Home > Manchester Folk Festival 2019: The Servants’ Ball

Manchester Folk Festival 2019: The Servants’ Ball

The Servants’ Ball had a long tradition in the country house estates of Britain and only really died out with the onset of the Second World War. It was a party where the domestic staff got to mix with their employers as ‘equals’.

The tradition draws on the ancient Twelfth Night ritual of inversion – a time of mayhem and masquerade – servants got to rule over their masters. For a brief period, the world was turned topsy-turvy, working class became genteel, degradation became entitlement.

Servants, tenants, families, local tradesmen and their wives were the guests of their employers and even the lowest ranked staff could be found dancing with the master and mistress of the house. They were a cultural melting pot where society music of the day (including the 20’s dance crazes coming over from the USA) would be performed alongside traditional English country dance tunes, often by the same musicians.

‘The Servants’ Ball’ will recreate the atmosphere of these events with music and dance.

Dancer-musician and expert in Sussex/Kent step dancing, Ewan Wardrop will encourage the audience to participate in dancing, being taught dances of the period to music performed by some of Britain’s leading traditional musicians:

Ewan Wardrop – Ex Principal dancer with Mathew Bourne’s New Adventures, choreographer for Two Noble Kinsman with Eliza Carthy at The Globe, performer with RSC, Royal National Theatre, Royal Opera House, Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, founder of The Bo Diddlers Morris Side.

Rob Harbron –Concertina – Leveret, Full English, Jon Boden Remnant Kings.

Ben Paley – fiddle – Tom Paley, Bonnie Dobson, Damon Albarn, Long Hill Ramblers

Ben Nicholls – Upright Bass – Seth Lakeman, Full English, Kings of The South Seas, Nadine Shah

This event is part of Manchester Folk Festival – an urban folk festival. It takes place from 16-20 October 2019, in and around HOME and the city centre. Over the autumn weekend, they present an exhilarating range of events, with the spotlight on contemporary and traditional English folk music.