Teachers Claire Theobald and Vicki Kerridge held their very first feis, MK, in their home town Milton Keynes
Dance teacher cousins, Claire Theobald and Vicki Kerridge, of the Mary Drake School of Irish Dancing travel widely in the UK and Ireland attending An Comhdhail feiseanna with their pupils.
Earlier this year, with the encouragement of family and of their dancers and their parents, they decided to hold their very own first feis. Inevitably they decided to hold it in their home town of Milton Keynes and they were keen that its title should include a reference to their home town, of which they are proud.
Planning started way back in Spring and in July they told me ‘there is great excitement about this new feis and much interest has been expressed by colleagues in England, Scotland and Ireland, and we are very much looking forward to welcoming everyone to our lovely town’.
And indeed the early interest materialised into hundreds of dancers aged three to 23 descending on the inaugural Feis MK, coming from all of An Comhdhail strongholds in the UK and from every region in Ireland. It was clear that much time, effort and planning had been spent by Claire, Vicki and their team in presenting a polished corporate image for a feis that reflected well on Milton Keynes itself.
There was a slickness in the uniformity of all the paraphernalia around the feis, such as the stage design, venue signage, programmes, and even the corporate feis logo indicating a perennial link to Milton Keynes. I was there for all the preparations on the evening before the dancing began and was impressed when vehicles arrived carrying six giant wooden letter sculptures which spelled out FEIS MK, and these were manhandled onto the stage. It reminded me of the hillside HOLLYWOOD wooden letters which I have seen up close, except that these feis stage letters were lit up Piccadilly Circus style and were not suffering from California wood rot.
I trust that some kind volunteer will offer to store them safely for use in many future years.
I recognised many of the smiling faces; of dancers, parents, adjudicators and musician. It was difficult to accept that this was an inaugural feis. It felt like so many of the well established events I had attended in London and the Home Counties, and in Dublin, Galway and Belfast.
Surely the late grandmother of Claire and Vicki, after whom the Mary Drake dance school is named, was looking down with pleasure and pride on Feis MK. I would share what is surely her view that this new feis will run and run for many years to come.
Finally, on leaving the feis on Sunday evening my one concern was that I might be asked to help manhandle the letter M from the stage, but thankfully the team’s many male helpers were there for all the heavy lifting.