Adderbury Morris Rapper
Mr. Norton's Sword Dancers
Mr.Leslie's Banbury Sword Dancers

Back to index

Captain: Keith Norton Secretary and Treasurer: Stephen Wass
Current dancers: David Gunby, Martin Taylor, Nigel Bennett
Musician: Bryan Martin
The Original team in 1999

Click here for photo gallery......

A Little History

Weaving complex figures with linked swords was a common form of dance right across Europe in the late middle ages. Its precise origins are unknown but references to sword dancing go back to classical times.

In Britain sword dancing was quite widespread in the sixteenth century but as with so many traditional customs it went into a decline in the post Civil War period and by the eighteenth century was only found in the North East of England.

Most teams danced with long, rigid metal swords or wooden laths but during the nineteenth century a tradition of dancing with swords made of strips of flexible steel, called rappers, arose amongst the mining communities of the Northumberland and Durham coal fields. Many of these communities have passed away but teams of dancers both in the North East and increasingly across the country maintain this unique and exciting style of dancing.


The team in action at Sulgrave Manor


What Do They Do?
The team performed from its founding under John leslie in late 1999 until a final outing at the Marlborough Ale in the U.S.A. in 2005 and then reformed under the leadership of Keith Norton and with some new faces to take on Transylvania when Adderbury toured there in 2007. In 2009 we hit the streets again with a slightly different line up. You will see us dancing to a lively medley of jigs played on the fiddle and weaving an increasingly complex series of figures whilst all the time remaining joined together by short flexible metal swords called ‘rappers’.

Boxing Day in Adderbury 2009

Click here for more photographs

Calling on Song 2009
A rambling here we’ve arrived
You good people all for to see
Four dancers I’ve brought alongside me
And each of them bold as can be

The first I call on’s Martin Taylor
A family man it is true
He’s a star at this rapper sword dancing
So watch how he shuffles those shoes
The next I call on’s David Gunby
He’s cunning and witty and wise
But now that he’s started sword dancing
He’s in it right up to his eyes.

The next I call on’s Colin Street
The patriarch of our whole group
He’s worn out a lot of shoe leather
In dancing around with this troupe
The last I call on’s Nigel Bennett
A man who has a big heart
It’s nice that when he’s out dancing
He has to dress up for the part

So now that you’ve heard all our story
We hope that you’ll give us a chance
So with out any further discussion
It’s up lads and on with yer dance!

Click here for notation of the dances in the repertoire

The side is especially grateful to the trustees of the Banbury Charities who underwrote the cost of our first set of swords and to Pete Bareham who presented the side with a new set of hand made swords on December 23rd. 2000 as a first birthday present!

Click on the fruit to see their part in the apple wassailing in Daventry

If in doubt... go to 'Coach and Horses'.

Each figure of the dance requires the team to perform a complex set of moves at speed with strength and vigour and split second timing. An important part of the show is the tying of the ‘nut’ when the swords are linked to make a star which is then held aloft for the audience to admire. It is customary to cheer, applaud and throw money at this point. The performance generally begins with a song to call the dancers into line and may thereafter be punctuated by further songs and by the antics of two additional characters: the ‘Tommy’, an ex-military man which a strong interest in discipline and the ‘Betty’ a woman with hidden potential and a way with a mop..

'Tommy' and a 'Betty', we have three!


Why did they do it?
Formed by Banbury folk stalwart, John Leslie, and revived on various occasions, this team of dancers makes an appearance in Adderbury outside the Bell each Boxing Day and occasionally goes on tour. Drawing on the sword dancing customs of the North East the side made their debut in 1999 on Boxing Day morning at Banbury Cross. Apart from the fantastic music, the energy of the dances, the thrill of working as a team and the camaraderie of like spirits, rapper sword dancing is simply the funniest thing you can imagine doing... really!

Who were they in 2000 ?

The team at Whitby 2000, who is that person at the back?

"The First I call on is John Leslie, a Banbury man born and bred.

Now he'd rather be taking it easy, he'd rather be lying in bed,

But his father he was noble Franklin, a hero of old it is said,

And he's come along here with his dancers, no team is there that's better lead.

The next I call is Keith Norton, it's football that's in his soul

He'd rather be kicking a football, he'd rather be scoring a goal,

But his father he was Nijinsky, the dancer I mean, not the horse,

So he's come along here for to foot it, his twirls are amazing of course.

The next I call on is Pete Bareham, a roofer of high degree,

Now he'd rather be leaning on ladders and standing around drinking tea,

But his father he was Sherpa Tensing, you climbed up Mount Everest high,

So just watch for this peak of perfection, look out as his feet they fly by.

The next I call in's Nigel Bennett, he's dapper and neat and he's trim,

Now he'd rather be playing his drum kit, he'd rather be bashing those skins,

But his father he was Richard Starkey, Ringo Starr is the name you will know,

So he's going to beat out a great rhythm, with a rat-a-tat-tat of his toe.

The next I call on's Colin Street, a veritable oak of a man,

Now he'd rather cut up Sunday drivers, he'd rather be out in his van,

But his father he was Henry Ford, he knew what was what about cars,

So just watch for his three point turn, he'll even dance round in reverse!"

Also featuring

as 'Tommy' - Stephen Wass

as occasional 'Betty' - Simon Pipe

and playing the music - Bryan Martin (violin),