Trainor Feis in Chingford
by John Egan
In its 17 year lifetime I have heard the Trainor Feis being described as the ‘supercharged kick-start to the feis season’ in the southern England region and possibly in the whole of the UK.
Its timing early in the calendar year is just one of many reasons why dancers flock to this event from all over the country and from elsewhere. Dancers are keen once again to exercise those moving parts which have lain relatively dormant over the end-of-year winter weeks in the post Gt Britain Championships period.
The open championship dancers at this time of year will have their sights set on the two main events that follow soon afterwards, ie, All Ireland Championships in February and World Championships in March. They will be keen to break in those new dancing shoes and to sport their livery in a new ‘Gavin’ or ‘Siopa’ dance costume.
But above all they will want to renew their efforts in improving and perfecting their dance routine in the hope that it will lead to crowning glory at the main event.
The Trainor Feis provides an excellent opportunity at this crucial time to eye-up the opposition in all age groups and possibly to learn new steps from current world champions or podium placers who always turn out here in force.
But as at most feiseanna it was not just the open championship dancers who basked in the limelight. Of the three separate dancing halls at the Trainor Feis the busiest of these, in terms of competitor numbers and family supporters, was the grades hall for beginners, novices and intermediate dancers. And there is no greater limelight for the very young dancer than the adulation of family and friends.
This is the hall where you find the nutrients that feed into local, regional, national and global populations of Irish dancers. This is where the competitive rivalry is less intense or even non-existent. But that is not to gainsay the further development of those who want to be the best they can be and to aim for the highest podium. Surely this is an admirable trait of the human condition.
Regular feis-goers will be aware of the intense activity that goes on all around them at these events, but only those who are involved in some way with the organisational demands of feis logistics will know of the work that goes on behind the scenes. Planning begins on the day after last year’s feis ended. Much has to be put in place leading up to the day that dancing starts, when musicians, adjudicators, scores enumerator, parking stewards, caterers, stage managers, venue staff and a host of other functionaries are in place to ensure the show gets under way and is steered as smoothly as possible up to the moment the last medal is presented and the cleaning squad has departed to their beds.
At the hub of all this activity is the organising teacher(s). In this case at the Trainor team’s core were teachers Bernadette, Debbie and Katrina assisted by family members.
In the past I’ve been asked who has the crucial roles apart from the teacher organisers but it would be invidious of me to attempt an answer to that question. I can say however that I do not envy the role of musician, adjudicator or scores enumerator.
Concentration in these roles is almost continuous throughout. In the case of adjudicators there is the constant rotation from hall to hall, from age group to age group, and from champions to beginners.
Very often adjudicators have long journeys before and after the feis, by train or boat or plane. At the Trainor Feis for example Chicago adjudicator Julie Showalter just blew in from the Windy City which is intensely cold at this time of year. But for all that she was able to bring with her a flamboyant dress style that brightened up the wintry weekend in Chingford, London.