The Caretaker

In 2001 Andy was fantastic! He went way beyond the call of duty to help us and was smiling throughout. He was predisposed to like us because he was getting paid overtime for the weekend, but we were lucky that he was nice person (unusual for a caretaker) and we took care to be nice to his school by doing things like replacing bin bags in litter bins as they filled up. We also made a point of drawing his attention to the problem of all the polish coming off one floor rather than wait for him to notice it. IVFDF festival goers are pretty kind to the building compared to many of the people who hire school halls. (I was stunned when the caretaker of the school we had used for the Scottish dance phoned up especially to thank us for leaving the hall in such a nice state - I have never, ever, had that sort of phone call before.)

The caretaker was also very pleased with the way we cleared up after the festival. We had quite a lot of volunteers to help move furniture back to where it belonged; we did a complete clear-up of dead cans and general litter and we did a certain amount of hoovering of floors to clean up the worst of the mess.

We paid for the school cleaners to come in on Saturday just to clean toilets, and then again on Sunday for a general clean of corridors and rooms we had been using. I think we probably left the school cleaner than we found it, but it was in pretty good shape when we took it over.

Morris tours

We delegated this to our morris expert (he happened to be secretary of Open Morris). Since we were a fair way out of town we lined up a bus to shuttle people in and back later. Unfortunately the bus failed to turn up (it had broken down) and phone calls to the bus company got a 'we've gone home for the weekend' answering machine so the morris dancers had to walk the mile and a half into town.

We failed to have a phone number for anyone on the morris tour, and nobody on reception had a list of where they were supposed to be when. This upset one or two people who had wanted to go to morning workshops and then join the tour for lunch. (This was not because the tour organiser kept it secret - he had rattled off the list at a committee meeting and I remember it being very plausible - but because we failed to leave a note of it on reception.)

There were 4 local sides and 5 visiting university sides on the morris tour with a total of about 90 dancers. They collected about £35 for IVFDF funds.

Rep's Meeting

The rep's meeting is the IVFDF governing body. It is open to anyone who is prepared to miss a workshop, but only representatives of student societies may vote. Traditionally it has been towards the end of the festival, but in 2001 we moved it to Saturday because it was suggested this could give us the chance to hold a second meeting should nobody volunteer to run IVFDF 2003 at the first. (A certain amount of moral suasion might be applied in the interval.) From the committee's point of view this was a less satisfying meeting than the one in 1997. The problem was that with the festival less than half done nobody wanted to stand up and tell us it was great, but someone did chose to criticise us publicly about failing to have a morris tour itinerary on reception (a valid criticism, but the wrong place to raise it) which left the committee feeling defensive for the rest of the meeting. On the other hand the meeting is not really about the current IVFDF; it is too late to do anything about it so maybe the current committee shouldn't worry about it.

The current IVFDF committee is expected to provide a chairman and secretary for the meeting, and liaise with the IVFDF Information Point over an agenda. This will basically be

Display Ceilidh

Edinburgh were fantastic! (They burnt their own CD of a spliced-together track from Grease and choreographed an amazing mixture of very pure RSCDS dance, a Highland break (in leathers) and some very impure Scottish dance.)

We worried a bit that there would not be enough demonstrations; in fact we had a reasonable number and worry in retrospect that we should have advertised a time-limit. (The Round was worried in advance that their 6 minute display was greedy, but was consoled by the thought that a display with several committee members in it was allowed to break the rules.)

One display side asked for 4 XLRs, 3 DIs, 2 QIJs and a partridge in a pear tree from the sound man as the ceilidh started; the sound man laughed at them as said they could borrow the caller's microphone if they liked. Actually if you have a band that size you don't need PA as people are pretty good at being quiet during the displays (having heard of this panic I paid attention and could hear their acoustic guitar from the back of the hall). There is no real point trying to amplify half a dozen instruments, and getting them set up and correctly balanced would take half the display time anyway. The sound man for the display ceilidh should have channels available for perhaps a couple of instruments, and consider a microphone for announcements. He needs a CD player and perhaps a tape player. If there are any difficulties in supplying this lot you can reasonably put something on your web pages to say what you plan to make available for displays and see if anyone asks for the radio microphone you don't plan to provide or whatever. The Edinburgh CD had been worked on over time so when they thrust it into the sound man's hands they asked for "track 23 please". What the sound man didn't admit to until afterwards was that his CD player had a broken track number display so he had to hit track-forward 22 times without double-bouncing and while remembering that he had started from track 1, not zero. In the event he got it right, but for future reference a CD player with no track number display should be deemed broken (the same player surfaced later in a workshop which upset that workshop leader no end). Edinburgh should probably have played safe and put their final track onto a new CD with just the one track on it; when I have produced tapes for displays I have put the track on a short tape so it only had the one track on it (I was not quite so cynical as to put it on both sides of the tape, but that's not a bad idea). If you have a tape it is worth deciding whether you want it played from fully rewound (i.e. you get five seconds blank leader) or from the start of the tape proper. You might also decide whether the tape wants Dolby / Chrome / whatever other funny setting tapes have - a sound man will be happy to help you get the best sound, but he needs the information.

