PCC News of the Week: This week is another Bumper Flora Day issue with reminiscences provided by Wendy. Meetings
Last night’s meeting was something new where members had several goes at NOT being a 5ft photographer! Members had taken subjects from different viewpoints to compare the results and also showed us the impact which even a simple crop can give.
Various queries were covered and below are (safe) links to a couple of camera manufacturer’s websites so that members can download available free software.
Nikon NX Studio https://downloadcenter.nikonimglib.com/en/download/sw/195.html
We have some really great subjects for future competitions/tutorials from Paul, but we need YOUR suggestions for more Lockdown subjects which you can send to Maru please.
Still coming up next week on the 29th we have the Image of the Year – Colour, Black and White and Off-Camera (no manipulation) and the judge is an ex-Penryn CC member Kevin Leah.
Guest Author – Wendy Bate- Text and Photos
The Preparations for Flora Day
The Midday Dance.
In the New Year, towards the end of January, the Chairman of the Stewards and the Stewards of the Dance, will have a meeting to discuss who they would like to ask to lead the dance. Once this has been agreed by them all, the Secretary of the Stewards will write a formal letter asking each of the chosen 2 couples (4 persons) if they would take the Honour of Leading the Dance, to which they have to reply formally. Once the replies have been received and been accepted, the Stewards then meet again and discuss who will receive invitations to take part in the dance. It is important to always make sure you have a partner to dance with first.
During the year from one Flora Day to the next, people send requests in to the Secretary to be considered eligible to take part in the following year’s dance, so these are all sorted out by the Stewards at this meeting. As the population of Helston has increased so much over the years, there are just too many people wanting to take part and is the reason why the Midday Dance is now in two sections.
There are more dancers now than a few years ago, when it was just one long procession and if I’m correct with approximately around a 100 or so couples then. Some people are accepted but unfortunately, some are disappointed.
Invitations are then sent out to the selected people and once you’ve accepted it, the next thing for the ladies of the dance is to sort out their dress, hat, shoes and gloves. The Gents will have a date given to them, where they will go and have a fitting for their Morning suit which also includes the cravat/tie, grey gloves and Top Hat. (All ordered from Moss Brothers, London). Just a few days before Flora Day when the suits arrive in Helston, the men will pick them up and hope that everything fits them OK. Those hire suits will be returned to Moss Brothers after the dance whilst some gents such as the Stewards who wear the suits every year, will own their own.
So much has changed over the years. At one time, the men went to Simpsons in Helston where they were measured for their suits and later collected them before returning them there after the dance. It is also different now for the Ladies who, years ago, had a lot of dresses made for them. Local shops in Helston such as B. Thomas’s in Meneage Street, and John Knights in Coinagehall Street, would have hundreds of roles of materials in their shops. When you chose your material and patterns, you told the assistant (who would know you anyway), which dance you had bought the material for and then they would put it away in the stores, so no one else chose the same as you. Once Flora Day was over it would come back on sale again.
These shops also sold hats and gloves, but sometimes you had to shop out of the town to get exactly what you wanted. (Clair Read’s shops in Falmouth and Truro were one such shop). There were dressmakers in the town, who would make a lot of the dresses, but these were always out of view of prying eyes from other dancers with everything kept secret for the individual. I made my own dress the first year for the Midday in 1965, but luckily I had an aunt who made some of the others I wore in subsequent years. I bought some already made on the odd occasion and the year I was asked to be 2nd couple in 1972, I bought it. Two years later, when I led in 1974 I had my dress and hat specially made by Elizabeth’s Dress shop, at the bottom of Lemon Street in Truro, (the posh Jewellery shop is in its place now). On the whole, most of the dresses were made for me. The reason I was very extravagant in 1972 and 1974, was due to having the honour to lead and second couple, just the ONCE, so I made the most of it each time as I knew I would only have the two opportunities.
