How to run a small club - informed by my experiences of helping to run Gittisham Folk Dance Club.

This section, commenced in 2016, aims to distil my experiences of helping to run Gittisham Folk Dance Club for around ten years. It also includes experience gained at other clubs - whether or not I have been directly involved. Many of the topics discussed such as internet banking, publicity, photography and 'Constitutions' are relevant to small clubs outside of the sphere of folk dance.


At the present time most pages in this section exist as headings with skeleton contents only. None of the pages contain finalised text. It is likely to take me a year or two of my spare time to produce any sort of 'finished' content. Life tends to intervene in these projects....... In the interim, comments are welcome if they are related to additional topics which you feel could with benefit be included.


For over five years I looked after all the finances and internet publicity for Gittisham Folk Dance Club as well as helping with general running of the club for a longer period. Knowledge gained from observing the workings and problems of other organisations are included where they are relevant to small local folk dance clubs.

Perhaps the most interesting discussion on this section are my views on why dance clubs are failing the thrive - and why so many are closing down. This is given in the last section (SIXTEEN - add link when done).

Current details of Gittisham Folk Dance Club are included with those of other local folk dance clubs within this section of my website.

The original Gittisham webpage is retained as an historical record of the layout and colours used during 2014/15 - this was the last of many designs used over 10 years when it was the club's only web presence. Another new layout and colour scheme was adopted in February 2016 when the site was expanded and this section added. Also in 2016 a rival website was set up by "The Committee" - of which I was a founder member. Most small (and all large) committees seem to be characterised by petty power struggles and disputes - and this is one of the main reasons not to have a formal committee structure for a small club if you can avoid it.

Traditional English folk dance as practised for decades in hundreds of small clubs remains probably one of the least expensive and yet most enjoyable forms of exercise - yet it is in overall decline. Clubs which have been in existence for 40 or more years close simply because they cannot attract new members. Much of the problem here may lie with the existing membership: they fail to see the need to attract younger members before the club enters a 'terminal decline' phase with all members being so old that the ambience of the club would no longer be attractive to anyone in the 20 to 60 age range. Many small university folk societies have also folded in recent years. Against this, a few university societies are thriving and the annual IVFDF (Inter Varsity Folk Dance Festival) remains a vibrant showcase of talent - including for older dancers! (add links STS 97/98/99)

Against this background, setting up a new folk dance club might appear to be a daunting prospect. Gittisham Folk Dance Club is now over 10 years old. It has survived five quite different phases of 'management' and yet is still successful - albeit arguably it is not as enjoyable as it once was. So how was it started and what are the principal lessons for the future? Other small clubs in the area started with great promise then folded - why? This will be explained - in as much as I have come to understand the reasons.

For the moment, the following pages are in no particular order. A few will give guidance on 'peripheral' topics such as folk dance bands for weddings.

Where no link is shown - page content does not yet exist!

Running a folk dance club - the one thing you can't do without is enthusiasm.   (ONE)

Gittisham Folk Dance Club - an outline of the various phases of management.

Other dance and ceilidh clubs - strengths and weakneses.

Dance halls - problems when used for folk dancing - good and bad design of dance halls and hall heating systems.   (TWO)

Getting new members. (THREE)

Publicising dances - be helpful to people!  (FOUR)

Saturday dances and dance weekends - aspects of their organisation. (FIVE)

Charity dances - raise 10 or 1000? Experiences and analysis at Gittisham and elsewhere.  (SIX)

Weddings - how to choose a folk dance band and caller for a one-off occasion.   (SEVEN)

Opening a bank account - if you feel you need one. (EIGHT)

Finance - and the use of internet banking to make handling money both safer and easier. (NINE)

Constitutions - is the best advice not to have one? They can attract 'bossyboots' personalities. (TEN)

Teaching of folk dance - against all the odds? (ELEVEN)

Becoming a caller - many try, few really succeed! And how do you measure success? (TWELVE)

An example from Staffordshire - from STS98

Experience at Gittisham.

Committees - they seem to attract autocrats and acolytes - so do you really need a committee? (THIRTEEN)

Photographing, recording and videoing at 'public' events - still somewhat a grey area of law? (FOURTEEN)

Excluding or banning people from attending clubs and festivals - do you need a good reason? (FIFTEEN)

General discussion

Festivals - examples

Dance club - an example from Halsway Manor

Bridport ceilidhs - an example of autocractic control?

A discussion of why folk dance clubs in England may be failing - and an Irish perspective. (SIXTEEN)

folk dance venues in Devon - future dances etc.

Gittisham Folk Dance Club

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