Great Turnout For The Whitworth Rushcart 2017
The annual Whitworth Rushcart celebrations took place this weekend, Sunday 3rd September 2017. Despite the weather being rather grim, the rain did not stop the local Whitworth residents coming out in force to support the festivities.
Whitworth Rushcart history goes back hundreds of years; initially, the celebration was linked to the cutting and collection of rushes to be strewn on the bare earth or stone flagged floor of the church as a form of insulation for the winter to come, taken to the church on the cart. The Rushcart used to be the main attraction and feature of the Whitworth fair week in the 1970s and 1980s; however, the event is now limited to a Sunday afternoon in September. Despite this, the Rushcart still remains a very popular event and is much loved and supported by the local community.
This year the procession left from Whitworth Museum featuring numerous traditional morris dance troupes (including the famous Britannia Coconutters and the Whitworth Morris Men led by the Rushcart itself).
This year, our dancers were joined by a new group, the Hebden Bridge Hill Millies. A women’s morris side dancing side based in Hebden Bridge, dancing in the Cotswold tradition infused with their own special magic accompanied by a fantastic fiddler. Additionally, this year the Whitworth Morris Dancers had recruited two new dancers and the Tourism and Leisure Committee were joined by several members of the local community who volunteered their services to help marshal and organise the event.
The Dancers, Groups & Band’s
That Made The Rushcart Possible
In Scotland and Wales, traditional music and dance are taught in school; this not only exposes children to the cultural heritage of their countries, it also ensures those cultures of music and dance thrive. Dance at school in England seems to be focussed on American dance styles like hip-hop, street and cheerleading and neglectful of the more traditional cultural dances from England and its regions. Counties, towns and villages used to have their own dances, many of which have been lost, but with a little commitment our culture and heritage could not only be protected for another generation but grow in the future. In an age where so much seems contrived and manufactured, it is refreshing to rediscover something as innocent and wholesome as traditional music and dance.
WHITWORTH VALE AND HEALEY YOUTH BAND
The Whitworth Vale and Healey Youth Band has been in existence for more than 20 years and the vast majority of the young people in the band are from the Whitworth area. The band tends to perform locally, although they have entered competitions as far away as Wales. Today the youth band is in the capable hands of Sophie Milton.
THE HEBDEN BRIDGE HILL MILLIES – NEW FOR 2017! (burgundy waistcoats, black leggings or sometimes Nora Batty outfits)
A women’s morris side dancing side based in Hebden Bridge, dancing in the Cotswold tradition infused with their own special magic. Accompanied by four fantastic fiddlers, they can sometimes be seen in Nora Batty disguise. Formed over a decade ago they were taught the dances by the landlord of The Fox and Goose pub. Their mission is to “entertain and educate the community with traditional music and dance”.
AZ KABILE (pronounced Az-ka-bee-lay)
Az Kabile, meaning ‘little tribe’ in Turkish is a tribal belly dance troupe currently based in Haslingden. The group has been together since 2010, and are all students of Dea Robson, who has been belly dancing for 16 years and is trained in oriental style and tribal style belly dancing. The costumes are a collection of original kuchi nomadic jewellery and accessories (travelling tribes of Afghanistan). The rest of the costumes are handmade by the dancers themselves -including the bra tops!! More info is available on Az Kabile’s Facebook page.
WHITWORTH RUSHCART DANCERS (white shirts, black trousers, blue sashes)
The Whitworth dancers reformed in the mid 1970s when the Whitworth Rushcart was revived. At that time, they danced in red breeches, white socks, white shirts, blue waistcoats and white floral bowler hats. They only surfaced on one day each year – at the Rushcart – and perform two local dances ‘The Whitworth’ and ‘The Shawforth’ can only be seen in procession with the Rushcart. If anyone is interested in keeping this great tradition alive, please speak to any of the Rushcart Men, Broom Girls or the Tourism and Leisure Committee members – they need your help!
WHITWORTH BROOM GIRLS (black skirts, white blouses, blue aprons)
Formed in 2009, the Broom Girls sweep the streets clean for the dancers; this is a symbolic gesture, representing the sweeping away of the evil spirits; similarly the bright shiny objects on the front of the Rushcart were thought to reflect evil away.
OAKENHOOF (green and red costumes)
Oakenhoof hail from Littleborough and started in recent years to grow a new ‘home’ side of dancers and musicians to support the annual Littleborough Rushbearing Festival; a shining example of what can be achieved when a community comes together to preserve its heritage. Their Rushcart was under threat of disappearing forever when Rochdale Morris folded due to the age of their dancers; Thieving Magpie stepped in and kept the rushbearing alive whilst Oakenhoof formed. Oakenhoof now sport a North-West clog side, a rapper sword dance team and a clogging side as well as the Black Nan Band featuring talented musicians and dancers from aged seven years and up.
THIEVING MAGPIE (all in black, black tatters, black faces, big sticks)
Thieving Magpie is a mixed border morris side based in Marsden, near Huddersfield. They were formed in 2006 and, in their own words, “like dancing, waving big sticks about and yelling”! And they also sing. Their ages range from 9 to 69. They have an offshoot called Hellfyre Magpie, who do fire dancing with various flaming torches and balls, a spectacle not to be missed on dark evenings.
LEAP TO YOUR FEET
Leap To Your Feet Appalachian dance group were formed in 1993 as an offshoot from the Shredded Feet Appalachian dancers based in Leyland. They are now based in Bolton. Leap to your feet perform the traditional dance and music of the Southern Appalachian mountains of America, known as Appalachian clogging. The dances incorporate the various traditions of several European and African countries, and the dancers wear tap shoes to add a percussive sound to the music. Appalachian dancing evolved from the clog dancing in England and Ireland and was taken to the Appalachian mountains by the early settlers. The Soya Band are the musicians accompanying the dancers. They play a variety of tunes from England, Scotland, Ireland and the USA on various instruments.
THE BRITANNIA COCONUT DANCERS OF BACUP
The world-famous Britannia Coconut Dancers of Bacup are the only surviving exponents of this style of dance. The dances and the dress are supposed to be of pirate origin and brought to Cornwall by Moorish pirates who settle there and became employed in the mining industry. As the mines and quarries opened in the North of England in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the mines in Cornwall began to close, some men moved North bringing with them their mining skills and, of course, their dances. The dancers black their faces to prevent them being recognised by the evil spirits after the dancing, and it may also reflect the mining connections. The Coconut dances are unique – the dancers tap out rhythms on wooden discs or ‘nuts’ fastened to their palms, knees and waist (said to represent protection when crawling through narrow passages in the mines). Whitworth had a Coconut dance team, but it was lost nearly a century ago. The Britannia Coconutters have been at every Whitworth Rushcart since 1976. They are ably supported here by members of the Stacksteads Band.
Samba Dance and Fitness has been going for almost 18 years. Starting out on her own, Samantha Clarke began teaching dance and fitness to the local community. The school has gone from strength to strength and now has a Drama Department, Full range of Fitness classes as well as 4 fully qualified Dance teachers. Samba teach classes from 18 months upwards in Ballet, Tap, Freestyle Disco, Street dance, Cheerleading, Latin and Ballroom, Slow and Lyrical. Drama from 4 yrs and Fitness classes including Boogie Bounce, Zumba, Piyo and Bums & Tums.
The Whitworth Rushcart 2017 Gallery
Credit: Thank you to Whitworth Town Council For The Press Release, Photo’s and Articles.