Insider Knowledge!

Arranging a ceilidh – insider knowledge!

We’ve learnt a lot about organising ceilidhs over the years. When we were putting together the new website, it felt like we had too much information to cram it all in on the main pages, so instead we decided to put some of our hard-earned ceilidh wisdom into a blog post.

Nothing here is meant to be prescriptive – if the advice here doesn’t fit your ideas of how you want your ceilidh to run, then by all means ignore it!

Venue

It sounds obvious, but choosing the right venue can be a big part of making your event go well. The perfect room for a ceilidh would have a good sized hard floor, with plenty of room for dancers to fling themselves about without colliding with tables and chairs, but also a seated area nearby for people who aren’t dancing to sit and relax, without feeling cut off from the ceilidh; the room would be a comfortable temperature for dancers and non-dancers alike; the ceiling wouldn’t be too high, so that the sound doesn’t echo around too much; there would be easy access for anyone with mobility problems; you’d have lots of parking spaces (and even good public transport links), and it would be easy to carry PA kit in from the car park; there might be access to a kitchen and space to serve food; there would be a good-sized stage for the band; the staff running the venue would be friendly, professional and helpful; and, of course, there would be a well-stocked bar!

In the real world, you’re never going to get everything right – it’s just a matter of finding the best balance for what you want. One thing we have learnt over time: the best venues usally aren’t the fanciest or most expensive.

In the real world, you’re never going to get everything right – it’s just a matter of finding the best balance for what you want. One thing we have learnt over time: the best venues usally aren’t the fanciest or most expensive.

Children

Kids love to dance. We’ve played for lots of family ceilidhs over the years, and our most enthusiastic dancers are often the youngest people in the room. One of the great things about a ceilidh is the way that everyone can join in, young or old. That said, there are some common sense considerations to take into account.

Very young children will need some adult help. We’ve seen this done lots of ways – for very tiny ones, an adult may dance carrying a child, though this gets tiring very quickly, or sometimes there will be a ‘couple’ dancing which includes two adults and one small child. Once a child is big enough to bop around on their own two legs and to follow simple instructions, they should be fine to join in with the dancing in their own right – specific parts of a dance may be a bit tricky, like forming an arch with your arms big enough to fit an adult under – but it doesn’t usually matter.

Bigger kids and teenagers tend to have no problem with the dancing at all. So long as they listen to the caller, they’re likely to be some of the sharpest and fittest dancers in the room.

Family ceilidhs work best when there’s a decent mix of ages, ideally with more adults and bigger kids dancing than small children. If you get lots of children up at the same time, the adults will sometimes retreat and leave them to it, so that the event turns into a children’s ceilidh with adults watching on. This isn’t the end of the world, but it’s arguably less fun than a proper all-age ceilidh. Just to be clear, the answer isn’t to have fewer kids dancing, it’s to get more adults up and joining in!

Disabilities

We’ll always do our best to make a ceilidh accessible to everyone who attends. In our experience, a ceilidh can work well for the varied levels of fitness and mobility at an ordinary family celebration, and this includes people with particular disabilities. It might not be possible for every person in the room to join in with every dance, but we’ll do our best – we’ve made a point of including dances that work with electric wheelchairs before now. If you want to discuss this at all, either let us know before hand or talk to our caller on the evening.

Interval and Food

We always have a break of 30 -45 minutes, just to give ourselves and the dancers a bit of a break. A lot of people use this as an opportunity to feed their guests, and this can work really well. Pie and peas seems to be the traditional choice when catering for ceilidhs, but it’s not obligatory! For some events such as fundraisers, people use the break to fit in raffles or speeches.

However you want to organise your event, it’s sensible to think about the time you’ll need. It would be hard to fit in any kind of sit-down meal in the middle of a ceilidh; for Weddings, we’d usually recommend having the sit down meal before the ceilidh, and then a buffet or similar in the break if you feel your guests need more food.

The more you want to fit into a break, the more time you’ll need. We’re always keen to get back to the ceilidh, but obviously it’s your event and you need to organise things in the way that works for you.

It’s surprising how long it can take to get through a couple of activities planned for a break. Feeding a room full of people, even with a simple buffet, can take quite a while in its own right. If you’re trying to serve food, and have speeches, and a raffle, and also give one or two of your guests a chance to perform before the band come back on, you’re going to need a there’s a risk that the energy in the room will flag and that it’ll be harder to get the dancing going again.

Particiption / Encouragement

This is really the most important aspect of organising a ceilidh. Ceilidhs work well when people come wanting to join in. Particularly at the start of an evening, a bit of friendly encouragement from the ceilidh’s organisers can really help – after all, you’re likely to know you’re guests in a way we don’t.

It’s no problem if people need a break between dances. We’ve got plenty of songs and listening tunes that we can use to space out the dances if people are flagging.

There’s no single pattern for a good ceilidh, but there tends to be a natural rhythm to the event.

At the outset, it can take a few dances before people stop feeling self-conscious, especially if they’re new to ceilidh dancing. Once things get going, a bit of gentle peer pressure is a good way to involve people who are reluctant to join in. Most of our dances are danced in couples, and some need specific numbers (ie sets of six dancers) to work; our caller will always explain what’s needed and encourage people to come up, but sometimes the most effective thing is to have dancers picking out people who aren’t dancing to come and join in.

After the first hour or so, people are usually ready for a break. If you’ve served food, dancers may need a gentler start to get back into the swing of things. From then on, it’s a case of fitting the dances to how many people are coming up, how easy or difficult they’re finding the dances and what the energy levels in the room feel like. We’ll agree a planned finishing time when we take the booking, but we often find that there’s a natural end point to the dancing. We like to finish with a good, energetic dance, involving as many people as possible, so that the ceilidh ends on a high rather than petering out as people leave.

So there you have it. If there’s anything else you’d like to ask or discuss, get in touch!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *