Clogfest 2012 – a celebration of all things clog

I am constantly amazed at the unusual things that fascinate people.

Just the other day, a chap from the Roundabout Appreciation Society was interviewed on Radio 5. They meet and talk about roundabouts. I kid you not; Google it if you don’t believe me. I had the same feeling when I stumbled on Clogfest.

Clogfest 2012

Clogfest is a celebration of clogs. That’s not doing it justice though. It’s really all about fun; fun and music, dancing and street entertainment. A great atmosphere in a great location.

Clogfest was started in 2002 by a group of Yorkshire-based clog dancers and it has gone from strength to strength. This year’s event, over the weekend of 6th – 8th July, will feature 22 clog dancing groups, from Addison’s Clog Dancers to Strictly Clog. They come from all over the country and each focuses on particular styles. Yes, clog dancing has styles. For instance, the Lancashire style uses largely toe movements whereas the Durham style focuses on heel tapping. Whichever style is used, clog dancing is an intricate form of step dance and isn’t seen very often.

History of clog dancing

Clogs are, of course, wooden shoes. In the industrial revolution they became popular as cheap, hardwearing and comfortable footwear and were particularly popular in mining and the mills. Leather or rubber were used for soles, although those used in the cotton mills were typically iron clad – the floors were constantly wet for the cotton and iron clad shoes stayed dryer.

Clog dancing probably started in the mills. The work was long and tedious, and workers would tap their clogs to the rhythm of the machines to alleviate boredom. It moved outside the factories and mines when men realised they could earn a bit extra demonstrating their skills on street corners. Dancing competitions featured in Working Men’s Clubs in which the winners earned prize money. It was then just a short hop into music-hall acts, and now features in folk festivals held around the UK.

The clogs used for dancing are lighter than the original footwear, more ornate and are not iron clad – too many sparks!

Clog fighting

As well as dancing, clog fighting, known in Lancashire as ‘purring’, was used to settle disputes. The fighting, and the betting among spectators, was illegal but in a male dominated Society it couldn’t be stopped. Given the main implements were wooden clogs with at minimum metal studs hammered into the wood, often iron clad, the injuries were often severe.

There’s a terrific book called ‘Rose’by Martin Cruz Smith that is set in a Lancashire mining community and effectively describes the clogs worn at the time, and incorporates the fighting that occasionally occurred.

So, if you are near Skipton on 6 – 8 July, call in and enjoy the event. Clog dancing may not be your thing, but there will be a great atmosphere and it will be fun to watch.

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