History of the Leeds Scottish Dance Club
Whilst there had previously been an RSCDS branch in Leeds it had closed and in 1951 a group of enthusiasts met to form a club to provide dances on an organised basis in Leeds. Whilst they would have preferred to form an RSCDS branch this was not feasible owing to the lack of a certified teacher.
The Club was formed, with a working capital of £2, and the inaugural dance took place at Adel Memorial Hall on 21 September 1951.
The information here has been gleaned from the financial ledger from 1955 to 1966 which provides a fascinating insight into Club activities in those years, the memories of Pat Lynch and Alice Smith (who joined the Club as schoolgirls in 1958) and a history of the Club written in 1971.
It was successful from the start, possibly because people wanted an economic activity to take their minds off the dreariness of post war austerity and food rationing.
In 1954 the idea of a festival was suggested and so the first Leeds Festival of Scottish Dancing took place at Beckett Park with 30 teams on the field and 250 people attending the evening dance!
In 1958 Jimmy Shand played for the Festival and recorded his first live LP at the evening dance.
By the 1960 Festival the Club was forced to run two separate evening dances, to Jimmy Shand and Andrew Rankin, to cope with a total of over 900 dancers.
As well as running 20 recorded music dances a year in the Adel Memorial Hall the Club also provided a demonstration team for various events. The fee varied from one guinea (£1.05) for the Bramhope Young Conservatives in December 1955 to an outstanding £30 for the premiere of the film 'Tunes of Glory' at the Leeds Odeon in September 1958. This was a military soap opera set in Edinburgh Castle starring (I think) Alec Guinness. (The theme tune became a minor hit but we know it as the tune to which we dance 'The Black Bear'.)
By this time there were enough certified teachers to run a branch on RSCDS lines and an EGM was held to discuss whether to apply for RSCDS Branch status. An overwhelming majority voted to remain as an affiliated club.
From the accounts we can see that in 1955/56 the Club had 210 members each paying 5 shillings (25p) membership and held 20 recorded dances at Adel. The entrance charge was 2 shillings (10p) for members and the average attendance was 87. The hall cost 4 guineas (£4.20) for the evening.
Ten years later, in 1965/66 the membership fee was still 5 shillings but the entrance charge had increased to half a crown (12.5p) for recorded dances and 5 shillings for the 6 live music dances. The average attendance was 80 and the hall cost £6. For the live music dances the band fee was 8 guineas (£8.40).
In 1962 the question of forming an RSCDS Branch came up again and 4 members (with the blessing of the Club) applied to the RSCDS for permission to form a branch. The Society approved the application and thus the RSCDS Leeds Branch came into being. The records show that in September 1962 the Club donated £20 to the new Branch as a gesture of goodwill.
In 1971 the Club reluctantly moved from the Adel Memorial Hall after 20 years to St Chad's (where it remained for the rest of it's life).During this period the Club presidents were:
|1951 - 1965||Dr W Cunningham|
|1965 - 1968||Charles Camm|
|1968 - 1971||T Hammond Jack|
During this period Scottish dancing in Leeds was on the crest of a wave - classes and dances were very well attended. Major events (such as balls) were oversubscribed and a waiting list was operated.
The Club held a live music dance and a recorded dance each month. Thus with the Branch holding their dance each month Leeds was well provided for!
Joining the Club was not automatic - aspiring members required to be nominated and submit an application for membership which was considered by the Committee. The fundamental requirement for acceptance was a level of competence at dancing - usually as a result of attending a beginners' class.
During Bob Hunter's presidency (1975-1980) an annual dinner dance was organised at Castle Bolton in Wensleydale. Members stayed overnight either camping or in B&Bs and had an organised walk on the Sunday. The dance was held in the castle with members having the run of the building. A piper played from the ramparts - a feature much admired by the local residents! This event ran for about 15 years.
Around 1988 a young talented local musician first played for the Club. This was Ian Slater - he is of course still playing and is now considered part of the furniture in Leeds! For many years he played at the Christmas dance which was always very special with tinsel, mulled wine and Alec Green's red shirt!
In the early 1990s the first of a series of autumn weekends was organised by Trish Lodge. These were held at houses run by the Countrywide Holiday Association (CHA) mainly because Geoffrey Chaplin (a Club member) was involved with the CHA. Various venues were used including Ambleside, Grasmere, Hope(in Derbyshire) and Whitby (where the CHA had a house in the Whitby Abbey grounds - it is now used by the YHA).
On these weekends Ian Slater attended as the musician.
The Club's 40th anniversary was celebrated in 1991 with a dinner dance (although subsequent anniversary celebrations were more modest).
The Leeds Festival, which had been run by the Club since 1954, continued to be run during this period. The venue was Becket Park with the hall as a wet weather venue and the refectory used for the evening dance. The Leeds Pipe Band played during the interval.
