Michael Barraclough at Sidmouth Festival 2017

WELCOME! I am delighted to be returning to Sidmouth. I will be calling the 'Playford' Ball as well as running a 3 hour intensive workshop in English Country Dance every morning. You can follow the links above to find out much more information. The workshops will traverse the complete spectrum of English Country Dance from pre-Playford right up to the current day including traditional dances, stepping, eCeilidh, American Country Dance and more. They have been designed to integrate folk dance club dancers, ceilidh dancers and fans of Zesty Playford. They will include elements of dance technique and dance history and will NOT be just another dance.

My first year at the festival was 1970. I was a full-time steward. It was the first year of the Knowle Arena, and the Friday night performance played to a capacity audience of 5,000+. Eventually we allowed people in without paying because there was nowhere you could be and see the show!

As well as being a steward I have also danced in the festival morris team, the festival dance display team, run workshops on improving dance team performance, and have been a judge for the Ritual Dance Competition.

This the seventh time I have been booked as a caller. My calling has included two Late Night Extras, two Anchor Ceilidhs, a ceilidh in the ford (sorry, can I mention that?) as well as lots of social dances and workshops.

Two events stand out. First, the 'Playford Balls' Up in the Drill Hall in 1986 with Pyewackett. It was very hot, very sweaty, a very long queue to get in ( someone said it was 1/4-mile), Micky Barker on a huge drum kit and dancers who refused to stop dancing, even when Pyewackett stopped playing and walked off the stage. Second, the Playford Dance in the Ham Marquee (those were the days) with the York Waites. Both these events still get an occasional mention on internet mail lists.

At some point in the week I will also be making a pilgrimage to the Connaught Gardens to sit on the Bill Rutter Memorial Seat. The festival started in 1955 under the leadership of Nibs Matthews and was then built up into the mega festival it became by Bill Rutter. Bill and Nibs were two of my mentors, both now sadly deceased. As well as being the driving force behind the Sidmouth Festival, Bill also founded Halsway Manor and Folk Camps. We owe him a great debt.

Michael Barraclough

Michael Barraclough calling at Littleton in 2005

Michael Barraclough calling for the Yanks Meet Limeys dance at Littleton Village Hall, May 2005


1129 E Forest Hills Dr, Phoenix AZ 85022, USA
Tel:+1 480-758-7803

MORE ABOUT ME - I have been dancing for nearly 50 years, and calling and researching the authentic performance of 17th & 18th century English country dance, for almost as long. I danced with London Folk (the EFDSS national dance company), London Pride Morris Men (Cotswold), Manley Traditional Morris Men (NorthWest) and founded/directed the Queen Anne Dance Company. I was also a Folk Camp leader for many years. In 2008 I emigrated to the USA and now live in the Phoenix metro area with my wife Rhonda.

I came across ‘country dancing’ at elementary school in England, but it was not until I went to a Barn Dance when I was 17 that I became hooked. I started calling in 1969 as the resident caller at Haystack Folk Club, the weekly London University folk dance and song club. I had called at most of the major folk festivals in the UK and was the caller with the acclaimed electric folk-rock band Pyewackett for 10 years, when work and family pressures dictated an early 'retirement' in 1991, From then I called only occasionally until 2002 when I decided that my calling retirement was premature and started calling regularly again.

Since then I have called at many UK festivals including Bromyard (‘02), Whitby (‘03,’04), Eastbourne (‘03,’05,’07), Lichfield (‘04,’05) and Sidmouth (‘06,’07 & 10). I also ran a monthly zesty contra series in Newbury and five ‘sell-out’ zesty contra weekends at Halsway Manor. I have been heard calling on TV and radio in the UK.

I was a member of the Dance Research Advisory Group of the Institute of Teachers of Dance (ISTD) and have served on the council of the Society for Dance Research. I have had papers published in the Folk Music Journal and Traditional Dance, and presented a lecture/workshop at the Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society 2001 Conference on my new interpretation of Newcastle.

Since I arrived in the USA, I have been calling regularly there. Highlights include 3 weekends in Minneapolis, 4 dance camps in California, a dance camp in Florida and appearances at NEFFA in 2007 (contra), 2008 (ECD) and 2009 (ceilidh & contra medley). I was on the Friday Night Dancers (Glen Echo) Board and responsible for booking bands there from 2004-2008. I am now on the Board of Phoenix Traditional Music & Dance and call regularly at all the contra dances in Arizona.

My unique selling point is bringing together my talents as a high energy ceilidh caller with my experience of dancing (and calling) contras and English Country Dance, both in the UK and the USA.