A Brief History of The Hexham Christmas Ceilidh
The first Hexham Christmas Ceilidh took place in 1994 in the ballroom
at The Royal Hotel, and was the idea of David Oliver and Martin Dunn of
The Hedgehog's Skin and John Clegg, the owner of the hotel.
The Hedgehog's Skin,
despite playing very regularly for weddings and private parties, had
noticed a decline in the number of dances open to the public, and so
decided to provide Hexham with a special ceilidh every year. It has
been held every year since, always on December 28th, nicely filling the
gap between Christmas and New Year.
Such was its success it moved the
following year to the much bigger Queen Elizabeth High School, and then
in 1997 to Wentworth Leisure Centre, before returning to QEHS in 2000
where it has been ever since.
The formula is very simple: only
great tunes and only great dances, lots of well-known favourites with a
few surpises thrown in, friendly and accessible to anyone.
David Oliver (accordion) and Chip
Chamberlain (guitar) have, at every christmas ceilidh, formed the
backbone of the band, which has included Martin Dunn (flute), Joey
Oliver (whistle), Richard Adamson (melodeon) and the fiddle playing of
Chuck Fleming, Sarah Skilbeck, Emma Reid, Ruth Ball, Heather Gessey,
Beth Chamberlain, Catriona Innes, Rachel Oliver and current regulars Sophie and
The original caller was the inimitable Dave Cave, who was a regular caller with The Hedgehog's Skin
until his death in 1998 (although too ill to call or dance, he attended
the 1997 event, the last dance he ever went to). At the second event,
he called for the entire evening dressed in a quite brilliant home-made
angel outfit. Hugh Rippon was a guest caller in 1996, after which Mary
Oliver called every Hexham Christmas ceilidh until Joey took over in
A special guest spot was given at
the first ceilidh by concertina virtuouso Robert Harbron, accompanied
by Tim Diggings on bodhran. Since then, appearances have been made by
The Riding Mill Fiddlers, The Hexham Morris Men and The Hexhamshire
Lasses, 422, The Pack, Sarah Hayes, various Belly Dancers, Irish Set
Dancers, Dunmail Hodkinson, Gigue Fish, Carolyn Robson and Paul Tabbush,
Joe O'Connor, Laura Connolly, Alistair Anderson, Sarah Norris, King
Cole, Emma Reid, Mike Tickell with Alan Lynch, and Star and Shadow Rapper Dancers.
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