London Barndance Bands and Callers

These are just some of the bands and callers that have appeared at London Barndance events. Note that we are not an agency: London Barndance only runs dances at Cecil Sharp House in London. If you want to run your own event, you will find contact details for most of the UK's bands and callers on the Set and Turn Single website.

The Bands

The Old Time Contra Band is a four piece dance band based in the South of England. Formed in 2022, the band plays Old Time American music with a driving piano accompaniment.

Nozzy are a Bath-based duo playing both contra and ceilidh styles.

Box of Frogs is a new high-energy contra band featuring Linda Game on fiddle and Ali Messer on accordion.

Lighthouse is another new venture for 2023: Audrey Knuth on fiddle, Stuart Kenney on bass, Alex Cumming on accordion.

Contra Sutra hail from the Pacific Northwest, featuring members of the well-known bands KGB, The Syncopaths and Lift Ticket.

King Contra String Band produce a perfect fusion of the drive, energy and originality of King Kontra with steadier authentic Western Swing, Old Time and Irish.

Fat Harry combines the talents of Mollie on fiddle, Ali on accordion, and Vic on keyboards. Celtic and blues influence, with heaps of essential energy.

English Contra Dance Band was formed in 2002 and consists of fiddle player Linda Game (The Kitchen Girls, The Fold, Broken Ankles, Zoox, Token Women) with ace piano player Gareth Kiddier (the Bismarck Herrings). They have rapidly become popular on the Contra circuit, and appeared at London Barndance for the first time in 2004.

Fiddlechicks combines the talents of Mollie and Christina on fiddle with Ali on accordion, producing a high-energy sound that is great to dance to.

Bearded Dragons is the latest project from Vic Smith (piano, synths, accordion) and Benjamin Rowe (fiddle). They play High octane contra and ceilidh music in both trad and electronic-influenced styles. This covers the whole range up to full-on techno, but for us they dial down the tech and get the octane from more conventional instruments.

Vertical Expression started as the house band of the Sheffield Contra series, and now play all over the country. Gareth Kiddier said Probably the best thing I've heard for a long time ... Go seek them out and dance to them. and who are we to argue?

Portland Drive is a folk dance band specialising in playing high energy and exciting dance music for contra dancing, although we also love playing the beautiful tunes from the English tradition. Our fiddler is Brian Stone, Kathryn Dunphy plays flute, sax and clarinet, and Elaine Meechan is the pianist.

The Stringrays - Rodney Miller, Max Newman, and Stuart Kenney - are exponents of traditional fiddle tunes old and new. They find constant inspiration in each other for lyrical improvising and interplay. Each moment of performance is fresh, surprising, nuanced, and excellent.

Contrasaurus are a contra dance band based in the Midlands who specialise in playing traditional tunes in an innovative style that is great to dance to. They have a lot of dinosaurs...

The Groovemongers is a band in which world beat meets contra, with Rebecca McCallum on fiddle, C.W. Abbott on mandolin and guitar, and Jane Knoeck on keyboard and accordion. We usually perform with percussion, provided by either Teilhard Frost, Peter Blue, or Mark Hellenberg. Our repertoire reflects diverse musical interests and includes New England, Southern, French Canadian, Celtic, Klezmer, and ragtime, as well as original tunes. The band blends these tunes with spontaneous harmonies, improvisation, and lots of rhythm for a vibrant, creative sound.

The Night Before (Nicky Wood - fiddle, Alan Brunier - accordion, Adam Griffin - guitar) are a Coventry-based folk dance band who play an exciting range of energetic and fun tunes for ceilidhs, contra and Playford dances. Inspired by an eclectic range of folk music from North America and Europe, their energetic and vibrant sound combines the lyrical tune, delicious harmonies and driving rhythm of fiddle, accordion and guitar. Their love of folk dancing brings out the best in the tunes they love to play.

Weston Country Dance Band from Weston super Mare combines John on box, Mary on keyboard, and Christina on fiddle. Very popular at London Barndance - you just have to dance when Weston start playing!

