Ken Sheffield Biography

How Did I Get Mixed Up With Folk Dancing?

Ken Sheffield
Ken Sheffield

Apart from the “Music and Movement” programme on the Schools Broadcast, pre-war when I was seven or eight, I was not involved in any sort of dance activity. However at a choir supper, just after the Queen had been square dancing in Canada, the entertainment was a session square dancing run by a gentleman who organized a club in Aylesbury. From then on I used to spend Thursday evenings at this club.

A few weeks later I started off on my old motorbike to go roller skating at Princes Risborough and was obliged to take to a layby by a car on the wrong side of the road. The layby was about two inches deep in white mud which had run down off the Chiltern Hills. Both the bike and I changed colour! Even my black helmet was white!

Returning home to change I found my friend Bob, who had arranged to take his girlfriend, Betty, to a dance at Long Crendon, waiting for me. Unfortunately her mother would not let her go unless her elder sister went as well. He had arranged for me to partner the elder sister. The girls went off on the bus from Quainton to Long Crendon and we took off on the bike.

To Bob’s chagrin it was a folk dance, to 78 rpm records, played on a wind-up gramophone. Shortly after this escapade Bob and Betty split up leaving me with two new activities, which have endured for over sixty years, English folk dancing and, shortly afterwards, a wife.

Ken Sheffield
February, 2011

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Since completing the From Two Barns series in 2005, Ken has not been idle; indeed, far from it. While organizing holiday weeks at Halsway Manor over a 20-year period, he and his musician friends, Peter and Susan Swann, worked through some of the approximately 400 tunes Ken found while working his way through original English dance sources. The result is a new publication, still under construction, called The Century Collection, of 107 tunes with associated dances, rarely seen in the last 100 years. When ready for publication, The Century Collection will be published by CDSS.