Longsword dances originate mainly in Yorkshire and Mersey’s main longsword dance is Flamborough. Flamborough is the village from which Flamborough Head on the east coast takes its name and where the dance is performed annually around Christmas (often Boxing Day). Our version is based on that collected by Cecil Sharp in 1910. It is danced with single handled wooden swords and is slower but no less smooth that the rapper dances. Most of Mersey are now able to dance Flamborough so there is a good chance of seeing it if you catch us out and about. The traditional dance has eight dancers but we have a modified version for six which we use when numbers are tight at a particular venue.

We are also working on Papa Stour which is danced with seven men using slightly longer, steel swords. This dance comes from the Shetland Isles and represents the age-old theme of the struggle between good and evil. The forces of good are the Seven Champions of Christendom, St James of Spain, St Dennis of France, St David of Wales, St Patrick of Ireland, St Anthony of Italy, St Andrew of Scotland led by St George of England. The movement of the swords represents the battle in which evil is finally vanquished. St George then bids farewell to the onlookers and heads the Seven Champions off stage.

(It’s also got a very nice tune even if the musicians do think that 5,000 times through on a practice night is a little too much of a good thing).