The Vale Islanders

January 2020 was when we held Christmas Party (saves the December rush) held at our favourite country pub The Fox in Denchworth. Little did we know that we were but a few weeks away from the oncoming plague. So I thought I’d a pen a short post on the side.

Annie and I joined the Vale Islanders in October 2007. At least I think that’s when it was. It’s funny how you don’t write stuff down at the time and its often only when you look back, you’d like some details.

Who are the Vale Islanders?

The Vale Islanders is a group of dancers and musicians who perform Playford English country dances of the Seventeenth Century in the costume of the period. John Playford was a guy who back in 1651 published a load of dances (he wrote down the dance moves and the music). Probably not a dancer or musician himself, but a publisher, and we’re very glad he was. There are some great dances and the music is fantastic – there are loads of great tunes.

Our first practice

When we first joined, we were both a tad nervous, but were warmly welcomed at Charney Bassett village hall. As you’d expect, everyone knew the dances and the music, except us. The first dance we did was Uptails All and the second was Sellinger’s Round. I remember because at the time I was a dancer, not a musician. I didn’t want to appear presumptuous. However, after 2 or 3 weeks, the tunes seemed straightforward and the musicians encouraged me, and so I became “one of them” and played mandolin. Still am. Annie continues to dance and enjoys making our costumes.

History of the Side

The Vale Islanders started in the village of Charney Basset in the Autumn of 1995 and gave their first public performance on May Day 1996 on the village green. The name reflects their roots in the island villages of the Vale of White Horse and the dancing aims to reflect the dances of the ordinary people of the Vale 350 years ago.

What we do

As well as dancing and playing music, the side dresses up in authentic costumes. Copied from drawings from the time and hand-made. We perform for history societies, village fairs, and often join up with other sides (typically Morris) to dance in pub gardens. It’s a lovely way to enjoy a bit of living history, the pleasures of the dance and drink beer. Yeah, I admit it, its the beer.