The History of Manchester University Folk Society

Since the society was formed in 1956, many generations of students have passed through, it has changed names quite a few times and it has hosted IVFDF more than most other universities. This page has some of the history, plus some bits of memorabilia. If any ex-members have anything else they would like to add send it to me. The old minute books and many of the old display photographs are safely stored and may get added here sometime (I am open to bribes from anyone wanting to pay me not to put up the display photo from their year:-) In 1991 we held a special reunion event and used our own mailing list and that of the university to try to contact as many ex-members of the society as we could. Much of the information here comes from the booklet made for that event.


The Origin of the Species
How the society got started.
The Nomenclature
The names it has used and discarded.
Manchester IVFDFs
When we hosts IVFDF
Everything Else
The rest, including the society's secret agenda!

The Origin of the Species

In the summer term on 1956 over tea cups in Ashburne Hall, Heather Ellwood, Gillian Hopkins and David Robson discussed Folk Dancing. All were enthusiastic dancers who regretted that Manchester provided only for the Scots [The Scottish Country Dance Society died out long before I arrived on the scene in 1984 - Rhod]. So what could we do for the English? Jill was very involved in Union activities and could advise us about the difficulties in achieving Union Society status. The main problem seemed to be that until you could prove that the putative society was active and had a given level of membership, the Union was not prepared to recognise it. However we found enough personal friends to operate a stall at the Fresher's weekend in 1956 autumn term and we were in business on a trial basis.

In 1956/7 we were a small society using the McDougall Centre like the Scottish Society did, using borrowed records and equipment but unlike the Scots, English dancers do not use special footwear, so changing into rubber soled shoes (not black!) was a bind. However, there were enough of us to be a fringe activity dancing ahead of the Rag Procession which we repeated in subsequent years. We were also keen to publicise ourselves and English Folk Dancing through demonstrations. The first team of Alison Bullen, Peter Burrage, John Chisnall, Mary Clarke, Heather Ellwood, Paul Greenaway, Jill Hopkins, Alan Longman, Jill Meredith, John Pawley, Arthur Ronald and Judy Wars with Alex Richardson (leader of the Manchester Folk Dance Band who happened to be doing a M.Ed. that year) and David Robson as musicians, made its debut at the 1958 Inter-varsity Festival in London. We had come on the scene too late to be part of the first Inter-varsity Festival held in Manchester in the spring of 1956.

From those beginnings we established ourselves by the end of the Fresher's weekend in 1957/8 as a Society that could claim and was granted Union recognition. The Unions moved that year into their new building on Oxford Road and the Manchester University English Folk Dance Society took over the LDH every Wednesday afternoon. The rest as they say, is history.

This written by David M Robson and appeared in the 1991 reunion booklet.

The Nomenclature

These are the names that I know the society has used. Changes reflect the changing fashion, interests of the people involved and the critical need to grab the attention and interest of Freshers during the few critical moments as they pass by in Freshers' week.

  • 1956 - ???? : MUEFDS - Manchester University English Folk Dance Society (was MUECDS - Manchester University English Country Dance Society just an alias or did the name officially change?)


  • ???? - 1991? : MUFDS - Manchester University Folk Dance Society (this is what it was called when I arrived in 1984).


  • 1991? - 1994? : MUFMADS - Manchester University Folk Music and Dance Society
  • 1994? - date : MUCS - Manchester University Ceilidh Society

Manchester IVFDFs

Using the IVFDF tour list on the 1991 Nottingham IVFDF T-shirt as a basis, Manchester has hosted the Intervarsity Folk Dance Festival 5 times - the first university to reach 5, though I believe others have now caught up. There seems to be some confusion about 1962 - anyone care to come up with chapter and verse? The complete list is:

  • 1956
  • 1962
  • 1977
  • 1986
  • 1994

The Rest

Here are some other bits of society memorabilia.


The Society's Secret Agenda

As described by Bob Archer in 1985


The logo

When I have the chance I'll scan in the MUFDS pixie. Name of the model withheld to protect the guilty (and no despite appearances it was not me :-). Note the rolled up left trouser leg. Anyone remember the original reason for that? 

This page last modified Sat July 11 1998

Rhod Davies

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