Kelly's Eye have been playing for American-style dances for over 25 years, and worked with Bernard Chalk on many occasions. The line-up features accordion, guitars, and mandolin.

Wild Ride brings together the fiddle of Bob Tracey, the piano and fiddle of Holly Norton and the mandolin, banjo and guitar of Robbie Thomas to produce an exciting, driving and superbly danceable sound. (no longer active)

Fiddlegang has two fiddles and an accordion, a fusion of musical styles, and great energy! Brian, Ali and Christina are all well known to London Barndance regulars; their first appearance in this line-up was at our dance on 8th March 2008. (no longer active)

Belshazzar's Feast are a two-piece band who between them play oboe, fiddle, and piano accordion (though probably not all at once!) They appeared at London Barndance for the first time in 2002. (no longer active)

Fiddlin' Around is an all-strings band formed by Brian Stone (Hoedown / Junction 24 and also the man who dances the Hopak while playing Fiddler on the Roof!). Their first public appearance in this line-up was our May dance in 1998, and the sound is amazing.... Featuring the fiddles of Brian Stone and Bob Tracey with Andrew King on bass and Malcolm Cole on guitar. Fiddlin' Around play North American, French Canadian, and Cape Breton dance tunes along with their own compositions and those with Celtic and English roots. The blend of Bob's Irish and Brian's electric swing fiddle styles produce a diverse blend of melody and rhythm which accompanied by Andrew's innovative bass and Malcolm's manic guitar produce exciting foot-tapping dance music.

Fiddlin' Around "bowed out" at the end of 2007, and their last performance was at London Barndance on 8th December.

Alterations changes to match the dance! We take you to New England for a dance party: fast jigs and reels with attitude. Be prepared to experience contra madness! Led by Judith Cooper on the fiddle, Alison Ellacott on the make with accordion and bass, and Meg (It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing) Winters on guitar. Mike Green may join us on mandola if we can get him out of the bar, and if you see two fiddles on stage at once, one of them is probably being played by Jane. You've probably seen us all before at Sidmouth Festival, or somewhere between the Lounge in Shetland and the Town Hall in Totnes, but this time we mean it! (no longer active)

Cruise Control is a band created by people who love to play, listen, and especially dance to American Contra dance music. Judith, Robbie, Mike, and Holly bring their considerable musical experience and their passion for contra dance tunes to this exciting new collaboration. (no longer active)

Unicorn have a distinctive and powerful sound with Mollie on fiddle Dave on accordion and Phil on Guitar. They play lively foot-tapping jigs and reels with Celtic and American roots. (No longer active)

Skylark now soaring - bringing the modern sound of Contra Dance to the UK. The musicians are - Dave Brown (Fiddle), Elaine Meechan (Keyboards), Kathryn Meechan (flute), Dave Hunter or Patience Scott-Brown (Guitar) and Mark Brown (Bass). (no longer active)

Stick Shift is a new and exciting dance band that, like all the best overnight sensations, has evolved over several years. Nigel and Robbie had played together for a long time in various dance bands and in many a tunes session. Holly's arrival on fiddle and piano turned out to be the catalyst that fused with Nigel and Robbie's pyrotechnical fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar and bass playing of Scottish, Irish and American tunes to produce a driving, melodic sound underpinned by Holly's acclaimed, rock-solid piano. (no longer active)

The Callers

Rhodri Davies is based in Manchester and is well known in the North-West and at festivals around the country. He has called many times at Sidmouth, and called for London Barndance for the first time in 2000.

Andrew Swaine is a young, talented caller from Cambridge. He started dancing when he was too young to remember and started calling when he started University, and hasn't looked back since. His mastery of innumerable dance forms aid in his clear explanations mixed with the dynamism of a real dance enthusiast. He calls for contra, ceilidhs, Playford and French dance workshops and is in demand across the country, both at major festivals such as Towersey, Bromyard, Cromer, Ely and Whittlesey, and for series such as Reeling in Ealing, Friday Folk Ceilidhs and Wiggin Ceilidhs.

