This was just the second British National Championships held by CRG (Cumann Rince Gaelach). Last year it was held at a comprehensive school in Gateshead when its organiser dance teacher Rebecca Forster was based in the North East. Since then Rebecca moved southwards to live in Warwickshire where she has re-established her dance school, Phoenix Dance Academy.
And top marks to her for sourcing an excellent first class venue in her new locality, but more of that later. CRG is a small and friendly organisation that will need no introduction to Irish dancers in the open platform world. Established in Ireland 30 years ago, it is generally acknowledged as having developed a high standard of competition in the open platform schools within its family. And that family continues to grow in Ireland and now in the UK and elsewhere.
The newly established British Nationals adds to its calendar of major events and is a qualifying oireachtas for the annual CRG world championships, which this year will be held in Dublin in October.
When Rebecca invited Noreen and me to come along to photograph the championships in Warwick Hall, part of Warwick School for boys, the venue’s title didn’t leap out as anything more than the school gym of any academy, grammar or comprehensive school up and down the country. But whoa, on arrival at this new building in the rural campus of this independent school, whose history dates back to 914, I felt obliged to wipe my shoes on the welcome mat.
Warwick Hall, costing £7.5m with a theatre seating capacity of 800, opened in September 2016, is clearly a state-of-the-art venue and is described as one of the largest and finest performance venues in the region. I felt that the school’s motto ‘Peto Altiora’, meaning ‘I aim higher’, was an appropriate description of organiser Rebecca Forster’s aim to ensure this year’s championships would be special.
I wonder how long it will be before other Irish dance organisers, particularly those based in the Midlands, will seek this venue out for feiseanna and major qualifying events.
The championships attracted open platform dancers from all over the UK and a strong contingent travelled over from Ireland, some of whom took championship silverware back across the Irish Sea.
CRG chair Linda Dolan was among the visitor contingent from Ireland, and I’m pleased they dallied for a while over the May bank holiday to take in the sights of Warwick before jetting back to Dublin. Noreen and I very much enjoyed the event and in particular I enjoyed being back in an area in which I lived for a number of years during the 1960’s.
I re-discovered some of the quaint chocolate box villages whose hostelries I sampled during youthful evenings out, all those years ago. We had the good fortune to spend the weekend in the village of Barford, outside Warwick, which felt and looked like a million miles from the M1 and M25.
We welcomed the sound of the Sunday morning church bells which hopefully was bidding us au revoir until next time. Don’t take my word for it; make a visit to the past.