Traditions are worth keeping alive!

“Anything done more than once is a tradition”

Old Scouting Poverb


Traditions are hugely important in Scouting. From the Grand Howl to our Scouting Promise, we carry these traditions proudly to remind us where we came from and the proud history of the thousands that came before us.


The Sword Dancers on Boxing Day. Can you spot the Derby Tup to the left?

With this in mind I wanted to introduce you all to a very local tradition of ours in Handsworth, which stretches back even further than our own. The Handsworth Sword Dancers are a group of traditional dancers who perform street entertainment in an unbroken line since the 1870's. In particular, Boxing Day they come out to dance and entertain outside St Marys church on Handsworth Road and some of the fondest memories I have are of seeing the Sword Dancers with my fellow Scouters before going for an equally traditional pint or three!


The group normally begin with very old and traditional street theatre. “The Notorious Charlie Peace” tells us of the bringing to justice of the Victorian murderer and “The Derby Tup” tells us a light hearted story of a village turning out to the local butcher to share the spoils of butchering the largest Ram known to man.

And all the boys in Derby
Came begging for his eyes
To kick around the Derby Streets
For they were football sized
Singing Fay lay Fay lay laddy fa lary lay…

This generally follows with some Carols, where enthusiasm is more important than ability and the dance itself, accompanied by the traditional squeezebox accordian.

We were fortunate enough to have them come to one of our Explorer meetings and teach us a little something of what they do. They taught us some of the basic reels and also how to perform a lock; a complex weaving of swords into a lattice to be carried and presented and the end of the dance.

Check out how we got on with our shortened dance:

It is traditions like this that turn a suburb into a community. Sadly, this is one that, unlike Scouting, which has seen a huge resurgence in numbers, is struggling to find new members.


If you, or someone you know is interested in seeing the Dancers or joining them and helping keep this incredible tradition alive, contact me on or tweet me @scoutmandan and I'll put you in touch.


Dan is a Scouter in Sheffield and the very proud leader of Norfolk District Explorers. When not running the Explorers, he also runs the group website, is the Assistant GSL, County Brand Adviser, Exec Member and Young Leader Co-Ordinator. Somewhere in the middle of all that he finds time for a full time job, wife and daughter. Dan and Becki met through Scouting together and she is more understanding than most about the adventures and mud!

Posted in Scouting Scribbles

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