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Kick Shins Barn Dance Band blog

Kick Shins 35th anniversary

On 9 October 2016 we celebrated our 35th anniversary, playing at the Beech Hill Harvest Festival barn dance.  Shown is the current band with others who have played with us along the way.

Pang Valley Scouts



We played in a huge marquee for Pang Valley Scouts on 28 May.  Hundreds of people were at the event and many enthusiastic dancers piled into the marquee for a very lively dance.  The threatened rain stayed away and we had a fine weather evening.

Session at The Elm Tree

Kick Shins had its Christmas party on 1 January 16, starting with a music session at The Elm Tree, Beech Hill, then a long lunch at Stuart's house.

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Our gig in Norway was arranged by Alastair, otherwise known as Skotten.  He performs a hilarious song and comeduy routine at many venues in Norway, and did a short spot at this party.  The night before the gig we managed to learn to accompany him on a popular Norwegian song, and we played with him at the end of his act.  Here is a very short video of part of his act.

You can find out more at or email him at

Explaining a dance in Norway

Norwegians generally speak very good English.  Who am I to comment, when I speak no Norwegian?  But after a few drinks communication becomes a little mangled, so here we are in this video trying to translate 'right hand star' and 'basket' into Norwegian.

Wedding 12 Sep 15

We played at Heron's Barn, near Pangbourne for Nicola and Vincent's wedding.  The barn is a very nice venue in the middle of the countryside.  Half the guests were British and half were French, making for an interesting calling experience.  Even though I had called in French at a gig in Moissac my instructions in French obviously left a little to be desired.  But we managed to struggle through and we really enjoyed playing for such and enthusiastic (if a little puzzled at time) crowd.

What is a hurdy-gurdy?

Ray plays the hurdy-gurdy. It features on many of the tunes that we play between dance sets, as well as for some dance tunes.

Many people think that the hurdy-gurdy is some sort of old organ, played with a monkey sitting on top.  Actually it's more like a mechanised violin.  Imagine a violin with a wheel that comes into contact with the strings instead of a bow.  You are halfway there.  Instead of using fingers to make notes, as on a violin, there are keys that press down on the strings.  But there are two more pieces that give the hurdy-gurdy its unique sound.  The first is the drone.  There are one or more drone strings that add a resonance to the overall melody.  The second is the buzzing bridge.  When the wheel is turned slowly the drone strings play normally, but when the wheel accelerates it introduces a rhythmic buzzing.  Skilled players can produce a strong percussive sound as they are playing the melody.

Ray made his first hurdy-gurdy and played that in the band for some time.  He now plays a newer model made for him by a specialist hurdy-gurdy maker.

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Gig in Moissac, France


In September 2014 Stuart, Andy and Erica (half of the band) played at a gig in Moissac, France.

Moissac is a delightful town on the River Tarn and the Canal Latéral à la Garonne.  The town held a music festival and some of us boaters got involved.  Tony and Rita from barge Kanumbra managed to bring their steel pan band all the way from Australia to play at the festival.  Not wishing to be outdone (even though we were) half of Kick Shins made it for an afternoon gig.

The barn dance was on a terrace overlooking the river Tarn.  The weather was fantastic and the main problem that we had was in persuading everyone to put down their glass of wine, stop admiring the view and come and dance.

There was a complete mixture of English speakers (mostly people from boats) and French people.  I tried calling in both English and French with reasonable success.  Because we did not have a full lineup we enlisted help from other musicians.  The drummer from Pans on Fire played the first half of the set.  Three French musicians (viola and two fiddles) played the entire set.  To our surprise we had some tunes in common.

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West Illsley pre-fete dance



On Friday 3 July we played at West Illsley pre-fete dance.  What an idyllic setting - on the cricket field opposite the pub, at the end of a great summer's day.  We even had dramatic lightning to guide us home down the A34 at 01:00 the next morning.  We had a lively audience who came dressed for the 60s themed night.

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60th birthday party

On 29 August we played for a 60th birthday party in Purley Barn, Purley-on-Thames.  If you are looking for a good venue in the west Reading area this is it.  There is a large barn, with lots of space for dancing, and a separate room for a bar and food - something very close to a band's heart.

Saturday's was a very lively gig.  It's great for us when everyone gets up to dance.  The atmosphere is infectious and the audience and band gee each other along.

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