Jane Sheard dancing at Sticklepath August 2004

The Beginnings

The story of City Clickers starts somewhere in 1996 when Jane (Penny) Sheard, Alison Meredith, Julie Williams, Jenny Price and Heidi who were then members of Applejacks, an Appalachian clogging group based in Bristol wanted to do more of the English clog dancing that Jane and Julie had been familar with for getting on for twenty years: Jane as a member of various groups such as Carnkie Cloggers and Truro Dandy Clog in Cornwall, and Julie as a member of Reading Traditional and Step Dance Group who did so much to revive clog dancing in the seventies and eighties. They also wanted to do more of the Canadian step-dancing styles that they had learnt at various workshops.

They started to practice in what was then the Bishopston Community Halls which, because of a dispute over their ownership, had become quite dilapidated and during that first winter leaked horribly whenever it rained. They quickly realised that they needed a musician and so approached Jethro Anderson, a piano accordion player, who was then a musician for Pigsty Morris but who had been a musician for Beetlecrushers Clog Dancers in Somerset and, many years previously, for Greenwood Clog Dancers in Nottingham. Jethro joined the group and soon after they moved to a new home at Bishop Road School which suited Jethro very well as it was only twenty-five yards from his front door.

Early successes

In the mid to late nineties the Instep Research Team sponsored a Clog Dance competition at the Sidmouth International Festival. The prize was awarded to solo or groups of dancers who not only were technically and musically proficient but, more importantly, performed a dance which was entertaining and well presented. In their first summer Jane entered a routine of heel and toe steps in the style of Pat Tracy with Jethro playing and repeated her success of the previous year when she had been accompanied by Mike Greenwood. The following summer a team entry was made, again based on Pat's steps. The routine, for three dancers - Jane, Alison and Heidi - was complex, both in steps and choreography, and represented the working week. From the opening factory siren, through the workers waking slowly and starting their machines, to the shut down at the end of the week and the Saturday night party using flamboyant jig-time steps, the piece won the hearts of audience and judges alike. This piece is in the repertiore today

Changes

Soon after this Heidi left the group to join her boyfriend in Germany and we were joined by Sara Marshall who was by then also teaching Applejacks. Practices alternated between English clog styles one week and Canadian step-dance styles the next. At that time the repertoire consisted of a variety of small group and solo English clog dances, French-Canadian reel and waltz steps learned from the dancing of Pierre Chartrand and Ira Bernstein, and some reel steps from the Ottawa Valley which had been taught by Simon and Jo Harmer of Chequered Flag.

Simon and Jo had also visited Cape Breton island and had started running workshops at variousfestivals where they taught the strathspey and reel steps that they had learnt from Jackie Dunn during that visit. These steps and their music were quickly adopted by the group as the next big project - a project that is still ongoing. Alison, Jane, Jethro and Julie have all attended week summer schools in Skye and South Uist learning from Scottish and Cape Breton masters of the style. We are also closely involved with Simon and Jo in running a series of workshops in the south of England during the winter and spring where we exchange steps, techniques, soup, cakes and have a good time.

To the present (well 2006-ish)

As with all groups people come and go. Sadly, Jenny left us and Sara left to move to Reading where she taught a group of young people dancing Appalachian clogging called Oracle. Sara was also one half of Sister Act with her sister, Fiona.

We were joined by

  • Pamela Murison, who, she claims, had wanted to do this stuff since she was an infant.
  • Jan Stuart who had left Pigsty Morris some years previously and danced with various groups in California and Berkshire before returning to Bristol. Jan is a brilliant events manager as the smooth running of our first workshop day will testify.
  • Vicky Cooper, fiddler extraordinaire, late of the fabulous Six Infamous Belgians ceilidh band, long-time musician for Pigsty Morris and, most importantly, was no stranger to dancing in clogs.
  • Along with Vicky came her partner Simon Wilde, talented multi-instrumentalist who is now a regular musician for the group on both melodeon and fiddle.
  • Kath Fletcher - also a long-time musician and dancer for Pigsty, but who had, in the late eighties and early nineties played for Beetlecrushers. She astounds us all by her speed in learning new steps.
  • Louise Hughes. Her Dad, Geoff, was one of the leading lights of the clog-dance revival in the seventies and so she has been stepping since very small. Geoff can be seen dancing with Rumworth Morris, Sevens Stars Sword and Clog Dancers and Abram Morris. Louise and Geoff dance a fab waltz duet.

The repertoire expanded to include group dances using North-East clog steps, a gigue for three or four dancers learnt from a recent visit by Pierre Chartrand from Quebec, a group routine of Cape Breton strathspey and reels and, most recently, group routines using Welsh clog steps in a variety of rhythms.