With the newer ruling for the Midday Dance, the leading set now SHARE the lead. The first couple will lead from the Guildhall to Lismore Gardens where they stop for a rest, then the couple who danced as 2nd couple take over the lead position for the rest of the dance back to the Guildhall so you don’t have two chances in the leading set anymore as I did back in the 70’s.
7-00am and 5-00pm Dance.
No doubt, these procedures will be roughly the same for the Early Morning and Evening dance, but having never danced in it, I am not too sure, but would imagine it to be similar.
Plans will also be in place, who will be taking the leading roles of the pageant, getting the outfits for their parts in it and also making sure the greenery is in abundance for them all to wear and wave around.
The Flora Day Working Committee will be in charge of erecting the flags in all the streets and this will usually start towards the end of April and everything is completed by May 1st.
The band will meet at 6-00 am. on the 1stMay , outside The Guild Hall and, will take the route of the dances around the town, to welcome in the month of May, with some people joining in to dance. They will meet again at 7-00pm and once more, parade around the town with many children joining it to have a practise run. Everyone crowds the streets to hear the band, as a lot did previously at 6-00am.
The Day Before Flora Day
The shops and houses will be decorated with greenery and flowers, (Bluebells, Rhododendrons, Gorse and Lily of the Valley), especially the houses and shops where the dancers will dance through them. The band divides up and just a few bandsmen go through the shops or houses, while the rest stay outside - but still playing - then they meet up again as the others return out into the street. The Guildhall is decorated too, as this is the start and finishing point for the 7- 00, Midday and 5-00 dances. Lamp posts and road signs are even decorated with greenery, around the town. The greenery is brought in from the large Country Estates around the area and shared out with the people of the premises, to be decorated.
On the eve of Flora Day evening, all those taking part in the Midday dance will all meet at 7-30pm for a Rehearsal at The Epworth Hall in the town. Here, your names are called out and, you and your partner, are now put in the dancing order for the next day. This is done in sections, as only room for so many on the floor at any one time. You will then find out who is making up your set and remember who is in front or behind you, so you know where to place yourselves in the Guildhall on the day. The band is in attendance and you have a little whirl around the room and the Stewards help anyone who isn’t sure of the steps to the dance.
The last 12 couples of the dance will have been chosen from the Officers at Culdrose Naval Air Station and before the big day, some experienced dancers and a few dance Stewards are invited to go to the Officer’s Mess on an evening to show them how to do the steps of the dance. I attended one such evening, the year I led.
The Childrens’ Dance.
The Childrens’ Dance also has many practises during the term leading up to Flora Day, or they did in my day as a pupil. Looking at them now and how some of them dance, I wonder!!!! But again, no doubt, not a lot of teachers are from Helston so have no idea.
We were lucky, we had teachers who lived in the town, the Infant School Headmistress, Miss Underwood and in the senior school, Miss Jean Martin, who made sure we danced ALL the way up Wendron Street, right into the school playground and she stood and watched every one of us. Also, when holding our partners our hands were held up and not down by our waist. My first Children’s Dance was in 1952, but in 1960, when I led my school, I helped to decorate our school wall with Bluebells and greenery and it was the day Princess Margaret married in Westminster Abbey. We started decorating it really early so we could have a break when the wedding was taking place and we watched it all on the school television in Room 4, before finishing off our decorating.
The people of the town are also busy preparing the food for the day. Most of the cooking is done the day before, as there is no time on the day, because everyone is out in the town watching all the dances. The food is mainly cold meats and salads, so it can be prepared in advance and is mainly served, buffet style. There is always plenty of food prepared as you are never sure who will turn up on the day - it’s “open house” - so uninvited guests who come to Flora Day, just turn up at the house and can have a meal too. Lunch doesn’t start until after the Midday dance has finished, so usually around 2-00pm and, after the lunch is finished, it’s off to watch the 5-00pm dance.
Those taking part in the dances, will have their clothes all ready. All the preparations are now ready for the big day.
Best wishes Derek & Wendy