GWERINWYR GWENT WELSH FOLK DANCERS
Gwerinwyr Diary November 2020 by Sue Venn
Gwerinwyr Gwent’s longest serving member, Linda Dixon, joined just two years after the group was formed. Linda is also our chairman. As we have nothing currently to write about, we have instead dipped into the archives, and here are a few of her memories from 40 years of dancing with GG.....
Of the many years spent in the group, I have wonderful memories from our foreign trips. Gwerinwyr Gwent has had the good fortune to travel to a number of destinations in Europe; promoting our Welsh heritage and experiencing the cultures of other nations. Our earliest one was to Germany (which was prompted by the twinning of Newport with Heidenheim in 1980), when we were welcomed by the Schwabische Trachtengruupe.
A firm friendship developed over many years, with a number of exchanges. Invitations have usually been extended to us to attend the bi-annual Shepherd Festival or Shepherd Run –a centuries old event attracting all the shepherds in the area. A procession through the streets culminated in the big event at the town’s stadium. Part of the festivities includes the crowning of the new shepherd king and queen.
In 2006 our visit coincided with the town hosting a Garden Festival. We flew from Heathrow to Munich in August and the airport was thrown into chaos on our departure day following the liquid bomb plot. After long queues, vigorous checks and a few hours delay we were airborne. Unfortunately, our luggage never arrived and so no costumes. The next evening we performed at a concert in our ‘civvies’! Our dilemma was explained to the audience, which was met with a huge wave of sympathy and applause. In the following hours and days, suitcases started to turn up, which meant great excitement for some, but disappointment for others, until we were eventually all reunited with our possessions.
Dancing with the group has also taken me to Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Belgium and Italy. In July 2003 we visited the little town of Coredo, northern Italy, for an international festival. We were accommodated in a castle on a hill, with magnificent views over the vineyards below. It was very hot that week, so walking around in woollen costumes would have been a real challenge. Fortunately, all dance performances took place in the cooler evenings.
Our costumes are always admired wherever we go, but they drew a lot of attention from the locals, particularly our Welsh hats; some asked if we were witches! Such was the interest, that our teacher was persuaded to leave her costume behind to be placed in the town’s museum. I wonder if it is still on display?
Gwerinwyr Gwent is always seeking new members, and beginners or experienced dancers/musicians are very welcome. Practice night is (will be) Thursday 8-10pm at the Graig Community Hall Bassaleg (opposite the Ruperra PH).