The Beach Dancers. John in Purple Wig!

I’ve made several posts over the last months describing my family’s involvement with our monthly Céilís in Mangonui. I thought I’d paste below an article I wrote this week for the Northland Age, a local paper. Hopefully it creates for you a picture of this special event. The photos should help too.

Saturday, September 19th saw the unfolding of the monthly Céilí (pronounced ‘kay-lee’) in the Mangonui Hall. One of the features of a Céilí is the opportunity for attendees or band members to present an ‘item’ at some point in the evening. These items can take the form of a song, a dance, a story, a skit or an instrumental performance. Over the three and a half years the Céilí has been running in Mangonui there have been some pretty amazing items. The September Céilí was no exception. First, after about four dances, MC Brian Farrant announced there were some people about to arrive modelling 1920s beach wear. In bounded 8 members of the Kaitaia Scottish Country Dance club led by their gregarious leader, Brian’s wife, Gladys Farrant. The beach wear was colourful, if not exactly true to the period, and the dancing performed by the group brought smiles and laughter to the audience. Not to be missed was Gladys chasing fellow dancer and interestingly attired Ron Rice with a child’s plastic spade.

One of the founders of the local Céilí, Jill Freeman, entertained with the hilarious story of the gender of a computer (a story currently making viral rounds of the world via emails) and later, after more dancing and supper, Kerikeri’s Bill Dawes demonstrated his considerable prowess on the tin whistle. One listener was overheard saying, “That first song was powerful. It brought tears to my eyes.” Bill was quick to point out after his poignant offering that it was all done on a $5 whistle!

The Céilí band, Spootiskerry Spraoi (pronounced ‘spree’), was there as always providing foot stomping, toe tapping music led by band leader Jax Pellett on fiddle. This band gives their musical accompaniment entirely voluntarily and the composition of the band is fluid as members take off temporarily to fulfil other obligations. Replacement musicians jump to the fore to ensure great music is heard and danced to every month. The aforementioned Bill Dawes was one such fill-in on Saturday together with Grant Goodwin on the Bodhran (‘bow-ran’). People who were lucky enough to attend Trial by Jury by the Bay of Islands Singers would have seen Grant in another musical role.

The Céilí organisers invite you to attend on the third Saturday of every month at the Mangonui Hall. The next one will be October 17th. The doors open and the music starts at 7.00 pm.

Dancing begins at about 7.30 pm. Entrance fees are $2 per adult plus a plate for supper. Entry is free for accompanied children. It doesn’t get much more reasonable than that.

This is good old fashioned fun for all ages in an alcohol-free setting in the enchanting ambience of historic Mangonui Hall on the waterfront. Come along and enjoy. No dance experience is necessary and it is perfectly permissible to simply watch.

The Kaitaia SCD Beach Dancers in Mangonui

The Kaitaia SCD Beach Dancers in Mangonui

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John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.