Examples of folk festival ceilidh and dance festival music: in case you were wondering what to expect!

The type of dance music experienced at folk festivals covers not only a wide range of musical tastes (as would be expected!) but also a wide range of sound levels.

Some bands play very danceable music at a low enough volume that probably no-one would find it painful or objectionable, except maybe for brief periods when they find themselves in a dance set near the speakers. Other bands exhibit an almost childish delight in amplifying their music to such a level that it becomes painful for most people in the room - even those who claim later that it was "great music but my ears hurt". Foremost amongst the mainstream folk dance ceilidh bands in this category are Tickled Pink - which is a pity because at a lower volume I quite like them!

Other bands, comprising often mainly younger musicians, seem to compensate for what may be a lack of ability with increased volume - examples might be Toothless Mary, Glorystrokes and Edward II - all of which are much admired by younger folk festival attendees.

Whilst use of massive amplification is unavoidable at outdoor events such as Glastonbury festival there is little logical reason why anyone in any part of a typical dance hall or ceilidh marquee need suffer sound levels that are either uncomfortable or potentially damaging. This is simply because out of doors you need such high power to reach outlying areas. Indoors, even in a large dance marquee, it is possible to arrange speakers so that a reasonable sound level is attained in all parts and without an excessive sound level anywhere.

The following videos from youtube show some examples of ceilidh dance bands at UK folk festivals. These are just examples - more will be added later. Many people now use ear plugs as a matter of routine at folk festival ceilidhs - which is absurd because all that is necessary is to turn down the volume. I have spoken to dozens of fellow dancers over the years - none of them WANT the music so loud, many tolerate it and try and keep away from the main speakers and some have simply resigned themselves to using earplugs.

The legal aspects are covered on the next page - but a brief summary is that whilst you are at work the law will (or should) protect you from excessive levels of noise. If you are a mere attendee at a ceilidh, you might have no legal right of redress against the organisers, even if you could prove hearing loss. It might be interesting to pay for a folk festival ticket using a credit card (which provides protection under the Consumer Credit Act) and to claim back the money under this Act if you paid for dance events but they were not of 'mechantable quality' in that you couldn't dance because the music was unbearably loud. I doubt anyone would try it, but measuring sound levels with a proper meter could provide useful evidence!

Old Swan Band Sidmouth 2004 - like the Committee Band, the Old Swan Band is one of the all time favourites, their music is generally amongst the most danceable. Here is another example, again from 2004, the last year of the Sidmouth International Festival.

Sloe Benga played by Tiger Moth Sidmouth 2004 - an iconic performance and with a favourite tune - this band was famous 20 and more years ago. Nowadays they only get back together to perform at occasional ceilidhs.

An earlier (1989) performance - at their peak before they retired, and playing great ceilidh dance music. They all look so young!

Bursledon Village Band at Whitby Folk Festival August 2009 - a typical mainsteam ceilidh band - one you can easily dance to, and what a fabulous dance hall!

The Committee Band - now unfortunately disbanded. They were for years one of the premier UK ceilidh bands. This poor quality video is from the Exeter IVFDF 2009. It is one of few videos that seems to be available. I can recognise quite a few friends - but no sign of me unfortunately!

Random at Towersey festival - a very short clip and showing the band at their best - not too loud!

Steamchicken at Towersey - very loud, jazzy, take your earplugs but they are still quite danceable!

and the same band at Cheltenham - you can learn the Boston Tea Party by watching this clip.

All the above are examples of 'mainstream' bands and whatever your taste in music, they are all very danceable!

The examples below are of 'noisy' bands that personally I find less danceable.

Toothless Mary at Chippenham in 2009 - take your earplugs, or maybe just find somewhere else to dance!

GloryStrokes Sidmouth 2007 - one of the 'loud noise' bands that appeal to youngsters. But why should Sidmouth residents have to put up with this 'noise' for hours at a time? They played again at Sidmouth in 2011 - and even youngsters to whom I spoke the following evening said they were too loud, even with ear plugs. It seems youngsters now routinely carry earplugs - so loud is the music at events that are aimed at their generation. Time for some sensible legislation?

Edward II at Towersey 2009 - a huge hit according to feedback. Most youngsters thought they were 'great'. At least at Towersey Festival they were safely away from a large number of local residents.

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