Raising the Dragon

The weekend before last we put on a French and Breton folk dance here on Dartmoor with Red Dog Green Dog and Wod (gig photos by Rima Staines, with thanks).

Red Dog Green Dog warming up for the gig

Though ostensibly secular, a party or a gig is nonetheless a kind of ritual. It begins with an invitation...

...and the preparation of a ritual space, in this instance the transformation of a boxy 1970s village hall, complete with badminton court, into something resembling a festival tent (huge thanks to everyone who gave their time and energy to make it happen).

Here, I'm a great believer in the quiet power of bunting. A quintessential piece of English magic, it draws the eye, breaks up straight lines and lifts the spirits. A parachute, some Indian wall-hangings and coloured lights also helped massively.

There was a dance workshop for the uninitiated...

...and then we were away, with both bands playing for an hour and a half each. From the off the atmosphere was fantastic. Beginners and seasoned dancers piled onto the dance floor in true festive fashion, with many of the dances reaching that level of transcendence we all secretly crave.


At the end, both bands came together to play on the floor, the dancers jostling close by. Come the inevitable curfew, no one wanted to stop.

Clearing up the hall and returning it to normal is all part of the post-ritual cool-down, as is the all-important cup of tea immediately afterwards. But in order to stave-off that terrible feeling of anti-climax, I organised a Sunday afternoon session in a warm but gritty local pub, the Northmore Arms. It was truly one of the best sessions I've played in, with gorgeous tune following gorgeous tune, several outbreaks of Gypsy Jazz, and even a slinky 'Ninja Tunes' version of Matty Groves. When it came to a natural end, the ritual was closed.

As with all good rituals, everyone came away slightly transformed, with that honeyed sense of levity that comes from something having happened. Though much anticipated, the exact nature of that something can never quite be predicted.

What was particularly wonderful for me was that the gig brought together an extended group of friends - a tribe if you will - that time and circumstance had rather scattered to the four corners.

Broken toy, found outside the gig venue

It was in the mid-nineties that a group of us ex-road-protesters started going to France, to the folk festival at Saint Chartier. We returned with pipes, hurdy-gurdies, a bagful of tunes and the feeling that this yearning, droning, earthy music was ours. It was a heady time - to be young was very heaven - and though all things must pass, I miss it dreadfully.

But at the gig, and for the first time in over a decade, the spirit was there again.

I felt the dragon move.  


  1. Sounds like a truly magical evening, and yes the power of Bunting! :)



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