History of RSCDS Croydon & District Branch
After the Silver Jubilee Ball, the Branch continues to flourish, though not without ups and downs. However, over the past twenty-five years those at the helm (committee members and class teachers) continued to guide the Branch in a fruitful direction allowing us, the members, to continue to enjoy classes and social dancing.
Croydon Branch has had its fair share of personalities during the past 25 years. It is always fraught with danger when one mentions one or two individuals to illustrate our contribution to the advancement of Scottish Country Dancing. It must be clearly understood therefore, that the following is only a sample of our Branch’s talents, since space precludes the inclusion of all our notable worthies.
Rita Quirk: A teacher of repute who not only taught in the Croydon area but taught Ladies’ Step at St. Andrews Summer School on several occasions. She was Chairman and then Branch President for many years.
Andrew Gillies: A teacher of international repute, who was not only in demand locally, but also in Australia, Canada, the USA, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and various European locations. A long standing committee member who represented the Branch at the RSCDS Executive and AGM meetings. His outstanding contribution to Scottish dancing was recognised by the award of the Society’s Scroll of Honour.
Sylvia Edie: A teacher of long standing who at one time ran four classes per week covering children, beginners, intermediate and an advanced/demonstration class. She is Imperial and RSCDS qualified and won the McConachie Sword twice for her dance compositions. Sylvia has also been responsible for Ball decorations for many years as well as for many other behind the scene functions as a committee member.
Elsie Price and Lorna Ogilvie: Long standing committee members who represented the Branch at meetings of the RSCDS Executive for many years voicing the Branch’s opinions and concerns on the running of the organisation: a dedicated loyalty often forgotten in the light of the front-runners.
Then there are personalities such as Joyce Martin and Clare Cox who gave loyal service on the Committee, arranging the dance music tapes and cribs, organising and encouraging members to go on dancing holidays both at home and abroad. And of course, there are many others too numerous to mention in this short article.
Some things never change, they only take on a different mantle – Problems such as suitable dance venues, maintaining classes within the district, maintenance of the Branch membership and addressing members’ comments were regularly dealt with and are still a regular concern for the Committee. Venue changes occur for differing reasons such as refurbishment, cost, size, floors or catering facilities, to name but a few, and result in the Branch moving around the district to meet these changing demands. However, one major change was the institution of a twice-yearly Newsletter in the autumn of 1979, as a means of keeping Branch members in touch with changes and each other. It has developed over the years as member responded with articles and news of their escapades, providing encouragement and guidance to other members, and expanding their interest and enjoyment in Scottish Country Dancing. It was through the Newsletter that more dancers were encouraged to dance abroad and to attend their Branch’s week-end and five day holidays. Many a tale is to be found in the Newsletters of members, armed with the RSCDS Directory of Secretaries, enjoying dancing in various parts of the world during their holidays, providing the true international and friendship aspects of our Society.
The week-end dance schools started in 1979, when interest in our day school waned,, with a trip to Eastbourne, which has remained the preferred location apart from a couple of the early years when other venues were tried. This popularity led to the Branch five day holiday being established in 1988 which lasted for 14 years, visiting locations such as Grange-over-Sands, Scarborough, Melrose, Falmouth, etc. Open air dancing also became attractive with successful dances at Hever Castle, Penhurst Place, Park Hill in Croydon and Caterham ~School or in member’s gardens, in spite of the vagaries of the British weather, while Folk Festivals continued to attract successful entries with either a competition, children’s or demonstration team under the guidance of Sylvia Edie till the min 1990’s
When the Society asked Branches to submit a dance for a new book, Croydon took up the challenge and from those submit6ted by members one dance was chosen and sent to HQ. Our submission was among those chosen for Book 36, “Frae A’ The Airts” Volume 1, the Anniversary Reel by Sheila Muir. In view of the number of dances submitted by members, Croydon decided in 1989 to publish its own dance book. A second book to celebrate our Ruby Anniversary followed in 1994.
This interest probably resulted in the pastime at the 1989 Branch weekend where dance devising was included. Attendees were grouped together, given a few figures and set the task of devising a dance. From the accounts, this created a lot of fun, consternation and success with the six dances devised. [Interesting to note that at this year’s RSCDS Summer School devising dances was one of the afternoon classes. Were Croydon pioneers? Does anyone remember the event and would they like to reminisce with on article? G.F.]
Croydon have always supported other charities, holding dances and providing demonstrations to raise money for causes like Croydon Mayday Care Committee, Royal National Lifeboat Institute, Save the Children, Sport Aid, appeals for Kampuchea and Kurdish Refugees, to name but a few. This aspect of the Branch’s activities ceased when in 1997 we became a Registered Charity, since one charity cannot contribute directly from its normal income to another. However, we can still support other Charities by providing demonstrations teams, or running raffles, for instance. The change in status was successfully handled by the Committee at the time with the minimum of disruption to our operation.
Teachers have always been a mainstay of the Branch, which over the years has encouraged and assisted aspiring teachers. Thus in 1980 the branch ran its own teachers’ class taught by Andrew Gillies, with 6 candidates being successful in the preliminary test. Later others took their certificates at either Summer School or one of the locally run classes.
Thanks to the dedicated work of committee members over the years, we can celebrate our 50thAnniversary in December 2003 with a Birthday Dance followed by a Ball in January 2004. We are fortunate in that a number of Branch members who celebrated the 25th Anniversary will join in our 50th Birthday celebrations.
May we continue to enjoy Scottish Country Dancing under the auspice of the Branch for another fifty years and more! With members taking spells on the committee we should go forwards, new blood brings in new ideas or tweaks established ones to ensure we continue to move forward in the right Direction and do not become complacent.