Banbury dance out (formerly the Hobby Horse Festival) 8 October 22

After finding that there was no Hobby Horse Festival taking place this year, we decided as a group to dance in and around Banbury on Saturday 8th October, and provide the shoppers with some much-needed entertainment. Assembling at the White Horse in Banbury, we made our way down to Banbury Cross to get warm by dancing in the beautiful autumn day sunshine. Entertaining patrons of the nearby café, we started with Sweet Jenny Jones, Haste to the Wedding (which was a bit muddled due to my calling), Constant Billy and Stourton Wake. Making a point to keep things as horse related as possible, we crossed over and posed in front of the Fine Lady statue for photos before heading down through the town with flags waving.

Team photo – Photo by Hannah

Arriving at the bottom of the High Street near White Lion Walk, we continued to entertain with Postman’s Knock (brilliantly called by John), Hail to the Chief and Bluebells of Scotland, which was sounding particularly clear due to the acoustics created by the tall surrounding buildings. Having noticed quite a crowd was gathering, we decided to perform Shepherd’s Hey followed by the audience being asked to participate in a subsequent Shepherd’s Hey Jig. It was wonderful to see everyone having fun and joining in. I think it’s one of the first times I’ve seen a mother join in whilst carrying her son, but they both still did a splendid job and it was great to see them take part.

We moved on to the Band Stand, which had sort of become part of the regular route we take throughout town, and briefly danced Lads a Buncham (nearly losing my hat in the process), and Black Joke called superbly by our Treasurer Troy. It was very kind of people to stop and allow the team and our own Hobby Horses – Charlie and Percy – to cross the road. Although perhaps as they are black and white, they were mistaken for a Zebra crossing…

David and Troy find an obvious spot for a photo! Photo by Hannah.

Our penultimate stop was the Marketplace just at the bottom of Parson’s Street, and we thoroughly enjoyed singing and dancing for the crowds. We danced the Roast Beef of Old England (sadly we had no Vegetarian option which meant our Bagman David was unable to take part based on his culinary inclination), Old Woman Tossed Up in a Blanket, Washing Day and Princess Royal with eight dancers. Noticing the large flocks of pigeons circling the market, we decided it was time to do the stores a favour, and scare them off with our Shooting dance, the Beaux of London City. Following a moment’s break, we then danced Happy Man, after which we assembled six able and willing dancers to perform Jockey to the Fair with three pairs. Before moving on we concluded with a brilliantly danced Brighton Camp for ten dancers. Prior to settling down for a very well-deserved lunch, outside the Olde Reindeer we danced Sweet Jenny Jones and Shepherd’s Hey just one last time and provided an end to a very pleasant morning excursion.

A special thank you to Taryn who had come expecting the Hobby Horse Festival, but followed us all morning taking photos and listening to the tales of our two horses. Speaking of which, the two hobby horses are actually named after two members of the side. Charlie is named after Charlie Coleman, the last surviving member of the 1908 side after having fought in World War One, and the person to hand down the tradition to the new side formed in the mid-1970s. Percy is named after another member of the side from 1908, Percy Pargeter, who sadly didn’t make it back from the war and his brother Ronald was also killed in the fighting. Their names are inscribed in Pozieres cemetery and on the Thiepval Monument. We love bringing the horses out for people to see, and they make a brilliant addition to our side.

Banbury has been one of my favourite dance outs over the past few years, and I am happy that we had such a good team of dancers out with us to make it possible. Thank you to all dancers and supporters who attended, especially our youngest dancers Owen, Luke and Alfie who were putting the older dancers to shame even after two hours! Thank you as well to your mums who followed us throughout the morning and cheered us all on! You all did a phenomenal job of showing off what we do to the people of Banbury town centre, as reflected in Hannah’s fantastic photographs. It’s been great to dance out with everyone once again, and we’ll hope to see you again soon.

Squire Ryan