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Billingham Folklore Festival 1965

Reels, polkas, sword and Cossack folk dancers from around the world perform in colourful national costumes at the first Billingham Folklore Festival.

Amateur film 1965 16 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for North East Film Archive


In an era when foreign travel was still rare, the council launched Billinghams first festival of international folk dance and music in a new and prosperous town centre. In July 1965 an amateur filmmaker was there to capture the swirling colour, excitement and fun of dance troupes from the Ukraine, Hungary, Estonia, as well as more home-grown talent such as celebrated folk musicians, the McPeake Family of Belfast, and the famous Stockton Blue and Gold Rapper team.

The film was commissioned from the Billingham & District Cine Club, who had also captured Billingham Week festivities in 1963 and 64. The festival was the result of a chance conversation in 1964 between the inspired Clerk to Billingham council, Fred Dawson, and Philip Conroy, a teacher and folk dance enthusiast from the Sunderland area, who directed the festival until his death. The Opening Ceremony was followed by a parade of the dance troupes in national costume from The Green to John Whitehead Park, where the outdoor concerts took place during the week. School children were also treated to a performance at Billingham Technical College.