What’s a Slubbing Billy?
A Slubbing Billy is a machine for putting a twist into freshly carded cotton or wool so that it can be spun. Before the process was mechanised, the unspun fibres were twisted by a skilled worker (a Slubber) on a frame with a long wooden rod, called a billy roller. Slubbers were notoriously intemperate, and as theirs was a trade that the cloth producers could not do without, it was (like cropping, which made the Luddites redundant) soon mechanised.
Why do you wear clogs?
Until the advent of the Co-op and the industrialisation of shoe manufacture, most northern folk wore clogs as they were cheap, durable, easily repaired and comfortable for standing long periods in the mill. For dancing, the rhthymic sound they make (especially if fitted with irons) is as much a part of the dancing as the dances themselves.
Here are the answers to some questions that people ask us the most...
Can I do it?
Probably! Provided that you have the interest, and the commitment to practice regularly, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to ‘dance out’ with the side in your first year. Morris is family friendly so don’t worry about what to do with the kids (or wife/husband etc.) However, we do have age limits on who can dance out, and children always need to be looked after by a responsible adult. Ask someone on the contacts page for more details.
Do you get paid?
Individually, no. Occasionally we will do a paid booking, but the money will go towards our funds. We pay annual subs which covers the cost of the practice hall, and helps towards the cost of new cloth for dresses and waistcoats (this has to be specially woven). Dancing out costs us something one way or another, but then most hobbies do. We usually collect when dancing out and this goes towards Team funds. There is a limited amount of help with expenses for some away weekends, but this depends on our bank balance!
Where do the dances come from?
Most of the dances we perform are traditional, and originate from the cotton mill towns of Lancashire and Cheshire. Each town would have its own dance, and it would be named after the town or village, like Mobberley or Alderley Edge. A few originate from the western edges of Yorkshire, including one, Carr Lodge Polka, that is thought to have originated in Slaithwaite (of course we have to dance this!). We also have our own dance, Westwood, which is named after the small hamlet near Golcar where it was devised when we used to practice at Westwood Chapel.
Where and when do you practice?
We practice at Slaithwaite Community Centre most Tuesday evenings, between September and the end of April. Time: Between 8.00 and 10.00 PM. Feel free to call in - we’ll make you welcome - but get in touch with one of the contact first to confirm that we are having a practice on the night you're planning to visit, and to get directions if you don't know the area. In summer we practice (in kit) at a number of local pubs instead, so you'll need to know which one.
I don’t want to dance - can I just play in the band?
Yes! Full time musicians are worth their weight in gold! Most acoustic instruments are suitable. Apart from the usual accordions, melodeons and fiddles, brass instruments are particularly welcomed if you can play in G and D. Guitars, mandolins, banjos, bazoukis etc. are also fine. Ask a musician at a dance out, or get in touch via email.