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The main event of Kettle Bridge's 30th anniversary celebrations was a weekend tour of Cambridge and Ely. Many of us arranged to stay together in a pub in Stretham (no, not the one in South London --- the one near Ely) and the rest of the side were accommodated with nearby friends or alternative B&Bs.
On Saturday, we awoke to rather a grey day but everyone made their way safely to the first stand which was outside Great Saint Mary's Church, a very impressive building in the heart of Cambridge. As you might expect, the city is very popular with foreign tourists and the sight of some colourfully clothed ladies soon attracted the crowds and a steady stream of requests to pose for photographs. Thankfully Tony-the-Snapper was on hand to help out with taking souvenir pictures.
Sharing the day with us was Haughley Hoofers, another north west clog dancing side who dress in distinctive red outfits covering "Andy Pandy suits". Haughley is a village near Stowmarket and is well known for being the birthplace of singer / actress Kerry Ellis.
A large crowd had gathered by the time the dancing started. This provided an excellent atmosphere but sometimes the over-enthusiastic tourists got a little too close to the action for comfort! Alternating with Haughley, we danced Prescot, Milnrow and Lostock, after which the dancers rested while the band played some tunes. For this they were joined by a couple of harmonica players who happened to be passing. Unfortunately they weren't invited to join the band permanently as they didn't really fit in, being aged under 40 and actually smiling occasionally while playing.
Having recharged their batteries, the dancers were ready for another session of activity and danced Aughton and Colne 6. This was followed by an audience participation version of Green Stockings which was thoroughly enjoyed by all those who took part.
Cambridge has its own rules for controlling street performers which meant that we couldn't be guaranteed a dancing spot to move on to. The solution was for Tim to dash off to our second location and establish a presence by busking there on his own which meant that no-one else could then take that spot. The accompanying KBC gopher then ran back to our first stand to confirm that we had staked our claim and to direct everyone to the new location. By the time we got back to Tim, he had collected 17 pence, 2 euros, an assortment of buttons and a Noise Abatement Order.
The second stand was actually just round the corner from the first and was on a nicely paved area (except for one unwelcome hole). Again we attracted a good crowd who enjoyed performances of Ealuscerwen, KBC Processional and Saint Helens Gala. The band again played a few tunes by way of an intermission (this time without interference) to allow the dancers to recover. This was followed by an all-in Churchtown and Shawforth, which took us to lunchtime. We had plenty of time before the afternoon session to enjoy lunch and Cambridge has plenty of good eating (and drinking!) establishments that provide suitable refreshment.
The third and final stand was at the Quayside Precinct, right next to Magdalene Bridge which spans the River Cam. This is the main location for punt excursions on the river and we were continually pestered with invitations to go on the river. Despite Tony managing to negotiate a good price, no-one was prepared to take the risk of being a customer on a river boat --- or to put it another way, no-one wanted to take a punt at being a punter on a punt.
Again, we found a good dancing surface to use and entertained the audience with Milnrow, Marston 6, Sidcot (I think that's what it was) and Cossington. The final dance was another all-in Churchtown which, as always, attracted plenty of enthusiastic audience participation.
And that was that! We enjoyed an excellent day and thanks must go to Haughley Hoofers for being such great company. The band also deserves special recognition for all the hard work they put in keeping the dancers in step and entertaining the crowd while the dancers rested --- a sterling effort.