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Tower Ravens at Sidmouth Folk Festival 2023. Credit: Charlotte Dover

Tradfolk’s Folk Dance Performance of the Year 2023

As the new year approaches and the old year creeps away, we're back with the news you've been waiting for: Tradfolk's Folk Dance Performance of the Year 2023

The festive excitement has made way for the haze of Betwixtmas, which means it’s time to announce the winner of the Tradfolk Folk Dance Performance of the Year 2023.

Back in early December, we asked you to vote on your favourite dances from a shortlist of eight excellent performances. You can watch the full shortlist and read a bit about each nominated side here.

We’ve tallied the marks and double-checked the votes and can now announce that the winners of the Tradfolk Folk Dance Performance of the Year 2023 are…

Tower Ravens Rapper! With their impressive, triple-set performance from Sidmouth Folk Festival 2023.

Almost 450 of you voted, with Tower Ravens taking over a quarter of first-choice votes and a further quarter of second-choices, making their performance the clear winner amongst our readers. The battle for second place was much closer, with Chiltern Hundreds just pipping Berkshire Bedlam to the post, who themselves were only a few marks ahead of Boggart’s Breakfast in fourth.

All of the performances were a great advert for our rich and diverse folk dance traditions, of course, so a big well done to all of the shortlisted teams. Thanks to you, too, the Tradfolk readers, for filming performances during 2023, nominating dances and voting on the shortlist.

As is tradition (well, we did it last year and don’t see any need to change the approach for the second award…), we had a chat with the winning team, Tower Ravens, to find out more about the team…

Congratulations on your award. Last year we asked winners Beltane Border Morris if they had ever won anything before and, other than a fairly competent turn on a bucking bronco after a few pints, the answer was ‘no’. But, of course, rapper teams have an annual competition for their art (DERT), at which you’ve achieved considerable success, not least in 2023.

So, where does winning the Tradfolk Folk Dance Performance of the Year 2023 rank amongst your achievements?

It’s amazing! Winning DERT is of course a big achievement but it’s another thing to win a popular vote from the people. We worked so hard for that performance – it’s great to see that other people loved it as much as we loved performing it.

Tell us a bit about the team. Where and when did Tower Ravens form?

We formed in 2012 in the wake of our London brothers, Thrales Rapper, hosting DERT that year. We saw it and thought, we could have a go at that.

Do you write all of your own dances?

Thrales helped us massively when we were starting out and taught us figures from the dance we call ‘Jubilee’, which is the dance featured in the video. We also perform a traditional dance from historical notation called ‘Westerhope’. Our premier competition dance is called ‘Piccadilly’ and that’s purely written by us. Of course, lots of sides perform the same figures from a dance so you might see moves that you recognise in any of our dances.

What’s the best thing about being a rapper team in London?

All the pubs! We go out on a pub crawl once a month and it takes us about a year to cycle through our favourite areas. And there are always new places to explore.

And the worst thing?

The price of pints!

You don’t look short of recruits – how do you find recruiting in London?

We have been so fortunate to have an influx of super enthusiastic people over the last couple of years and I’m so grateful for that. People join us through a variety of different ways. I think what attracts people to us is how we take pride in holding ourselves to a high performance standard, and we do so in a supportive and friendly environment.

What’s the general level of dance experience in Tower Ravens? Are lots of you also dancers elsewhere, or are you mostly exclusive rapper dancers?

Most people join us with no rapper experience. Some people have been in other dance sides before. Most people join having some experience of folk, whether that’s Morris dancing or ceilidh or music. We love seeing our members dancing out with other teams… especially when they don’t have time to change out of their Ravens kit! 

What are the best and worst spots you’ve ever done?

Our best spot has to be the last night at Sidmouth this year [the award-winning performance]. It was such an honour to be asked to perform on the last night and felt like a real finale to a hard but fantastic week of dancing. I feel that it represents all of Tower Ravens’ success – great dancing with amazing people. And the atmosphere was something else, especially with the floor fiasco – everyone was cheering us on and just enjoying the spectacle. We’ve never had that good a reception elsewhere.

It’s hard to think of a worst spot. There are often mistakes, but probably the most unfortunate dance was one this year where a sword broke, someone’s kit fell off and someone else fell out of a tumble – there’s not much more that can go wrong! 

That sounds less than ideal. But in my experience, once one thing goes wrong in a dance it’s often a precursor for a whole calamity of errors. Still, better to get them all out of the way in one dance. What’s your favourite place to dance?

Anywhere with a good floor and an enthusiastic crowd.

What’s the furthest you’ve travelled to dance?

We haven’t yet danced abroad, so it would probably be Newcastle. Obviously, we always need to leave some birds at the tower for the security of the nation

Finally, what’s the best thing about being in a dance team?

Spending time with a fantastic bunch of people doing fantastic dancing.

Thank you for speaking with us Tower Ravens and all the best for 2024!

For more info on Tower Ravens Rapper, head to: towerravens.org.uk