GWERINWYR GWENT WELSH FOLK DANCERS

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Diary July 2022

Gwerinwyr Diary July 2022 by Sue Venn

Well, our luck with the weather finally ran out on the 18th June when we took part in the Abergavenny Arts Festival on a very soggy Saturday. A gazebo was provided for dance teams to perform under, but everyone got rather damp and of course there wasn’t much of an audience either. A great shame, especially for organisers of the event after a 2-year delay

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On the 2nd July we had a first for us....providing a twmpath for a wedding party on our home turf of the Graig Community Hall in Bassaleg. Lauren and Luke married in 2020 but this was their first chance to hold a celebratory party for family and friends. With our group of three musicians, caller Barbara and just three dancers we didn’t give any displays, simply demonstrated the dances and joined in. In fact they didn’t need any encouragement to take part, picked up the dances very well and participated with gusto. They all said how much they enjoyed it, and we did too.

The ladies of Little Mill WI invited us to their village hall on Thursday 14th July. Barbara Griffiths gave an edited version of her talk on Lord and Lady Llanover, and as usual we interspersed that with displays and easy audience participation dances.

The following day we were in Caerleon, in the lovely grounds of the Priory Hotel, for the 85th anniversary celebration of Basque children arriving in the UK. Kezka Dantza Taldea, a group of Basque dancers and musicians had arrived on Thursday just in time to give a performance at the opening ceremony. Basque traditional dancing is quite unusual with steps that look like a cross between Scottish sword dancing and ballet, but including high kicks above head height by both male and female dancers. It made our Welsh dances look rather tame in comparison, but we did try to perform a varied programme, and then had some fun by inviting them to join us in some twmpath dances, which they picked up very quickly. 

The background to the celebration is that in late May 1937 after the horrific bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, almost 4000 children were evacuated from the Basque region on SS Habana sailing from Bilbao to Southampton. The UK government refused to provide public funds to support the enterprise, so voluntary organisations were set up across the UK, and, financed by trade unions, chapels and individuals, 57 children arrived in Caerleon. They were housed in Cambria House (the old workhouse) with Maria Fernandez as matron. She had come to Dowlais as a child in 1905 as part of a community of iron workers. In September 1939 Cambria House was requisitioned by the army and the remaining children were moved, many had already returned to Spain once the Spanish Civil War was over. By the end of WW2, 383 remained in Britain, and all colonies finally closed in 1947.

If you are interested in finding out more about the story of the Basque children in the UK, visit the website:  www.basquechildren.org

Gwerinwyr Gwent is always seeking new members, and beginners or experienced dancers/musicians are very welcome. Practice night (numbers permitting) is Thursday 8-10pm at the Graig Community Hall (opposite the Ruperra PH).

For more details ring 01495 271953.