The Powderkegs are marking their 21st year in action with a ‘day of dance’ on Saturday, June 11, featuring performances around the town centre alongside a selection of visiting sides.
Member Jane Blamey said: “We would have marked our 20th anniversary last summer if Covid hadn’t happened, but now it’s a double celebration because it’s our first season back since the pandemic.
“Many Morris sides have folded over the past two years because they’ve not been able to practice or they’ve lost members, but we’ve managed to keep together via Microsoft Teams, we’ve got quite a few events planned for the summer and our Facebook following is still growing.”
The Powderkegs was formed in Whaley Bridge in 2001 by a group of 12 friends who wanted to expand on the traditions of the Chapel-en-le-Frith Morris Men – a Cotswold style men-only side. Their first major public appearance was part of the Queen’s golden jubilee festivities the following year.
The group’s name and colourful costumes are inspired by the gunpowder mill, once the biggest employer in the Goyt Valley, which was submerged under Fernilee Reservoir in the early 20th century.
Jane said: “We dance in the Border style, which is a bit more vibrant, flamboyant and noisy. There’s more whacking sticks and a lot of vocalisation.
“At the time, the nearest Border side was in Chorley, so our original members invited a group down from Yorkshire for a workshop, and it all grew from there.”
Today, the group numbers around 30 dancers and musicians, with the youngest member being Jane’s son, Michael, who is just 15.
During the summer, they can usually be found performing at pubs across the Peak District on Wednesday evenings, as well as occasional weddings and special events.
Jane said: “We’re keeping up a tradition but its also about fun. You get a lot of joy out of practicing and performing for a crowd.”
The group is always recruiting for new members. For more information, see powderkegs.co.uk.