Dance Club 80th Anniversary Celebrations 1929-2009

Thanks to the inspired calling of Mark Elvins and the marvelous music making of Orange & Blue Band, St Albans Abbey Folk Dance Club celebrated their 80th Anniversary with real style and enjoyment.

Incredibly, exactly eighty dancers arrived at Homewood Road United Reform Church hall on Saturday 16th May, eager to join the occasion. During the evening Mark introduced a dance which he had written and named “ABBEY AT 80”. That was an unexpected surprise and much appreciated.

In the interval Eileen Sinden, the Club Secretary, described the early days of the group as shown in the records. Dean Henderson asked if Country Dancing could be introduced as a social activity for the young people of the Abbey congregation. His wife became the first president. Ladies were selected to introduce newcomers and find partners for them. It would seem that. unlike today, it was a closed group, only open to members of the Abbey. Others had to be recommended to the committee for consideration.

One amusing item from the minutes of 1935; A hearty vote of thanks was accorded to Mrs Cribb for the loan of her piano for the last two years. The following suggestions were considered; Moving to another hall, Hiring a piano, Buying a piano. It was unanimously agreed to buy one. The secretary was asked to try and secure one at the forthcoming Auction and if necessary bid up to £12.0.0. A piano was duly bought for £8.12s 6d. With money from a cake sale, profit from a party, donations to the Piano Fund and finally a jumble sale, the debt was soon paid off. (Things don’t change.)

When the club celebrated their 25th Anniversary in 1954, those present included Douglas & Helen Kennedy, Dr R. Kennedy-Schofield, Gordon Myland and Mollie Du Cane. The president was Mrs A. Du Cane. In time Mollie become the mainstay of the club, both calling the dances and playing her fiddle. She became a great supporter of the English Folk Dance & Song Society and eventually was appointed Eastern Area Organiser. In 1973 she was awarded the Gold Badge of the Society, it’s highest award.

“Four Winds”, a dance written for Mollie by Pat Shuldham Shaw, was named after her house in St Albans.

Back to 2009 and the dance. A beautifully decorated cake, with the St Albans emblem and blue & yellow ribbons, took pride of place.

Jean Taylor who cut the cake, is not only the clubs longest serving member but also attends the Abbey services. The dean would surely approve.

Further on Saturday 11th July, club members and their friends spent the day at Kentwell Hall in Suffolk. They enjoyed the experience of the Tudor Re-creation in the house and surrounding estate. Several members joined in the Tudor dancing. So here’s to the next special anniversary.

St Albans Abbey Folk Dance Club meet every Thursday evening in St Stephen’s Church Hall, Watling Street, 7.45 to 9.45. Everyone is welcome. No partners are needed. All the dances are called. We all have a good time. Do think of joining us.