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The History of the Southport Easter Sequence Dance Festival

The Southport Easter Sequence Dance Festival was started in 1971 by David, who thought it time that a Dance Festival should be held in the fabulous Floral Hall.

Held over 3 days, the Social Festival was a huge success with the first Guest MC’s being two local Southport couples: Joe Wareing & Betty Littler and Bill & Mary Dean. In latter years, the regular Guest MC’s have included Alwyn Leathley & Elsie Platts, David & Greta Darman and Bob & Diane Smith, along with many famous Names who have been MC’s at one of the Dance Sessions.

The North of Britain Open Inventive Dance Competition was introduced to the Festival in 1974 with the eventual winner being the Kingfisher Swing arranged by Keith Banton & Beverley Forsdike from Maryport. In those days, there was a 1st, 2nd & 3rd placings with the other finalists Tony & Denise Dyer and Ted & Sue Burroughs. The North of Britain Open Inventive Dance Competition is renowned for having the largest entry throughout the year, from all the Inventive Competitions held throughout the year. The highest entry recorded was 143 Dances over 3 Sections.                       

Over the years, the Festival grew in stature – eventually starting on the Wednesday evening with an Old Time Ball and then the Thursday evening with the Pre-Festival Sequence Ball, and finishing on the Monday evening with a Grand Farewell Ball & Cabaret starring many World Champions.

Only the very Music has been engaged for the Southport Easter Festival – originally with The Melody Sequence Players and Organist – Bill White and Bernard Brookes who played for many years at the Festival. Charles Barlow & His Orchestra and Irven Tidswell & His Orchestra from Blackpool were also employed for many years. David then brought in the famous Empress Orchestra directed by Ashley Frohlick who were superb for the Friday, Saturday & Sunday.
Fabulous Organists – The Malcolm Wilce Duo, Larry Green & Richard Keeling have also provided excellent Music at the Festivals over the years.

In years gone by, The Festival was so busy, both The Floral Hall and the Prince of Wales Hotel Bamber Ballroom were used to accommodate the numbers.

It is very important to ensure that the Social Dancers have plenty of Dancing and it is also  important that the Competitors have enough Competitions over the Festival, so I am sure you will agree that everyone is well catered for in the ‘New look' Easter Festival 2019.

David introduced The North of Britain Open Professional, Junior, Juvenile, Amateur and Senior Championships and Social Competitions to the Festival on the Sunday in the 1980’s  which were a huge success with hundreds of Dancers witnessing the very best of Competition dancing. Every Competitor in the UK attended the Southport Easter Festivals.

The Junior and Juvenile Championships attracted record entries with over 90 Couples on the Sunday, as most Couples called into Southport on their way to the Blackpool Junior Festival. The Professional Championship also attracted every Professional Competitor in the UK, who always put on a fine display of Dancing.

Previous Winners of the Professional Championship included:
Rod & Marian Walford, Jim Hall & Denise Mayo, Roy & Linda Muldoon, Barry & Susan Earnshaw, Gary & Patricia Waite, John Haigh & Denise Nielson, Wayne & Wendy Packard, Barry Jones & Elaine Starkey, Mark Paton & Jacqui Davis, Malcolm & Jackie McLean, Tommy O’Shaughnessy & June Wall and  Russell & Michelle Heppenstall to name a few.

Another very successful Item was a ‘Showcase Exhibition’ involving many Amateur Competitors, who showed great talent in this Exhibition Event.

At that time, David was also presenting Continental Sequence Dancing Holidays each year with the Winners of the Amateur Championship receiving Free places on the 2 week Holidays.  The Senior Championship Continental Holiday Prize followed a few years later.

Previous Winners of the AMATEUR Holidays include:-
Craig Bedwell & Angela Painting (Tunisia), Martin Bird & Gemma Clunie (Tenerife), Philip Blackburn & Helen Blackburn (Tenerife), Neil Bradfield & Tara Harrison (Torremolinos), Mark & Michelle Burke (Orlando),  Gavin Court & Angela Stokes (Torremolinos), Richard Finlow & Natalie Hill (Cyprus), Robert Finnigan & Johanne Lloyd (Torremolinos), Lee Godwin & Amy Turner (Tenerife), Michael Habergham & Rachel Simpson (Tenerife), Russell Heppenstall & Michelle Prigmore (Cyprus), Paul Hill & Jennifer Grew (Israel), Scott Hanson & Vicki Lentle (Cyprus), Paul Jenkins & Emma Williamson (Tenerife), Darren Park & Andrea Kilgour (Cyprus), Mark Paton & Jacqui Davis (Nerja), Richard Paull & Linda Smallman (Malta), Luke Shepherd & Andrea Simms (Cyprus), Luke Shepherd & Joanne Pearson (Torremolinos), Callam Thomson & Sophie Thomson (Tenerife)

Previous Winners of the SENIOR Holidays include:
Ken & Anne Catherall (Israel), Tony & Anne Dibble (Torremolinos), Derek & Irene Fellows (Tenerife), Andrew & Christine Lindley (Tenerife), Terry & Glynis Metcalf (Torremolinos), John & Joan Phillips (Orlando), Sid & Brenda Simner (Nerja), Peter & Angela Smith (Malta), John & Joan Thorne (Israel), Stan & Mary Yeates (Tenerife).

A new innovation for the Easter Festival was the Social Dancers Formation Team Competition which has attracted a record number of Teams, which included Teams trained by:  Ted & Sue Burroughs, Jean Clough, Pat Davies, Lee & Natasha Dudman, Stuart & Wendy Hatton, Lorraine Heron, Keith & Margaret Holmes, Jennifer Hill, Neil & Lesley Marshall, Andrew Pigg, Zoe Wagnell and David Bullen. The success of this Event then prompted Blackpool to present this at their October Sequence Festivals for the very first time.

In 1998, the Floral Hall was closed for renovation, so for one year, the Easter Festival was held in the Empress Ballroom of the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, which attracted a record attendance with every seat being filled.

Many World Champions and Stars have appeared at the Southport Easter Sequence Festivals including: Donnie Burns & Gaynor Fairweather MBE, Keith & Judy Clifton, Marcus & Karen Hilton MBE, Warren & Kristi Boyce, Michael Stylianos & Lorna Lee, Alan & Hazel Fletcher, Stephen Hillier & Lyndsey Tate, Hans & Anne Laxholme, Kenny & Marian Welsh, Robert & Barbara Grover, Christopher Hawkins & Hazel Newberry, Andrew Sinkinson & Loraine Barry, Timothy Howson & Joanne Bolton,  David Sycamore & Denise Weavers, John Wood & Anne Lewis plus many more.

Many years ago, there was a special ‘Golden Oldies’ Evening at the Festival with all the Officials dressing in the 40’s and 50’s mode.
Special memories spring to mind with all the Judges dressing in their finery. Nancy Clarke, Marjorie Killip, David Bamber, Malcolm McLean, Eileen Crompton, Jean Johnson, Margo Alderman, Myrtle Langton, Rita Pover, Lewis & Joan Wilson, Tony & Denise Dyer, Ted & Sue Burroughs to name a few.

The Southport Easter Sequence Dance Festival has always been one of the major Events in the Sequence Dancers Calendar and long may it continue for many more years to come.

Best wishes
David Bullen
Festival Organiser


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