AS Bridport Folk Dance Club celebrates its 100th year, Gwenda Selley and Monty Crook take a look at its long history.

It was on Monday, September 19, 1920, that a group of ladies first met in the Congregational Schoolroom in Bridport, and the Bridport Folk Dance Club (BFDC) formally began. Together with support from the Women's Institute, who had previously promoted the instruction of country dancing in the town, the club took its first steps towards being what it is today.

Minutes from a century of meetings have recorded the history and development of the club, through changing times and world events. The first committee ruled that "the choice of dances be left to the MC but that one dance shall be taken with a view to style." Even now, the programme of dances is chosen by the MC, with a rota of several club callers taking the reigns.

Amongst the founding members of BFDC was Miss Margaret Cox, a music teacher from the then Bridge House Boarding School. When Cecil Sharp - the man responsible for the 20th century revival of folk-song in England - visited in January 1921, he established classes in morris, sword and country dancing, with Miss Cox named as one of the accompanying musicians. Membership was 7s 6d per annum, which amounts to £10.05 in today's terms; a huge mark-up from the present day fee of just £2 (although admission of £3 is charged for each night).

In December 1924, a Dorset branch of the English Folk Dance Society was formed, with strong representation from BFDC. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, club members displayed at both local demonstrations and the All England festival held at the Royal Albert Hall. In 1930, two members of BFDC represented the county at the opening of the Cecil Sharp House, the only dedicated folk arts centre in England which to this day hosts a year-round programme of folk events, courses and classes.

Club records show a poignant break after the meeting on September 22, 1939, when Colonel Deacon described the "steps necessary to take owing to the state of war which existed." Dance classes were "suspended until spring, when the situation should be reviewed." However, club minutes did not resume until October 20, 1947.

After the Second World War, square dancing became popular and the use of a caller became the norm, making dancing more accessible for everyone. In 1950, the group revived what was known as the Dorset Four Hand, a reel first performed in 1935 in neighbouring Symondsbury and nearby Puncknowle. The dance was adapted by members of the club for display at a national gathering in London, and appeared in the EFDS Community Dance Manual of 1957, volume five.

Miss Marjorie Mayne was a folk dance enthusiast who had been taught by Cecil Sharp and who, in the 1920s, helped found the Chideock Morris Men, having taught morris to troops during the First World War. From the 1950s until the 1970s, Miss Mayne held an annual folk dance to celebrate her birthday. At these parties, young dancers were asked to perform and locals, including club members, were invited. From 1968, Bourne River Morris Men entertained attendees, and the BFDC went on to adopt the event as the club's annual dance, despite the death of Miss Mayne in 1976. Her parties have continued to the present day, and are held in April each year.

Back in 1919, the club had 44 members, but over the years numbers have waxed and waned. In 1931, there was a drop in attendance due to other events and activities taking place on the same night, a familiar issue in Bridport today. Yet 2018/19 saw a membership of 33, with regular attendances of more than 20. Before leaving for university, the club's youngest member, 18-year-old Joe, was developing as a caller, while the longest-serving attendees Jane and Eric have been coming for 27 years.

To celebrate its centenary, the club commissioned a dance from international caller, choreographer and music writer Colin Hume, intended to acknowledge the rope-making history of the town. The dance, Money for Old Rope, was performed in the Church House Hall in October, with 21 club members amongst a total of 70 dancers. The interval saw a performance by new dance troupe Aurora, while two 100th birthday cakes were enjoyed by all.

These days, BFDC holds dancing classes every Monday in the WI Hall, where meetings began all those years ago. Although a fall-out over double bookings and hire fees saw the group relocate in 1960, BFDC returned 37 years later and have remained there ever since.

Fun, sociable, and bursting with enthusiasm, it's a sure thing that the small group of founding members would be pleased, if not a little surprised, that the club lives on, 100 years after it first begun.

Money for Old Rope

Dance and music: Colin Hume, 2019

Format: Longways duple, twos improper

A: Men pass left shoulder: three changes of a reel of four until you meet your neighbour. Two-hand turn neighbour 1¼ on the side, finishing with the man on the left.

B: Circle left ¾ to finish on the side with partner, then change hands. Lead partner out a double; change hands and lead back.

C: Cross right shoulder with opposite, go well out, then a big loop left to come back in (eight steps in all). Right-hand star ¾ and fall back slightly from partner — just one step and together, without taking hands with neighbour.

D: Four changes of a circular hey with hands — no courtesy turn — and men are ready to pass left shoulder with the next man.

NB: In the walkthrough it helps to start with the ladies stepping back and left so that the track of the opening reel is clearer. Don't let people rush any of the moves; the whole dance is designed to flow from one figure to the next.