October 30, 2014 by tommy
A Mr Ronald Day writes……
The SDU was formed to promote, develop and support sword dancing in the United Kingdom – why? Because it was felt that sword dancing was viewed as only a minority interest, a fringe activity often pursued as a means of widening the repertoire of other dance groups or as part of various seasonal and localised customs and traditions..
Now is not the time to rehearse the arguments but suffice to say that to receive the EFDSS Gold Badge is certainly the ultimate accolade as far as ‘Folkiness’ is concerned and relatively few have been awarded to sword dancers.
From day one, the SDU wished to publicly recognise sword dancing achievement, scholarship and effort in some way – not to supersede the Gold Badge but as a complement and to specifically draw attention to sword dancing.
The idea of our own badge was obvious, but how to arrive at an acceptable product proved a little more difficult. Attempt no. 1 proved to fall short of our expectations. The price was excellent but the badge was ….. plastic! Nicely done but not what we wanted.
It did have the benefit of quantity and the marketing dept. will have these items on sale at a modest price at future events – they look great on the jacket/rucksack/top hat/Tommy kit etc.
Attempt no.2 went for the jugular. A manufacturing jeweller of high repute looked at our brief, discussed the options, and came up with some models for consideration, which looked fantastic. However none of the SDU committee was actually willing to re-mortgage their house to pay for the resulting product – gold, silver and platinum don’t come at a reasonable price.
In May this year – in a change to our usual habitat, the walking group, of which we are members, did an inner city walk exploring historic and interesting buildings. We paused to study The Butcher Works in Sheffield’s Arundel St. One of the famous ‘Little Mesters’ workshop’s dating from 1835.
Now restored and transformed into flats, and businesses, it is also the home to Freeman College, a branch of the Ruskin Mill Trust. This charity provides education, support and work placements for young people and adults with a range of learning difficulties. As we looked round their gallery, it was clear that metalworking featured highly in the range of skills taught at the college – what else in Sheffield? And so we subsequently took along the idea of the badge.
By this stage we had a design, and Freeman College staff were confident that they could transform it into something worth while. Their professional Silversmith Victoria Kershaw produced a master mould from our computer files, using laser engraving techniques. This then went to their workshops for casting in Pewter. The badge then went to the finishing workshop for silver plating, affixing the pin and selective patination. All this work completed by the students.
The finished product looks splendid. We have produced a small quantity, but the college can repeat the production as required and all at realistic cost whilst helping a group of disadvantaged young people to learn skills and form new relationships.
If anyone is dancing in Sheffield with an hour to spare in the afternoon, then Freeman College deserve a dance. Sheffield Steel, Handsworth maybe?
As an addendum and postscript, why not peruse Vince’s citation for his Medal?
And finally, a word from Phil. “The SDU would be honoured to present their Sword Dance Medal (one of the real reasons behind the very existence of the SDU was to honour our own!) to anyone who has been deemed to over the years, preserve, extend, nurture and indeed Forster our Sword Dancers. Teams can contact me through the About Us page on this very website.”