Geoff Hughes
Geoff and Louise Hughes
Two Generations of Clog dancers
Louise Hughes
Dancing feet
 

Geoff started clog dancing while still at school in Chingford where Peter Boyce was teaching morris, sword and, very briefly, clog stepping. Once Peter had exhausted his repertoire of 2 steps and a break which he'd learnt at a weekend workshop, he arranged for Brian Hayden to teach Geoff and one or two others. Brian had been a member of Newcastle Kingsmen while at University in Newcastle and had been taught to clog dance by Johnson Ellwood.

After learning about 5 steps from Brian, Geoff's first performance was in a pair of borrowed clogs which were too big so he had to wear 2 pairs of walking socks in them to keep them on. He bought his first pair of clogs by post from James Clare's market stall in St Helens. They cost 29/6 and he was still dancing in them 30 years later.

When he was in the 6th Form, with the aid of Mike Jensen (later of Carlisle Morris & Sword) who was teaching at the school, Geoff wrote a small booklet as an aide memoire for workshop participants which he called "Clog Steps for Beginners". Since he didn't have enough steps or breaks, Geoff had to make up a couple of new ones. The first 100 copies were run off on the school Gestetner and stitched together by hand, a skill that had been taught at primary school. A couple of years later someone from EFDSS noticed the booklet at a Sidmouth workshop Geoff was running and asked if they could publish it. It still sells a few copies each year.

In the early 1970s Geoff was running a workshop at an event run by Peter Dashwood in East Anglia when he was approached by a lady who had seen the event advertised in the local paper and having been a clog dancer since she was very young had cancelled her day out with the local WI and had come along to find out who was running the clog dancing workshop. After interviewing Geoff and making him dance his "most difficult step" and also a step he had made up himself, she announced that she would teach him her own dances. Her name was Mrs Marhoff, who had danced on the stage with her grandfather under the name Viona Wynne.

Over the next few years Geoff visited Mrs Marhoff at her bungalow in Cambridgeshire and she taught him her hornpipe dances. She was very insistent that he danced them in the way she had been taught them by her grandfather, a former Durham Pitman's Champion. Geoff's daughter, Louise, was also there but she was a young baby at the time sitting on her mother's knee while her dad was put through his paces by a very strict tutor. Woe betide him if he crossed his feet when he shouldn't!
In 1976 Geoff danced in the inaugural revived Northern Counties Clog Dancing Competition in Durham Town Hall and met Johnson Ellwood for the first time. When Johnson found out that he had learnt his first steps from Brian Hayden he was really pleased. A few weeks later, Johnson wrote to Geoff inviting him to visit him in Chester-le-Street and learn some new steps.
In 1996 Geoff started a new team called Seven Stars Sword and Step Dancers and after years of dancing as a solo performer has had to learn to dance the same steps as other people - quite a challenge at times! It has also given him the chance to choreograph dances for groups of dancers to avoid what he calls "formation foot waggling".

When Louise was a very young girl she had been very taken with a group of Irish dancers at Sidmouth and so she had attended lessons at the local Brian Boru club where she learnt a couple of simple jigs. Later, when she was a teenager she wanted to learn how to clog dance so Geoff taught her some waltz steps as well as one of Mrs Marhoff's dances.

When she went to University clog dancing had to take a back seat for a while. However, after graduating and moving back to Wigan she started dancing once again. When she moved to Cardiff for further study she joined the local team, Cobblers Awl and under the tutelage of Carol Loughlin was introduced to Welsh clog dances. More recently, she now also dances with Bristol-based City Clickers.
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