Cis Hinkle from Atlanta, Georgia has delighted dancers since 1985 with her welcoming manner, clear instruction, enthusiastic calling, and perfect selection of appropriate dances. Cis specialises in flowing, sometimes challenging contras, and fast moving, western-style squares. She can easily corral a lost dancer back into place, and keeps the dance moving in a neatly choreographed line with ease, diplomacy, and humour. Cis made a hugely successful appearance at London Barndance in August 2003, and has returned several times since then.

Mark Elvins calls contra and square as well as traditional English dances. Some of his dance compositions are published in a series of booklets featuring a welly-booted hedgehog on the cover.

Geoff Cubitt is a very popular contra caller, who also has a remarkable talent for grid squares.

Lynne Render first called for us in 2006 and has become a firm favourite for her clear calls in contra and even an occasional grid square.

Adam Hughes has been calling for English, Scottish and American dances for more years than he is likely to admit, with clarity, variety, enthusiasm and a hint of mischief. A favourite at local ceilidhs and a well-known face at events across the country, he promises a high-adrenaline evening all the way.

Jake Wood calls for contra, ceilidh and Playford and dances rapper, balfolk, Scandi, blues, modern jive, Argentine tango and lindy hop!

Bob Morgan started calling in 2006 with Sheffield University Ceilidh Society. He now calls contra, ceilidh, barn dance and Playford dances. Bob is a teacher when not on stage, so you will be in good hands!

Charlotte Rich-Griffin started calling while at Warwick University and now calls contra, ceilidh and Playford up and down the country.

Lisa Greenleaf is a contra dance caller from the Boston area known for her high energy calling and articulate teaching. Her specialties are zesty contras and squares; couple dances such as waltz, hambo, schottishe, polka and zwiefacher; challenging contras; and callers' workshops.

Seth Tepfer is "Atlanta's Dance Magician" calling dances for adults and children like you've never seen before. Known for his infectious energy, his short walk-thru's, and his 'hash-contras', Seth's warm enthusiasm is contagious, and gets everyone moving, smiling, and having a great time. Whether squares, contras, or other folk dances, you can be certain that all involved - novices and experienced dancers alike - will amble away happy and eager to dance more!

John Turner has a very wide repertoire of dances, including many excellent Contras.

Michael Barraclough started calling some 40 years ago, but work and family pressures dictated an early retirement in 1991. Now back out of retirement he has brought together his talents as a high energy ceilidh caller with his experience of dancing (and calling) contras in the UK and USA to become a leading zesty contra caller. Prior to retiring, he had called at most of the major folk festivals in the UK including Sidmouth, Broadstairs, Bromyard, Whitby, London, Edinburgh, Lichfield, Durham and Liverpool and was the caller with electric folk-rock band Pyewacket for 10 years. Michael moved to Virginia in 2008 and is a very active member of the dance scene there.

John Meechan covers the whole range of dances, from absolute beginners through to the most complex contras. He has a vast repertoire, including many dance of his own composition. John is a keen promoter of Contra in the UK, but has now retired from calling.

Scott Higgs from Philadelphia has called dances in almost every US state and also in several European contries. His first UK tour opened with our dance in June 2008.

Henry Morgenstein has been involved in Contra Dance since about 1984, and now describes himself as a Contra Dance Gypsy. He taught in New York and Michigan for many years, but also found time for two year-long exchange visits to the UK. Henry and his wife Jacqui spend part of each year in the US and part in the UK. Henry has now retired from calling but is still seen at dances.

Michael Catovsky is a master of the contra-ceilidh fusion, often working with Fiddlin' Around to promote really high-energy events.

Bernard Chalk called for American-style dances from the 1950s to the 1990s. He founded the London Barndance Company to promote this style of event. Bernard was a master of the `hash call' - a form of square dance where there is no fixed pattern of moves and the caller chooses the figures as the dance progresses. Bernard retired from calling a few years ago and continued to live in north London until his death on 14th June 2013.

John Chapman was one of the UK's best-loved callers. His repertoire of squares and contras was enormous, and he was particularly famous for singing calls which have been known to include yodels! We are very sad to report that John Chapman died on 5th March 2003. You can read more on the John Chapman information page