All was well until 1992 when the college decided to redevelop the hall and the refectory. From 1993 to 1996 other locations in Leeds were used but none were completely satisfactory. The Festival was also losing money so the Club decided to cease running it.
On the festival committee at this point were Lesley Digby and Malcolm & Helen Brown, all from York. Lesley decided that a festival could be organised in York using St Peter's School and so, under her driving force, the York SCDC ran it from 1997, changing the name to the White Rose Festival.
Thus after 43 years the Club's involvement in the Leeds Festival came to an end.
|1971 - 1975||Harry Carr|
|1975 - 1980||Robert W Hunter|
|1980 - 1984||Raymond W Jones|
|1984 - 1988||Patricia M Webb|
|1988 - 1992||Steve and Prue Foster|
|1992 - 1996||Alice M H Smith|
Thanks are due to Malcolm Brown, Lesley Enoch, Heather Williams, Ian Slater and Alice Smith for providing the above details.
The autumn weekends away continued into the 2000s but at different venues as the CHA had ceased operating. Some were held at the Joseph Rowntree centre at Cober Hill (near Scarborough) and some at various hotels in the north of England. In 2000 the venue was the HF Holidays house in Malhamdale and it was here that Ian and Kathryn Slater brought their son Tamass who, at the age of 4 weeks, was probably the youngest participant in the Club's weekends away!
These weekends were then run by Heather Williams and later by Lesley Enoch and continued until around 2005.
The Club was still running a live music dance and a recorded dance each month and thing went well until 2005 with an average of 65 dancers at a dance and capital of £8000. However, the Scottish dancing bubble was about to start leaking! From this point numbers slowly but inexorably declined such that by 2011 the average attendance was 40 with a consequent reduction in capital.
In 2006, as an economy measure, the recorded music dances were moved into the small hall at St Chad's. However, this hall was not ideal and in 2011 they were moved to Cookridge village hall. They continued at Cookridge until 2016 when falling numbers forced them to be discontinued.
Following a last minute cancellation of the Christmas dance in 2013 (due to a problem with the electrics at St Chad's) and a suggestion from the Leeds Branch, the Club ran joint Christmas dances with the Branch, alternating the organisation and splitting the losses. This arrangement worked well for both parties and continued until the end.In 2016, the Club's 65th anniversary, a booklet of dances was produced by Lesley Enoch to commemorate recently deceased members. These were:
|The Dancing Fiddler||by Don Andrews in memory of Ruth Cheney|
|Alec's Legacy||by Lesley Enoch in memory of Alec Green|
|The Morris Dancer||by Lesley Enoch in memory of Brenda Morris|
By 2012 the average attendance at live music dances was 30 which was about the minimum for viable and enjoyable dances. However numbers stabilised at this level right up to 2019 although capital was reducing inexorably. (Things were helped by a legacy of £1000 from the estate of Alec Green and £400 from the Glen Lee dancing group.)
The fundamental problem was low numbers at dances which resulted in heavy losses. To increase fees or to reduce expenditure (eg by moving to a cheaper hall such as Cookridge) would make the dances less attractive and probably reduce numbers further. The Club was between the Devil and the deep blue sea!
It was clear that the demise of the Club was inevitable and in early 2019 the committee discussed the situation and how best to manage the final years of the Club.
It was decided that, rather than simply run the Club into the ground financially, there would be two more years of dancing which would hopefully leave enough money to fund a grand final dance in June 2021. This plan was approved by the members at the AGM that autumn.
Things went to plan until March 2020 when Covid struck!
With the Covid restrictions in force the Club was looking into a dark hole with no idea of when dancing would again be permitted. Following discussions with the Leeds Branch it was agreed that, when dancing was able to resume, there would be just one dance in Leeds each month of the first dancing year. This would, hopefully, give better numbers at the dances and reduce the overall losses in what was likely to be a difficult year.
The Club ran the first dance in late August 2021 with an encouraging attendance of over 5 sets and subsequent dances during the year went well with both the Club and the Branch suffering only modest losses.
The final dance took place at St Chad's on 25 June 2022 to the music of Robert Whitehead and the Danelaw (who had been playing for the Club for over 50 years). In the months prior to the dance a lot of publicity was spread around the local area billing it as a 'Go Out With a Bang' dance.
The numbers expected to attend were difficult to predict, the thoughts being 5-6 sets on the floor.
The end result was gratifying beyond expectations - there were about 80 people in the hall with 8 sets on the floor all night and dancing continued until almost 11pm. Don Andrews, as the MC, controlled things in his usual unflappable manner and all agreed that the Club did indeed 'Go Out With a Bang'!During this period the Presidents were:
|1996 - 2000||Alec Green|
|2000 - 2005||Patricia Lodge|
|2005 - 2014||Patricia Lynch|
|2014 - 2018||Alice Smith|
|2018 - 2022||Alan Fox|