18 October 2019
By Jean Pollard Carew
The Westlodge Hotel in Bantry in spectacular West Cork once more was home to the annual Wild Atlantic Set Dancing Festival 11th to 13th October. This year we celebrated our fifth year of this magical weekend of traditional music and set dancing.
The weekend got underway with a ceili on Friday night at 9 pm in the main ballroom. We danced to Co Corks’ own Abbey Ceili Band. The atmosphere was superb as crowds gathered on the floor danced together and greeted each other like long lost family. The magic continued in Hannie Murphy’s after the ceili when box man Jim doled out waltzes quicksteps tangos foxtrots the slosh and more set dancing.
Saturday morning at 10.30 am I was delighted to welcome back Timmy Woulfe as our instructor for the Set dancing workshop. Timmy is a well-known dancing teacher and hails from Althea in West limerick. Timmy taught the Ballykeale set which is from Co Clare this was followed by another Co Clare set The Clare Orange and Green. We had a recess for lunch and dined in the hotel bar where all tastes and needs were catered for by the excellent staff in the hotel.
The second workshop began at 2 pm and Timmy taught The Old Mill Lancers. This set was composed by Tipperary dancing Master Pat Murphy and is one of his most recent compositions. After teaching each figure meticulously Timmy was requested by the dancers to dance the set thorough in its entirety. It was a joy to see the dancers having such a good sense of the set and is a testament to the excellent teaching of Timmy Woulfe.
Saturday night our ceili began at 9 pm tonight we had the uncrowned King of Kerry Johnny Reidy ceili band on stage. The music and dancing gladdened our hearts and kept our dancing feet happy until midnight when we retired to Hannie Murphy’s for more dancing to the music of box man Jim.
Sunday morning we were back in the ballroom at 11 am for our final workshop of the weekend. Timmy taught The Rinkenstown Set and The South Sligo Lancers.
Our Grand finale ceili was at 2.30 pm and we had another Co Cork band, the award-winning Shandrum ceili band on stage. The energy of the dancers was matched by the superb music doled out by this fantastic young band and event tired sore feet continued to tap out every step right to the end of the evening and weekend.
The festival attracts dancers from across the country with a coach loads from The Trip to Durrow set dancers and The North Kerry West Limerick groups. We had dancers from almost every county in Ireland. We were also delighted to welcome our French, American and Canadian dancers. The Westlodge Hotel is a perfect venue for our Festival. The ballroom is bright airy and boasts a fantastic floor. The accommodation is second to none and the selection and standard of food and service are exceptional. Thanks to general manager Pat Gill and his hardworking team we had a weekend to remember. We will be back next year 9th to 11th October. All the same, bands have been booked and I am sure we will have a repeat enjoyable event. Thanks to all who supported the festival and a special thanks to the local dancers who continue to support the weekend?