Back to News

On a point of order: sword contest ends in a duel of honour

IT HAD never happened before in all the years of the Dancing England Rapper Tournament, and no one was quite sure how to respond. Dismay gave way to consternation as the marks were tallied for the final round of DERT 2000 at Greenwich. A runner was sent to confer with the judges: "What do we do," she asked, "when it's a tie?"

Newcastle Kingsmen had travelled several hundred miles to London, only to be matched on points by another team from the same Tyneside pub.

The programme notes observed that Kingsmen were holders of the Steve Marris Trophy, as the best team overall at the 1999 championships. "They don't mind who takes it off them," said the notes, "as long as it's not Sallyport."

Fate has a sense of humour: it was indeed with Sallyport Sword that they were sharing an identical score in the Premier Traditional Dance category. Whichever was the winner would also, given the scores in other sections, take home the Steve Marris Trophy.

"Have a dance-off to decide the winner," said the judges. There was only half an hour before the hall at West Greenwich House had to be cleared. "There isn't time," said the organisers, weary members of Thrale's Rapper who could have done without a last-minute dilemma.

"Can't they share the prize?" asked the judges. "We can't afford another trophy," said the organisers. "We want an outright winner. You'll just have to decide."

Two judges declared for Sallyport, two for Kingsmen. Only five of the six judges were still in the hall. The audience was getting noisy. After more than two hours of competition, the fifth judge couldn't quite remember the finer points of each performance. "Can we see our notes again?" they wanted to know. The notes were hurriedly found.

Further rapid discussion was interrupted by Tony Creissen of Thrale's Rapper, the compere for the afternoon. They'd had another look at the figures. Addison Rapper, the only other team in the category, may have had their points miscalculated. "What?"

A final outcome emerged. The judges returned to their seats. Tony stepped up to the microphone. The audience - nearly all participants in a thrilling afternoon of intense competition - were brought to a hush.

"It's been one hell of a competition," said Tony. "It's been incredibly tight." Even the judges didn't know quite how tight.

Black Adder, competing for the first time, picked up the musician's prize, beating off some very classy opposition. Addison Rapper's Tommy and Betty, George Unthank and Valdis Stals, won the prize as best characters.

Ryknild ("world-famous yellow socks") and Thrale's were named as winners in the Open Own Dance and Open Traditional Dance sections respectively.

On to the largest class of the afternoon, the Premier Own Dance. In third place, Hoddesdon Crownsmen with 459 points; second, Thrale's, with 472 points; and the winners, by a margin of only one point ....the girls of Black Adder again. "And I'd just like to say we haven't had a practice for seven months," declared their Betty, who's jokey commentary had brought her close to winning the prize for best character.

"And it is a shame they all grew up," said compere Tony.

The girls of Tyneside team Rapperound, competing for the first time after years of entering clog-dance competitions, were denied the Juniors prize only because there were no other entries for the category, and they had to square up to the adults. "Future winners," declared George Unthank afterwards.

And so to the final result, the Premier Traditional. There was anticipation in the air. "All of them were superb and that's what the judges thought," said Tony. "One point separated them all - one point. And it grieves me to say this, but...."

Kingsmen and Sallyport had each scored 478; Addison were one point behind. It had been down to the judges after all and by three votes to two, they'd chosen .... Sallyport Sword.

The winners rushed forward amid cheers, and to even greater cheers, called the Kingsmen to come up with them. There were hugs. A Kingsmen dancer kissed a Sallyport man full on the lips. The Tommies took their cue from footballers, and swapped jackets. They all posed for pictures, while rude things were done with the section-winners' trophy - made for the occasion in the shape of a beer pump.

The Steve Marris Trophy was added to Sallyport's haul; the national rapper championships were over for another year. Sallyport's Tommy - "Just call me Father Aubs" - declared it a satisfactory result. "It's nice that the two main teams from Newcastle came all the way down here and ended up equal.

"We all practice in the same pub, The Cumberland Arms in Byker - us and Kingsmen and also Pengwyn. All on different nights. It's basic, it's squalid, but it's got wonderful beer and the clock doesn't work.

"I've danced with both teams, Kingsmen and Sallyport, and I started with Addison. When you dig deep it gets a little bit complicated.

"At the end of the day, we all pee in the same pot."

Dancing England Rapper Tournament - Results

Open, Own Dance: 1 Ryknild, 2. Pengwyn, 3. Kesteven. Open, Traditional Dance: 1, Thrale's, 2. Mabel Gubbins. Premier, Own Dance: 1. Black Adder, Thrale's, Hoddesdon Crownsmen. Premier, Traditional Dance: 1. Sallyport Sword, 2. Kingsmen, 3. Addison.

Best musician: Black Adder (Kate Jensen). Best characters: Addison (George Unthank, Valdis Stals).

report by Simon Pipe - who was one of the judges, along with Roy Carr, Dr Christopher Cawte, Colin Messer, Russell Thompson and Brenda Walker.

2000 Simon Pipe, Mark Rogers, The Outside Capering Crew

Back to News