Usually the band playing for the ceilidh will be happy to play for displays if asked nicely. One team lost marks by thrusting a music score into the band's hands just as the ceilidh started, however they won on points because the tune was in the band's repertoire anyway (which the team might have known, but I suspect not). In 1997 the Round gave the band a standard tune well in advance, but unfortunately the band played it in the standard way, and not with the unusual set of repeats that had been written in to the score the Round had given the band. Basically if you want anything funny you need to negotiate with the band, and may be safer with your own tame musicians.

As is conventional we reserved the display ceilidh hall for display rehearsals on the Saturday morning, and appointed someone without any better nature to steward it so all appeals to his better nature would fail. This worked well (and the display side that asked for oodles of PA got laughed at for not having asked for it in rehearsal).

The order of displays is up to the IVFDF organisers to decree. It probably doesn't matter much, but it is unfair to put similar displays together. We left it to our rehearsal steward to work out a suitable programme. The display programme coordinator needs to liaise with the ceilidh caller so he knows what is coming and can make suitable announcements. If someone is going to display a dance that the caller might be calling then he probably wants to know about it.

It is a kindness to display organisers to put something on the IVFDF web page to say roughly how the display will be organised: on a stage or on the hall floor, rough area available, directions of audience and entrance / exit points. This is the place to mention arrangements for rehearsals (traditionally the same hall in that morning) and what PA arrangements you have available. If the band are willing to play for displays then some way of contacting them is a good idea.

Survivors Ceilidh

This sort of organises itself. We had an extremely upset scratch band leader because there was no keyboard player at the scratch-band practice workshop so he ran around having a panic to line up a spare lead fiddler so that he could play keyboard, and then come the ceilidh someone appeared with a keyboard and demanded to join in. Various of us tried to explain that with a scratch band you put a microphone in front of anyone who thinks they are important, and you turn the microphone on if you think they are any good, and when we asked the leader why he even bothered plugging this guy in he eventually conceded that "maybe I'm too nice a person". Basically the scratch band needs to be organised enough to ensure that it has a core band available regardless of who turns up.

There were some problems that people wanted to call dances that the scratch band did not have music for. Maybe we just accept that the survivors ceilidh is an informal event and that sort of problem will arise. Maybe we tell people who want to call that they have to book slots in advance of the scratch band rehearsal. Maybe we tell callers the tunes the band has practised. In 1997 the band ran out of tunes for American Contras. Tough.

Organising yourself

Don't expect to dance much. Even if you are not on any official duty you can almost always wander round the festival and find something useful to do. You will probably be mentally exhausted anyway and not feel up to dancing very much.

Don't forget to eat! You are likely to find some distraction just as you thought it was time to go and sort yourself out some lunch. In 2001 we were envious of our chairman whose doting wife (well, we doubt his ability to plan so well) gave him a set of pots labelled Saturday Breakfast, Saturday Lunch, ...

In 2001 we took over the school staff room as a committee collapse area. This degenerated into a complete tip over the weekend and passing festival goers must have worried about the organisational abilities of the piles of flaked-out bodies they could see through the windows in the door. Maybe we should have blocked the windows out to stop this. On the other hand the fact that organisers could collapse in a known place was good for them, and made it easy to find someone to sort something out.

Don't expect to get much sleep.


As a festival organiser your view of the festival is that it lurches from panic to crisis and back again. Most of the time crises resolve themselves and the festival goers don't really notice.

As an illustration of what happens here is a representative selection