Contribution to Set and Turn Single magazine's 100th edition. This short contribution was adjudged 'too long' by the editor - despite that Jeremy Child was allowed two full pages!
Note added 22 July 2016 - I thought few people would read this - it was just given as a link in the last paper edition of STS magazine. By 22 July it had been viewed over 300 times. Maybe people are interested after all! I also missed out the index page link for this section - apologies - here it is -
index page for STS articles and letters also the highlights page from my dance diary
The questions raised by Maureen Knight (STS 69, May 2011) and Phil Kenton in STS99 (whether to have a committee) were similar. Dancing at Gittisham started in 2003 and has been through five different phases of personalities and management. I am writing these up to offer guidance on their strengths and weaknesses. Although on the surface small committees may look democratic, in practice they can so easily be a cover for autocracy. This is all in a new section of my website (seered.co.uk/folkclub.htm) together with a lot of what I have learnt about village halls, constitutions, bands, callers, festival organisers - and why small dance clubs close down and how best to avoid this (first addressed by me in STS 76).
Moving on to the related topic of banning people from clubs or societies this is a topic of interest well outside of folk clubs. Procedures should be robust enough to withstand legal challenge. Airlines are a law unto themselves although there are resolution procedures (I'll give examples). A few years ago Cambridge University Dance Club were in the national press for their 'etiquette' guidance notes. The Round in Cambridge (a folk dance group) also have an etiquette page - based heavily on the link above. Their 'dispute' procedures as of 2016 seem fair - even to people who may have vexatious complaints made against them.
Folk dancing is supposed to be both fun and flirtatious. Over ten years ago at Chippenham a caller said that dancing was in essence a sort of mating display (as in peacocks). I can't remember who said it. In STS 75 Linda Selwood makes a similar point in response to a list of complaints from Tony Weston about how folk dance is perceived as being dismal - she reminded us that the origins were social, fun and flirting. I mentioned this in STS 82 - noting also that my valiant efforts to enhance 'fun and flirting' were not universally appreciated. (see note 1 below)
For hundreds of years people have tried to take the 'fun' out of dancing - just look at the fuss when the waltz was first introduced into England - disgusting, immoral, even flirtatious! Many people wanted it banned. When the Tango was introduced even the Pope wanted it banned - it was the new paganism. (more discussion here)
Years ago I was asked to look into drafting a 'constitution' for Gittisham. I was amazed there was not a robust pro-forma for all small clubs. What is needed (and would save much wasted effort in hundreds of small clubs of many types) is for legally watertight proforma Constitutions and dispute resolution procedures to be placed on the internet together with examples of what could so easily be challenged. I'll try and do this.
Amongst the most common of the 'questionable' clauses is that "any member may be expelled by decision of the committee or organisers" (or similar). They sometimes allow an appeal - but often only to the same people who decided on the expulsion in the first place!
Contrast this with (for example) constitutions which contain the usual 'the decision of the committee shall be final" but later in the same document - please, before you take us to Court, do first consider arbitration or mediation. Wise words indeed - if only because it can be so much less expensive. Halsway include something similar in clause 33 of their Articles of Association.
Finally, in respect of Exeter University (STS 99), I attended because Richard Mason's wife suggested I do so (we dance contra together). I was expecting a competent IVFDF type of evening similar to what I remembered at the same venue a decade or more ago. Big mistake! If Richard considers that a few possible long term converts to folk dancing to a much diminished club and out of a university population of 2,300 staff and 20,000 students is a success then I would like to know his definition of failure.
In the same ten years several well established dance clubs locally have closed down and more may soon follow. Maybe they simply became dismal?
Note : This page was modified to make clear there are two separate sets of guidance notes from Cambridge - from Cambridge Dance Club (Ballroom dancing and featured in the national press) and The Round (folk dancing).
Index page for STS articles and letters.
Top of folk clubs page - folk dance clubs in Devon (etc)
Gittisham Folk Dance club - the original website
Sidmouth Folk Festival - the history since August 2001
How to run a folk dance club - experiences over 15 years (most pages not yet completed)
Folk Dance Diary 2016 - highlights of a year of folk dancing.