Traditional dance team from Sheffield travel to Belgium to honour city victims of WWI

Members of the group lay a wreathe

Members of the group lay a wreathe

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A traditional folk dance team travelled to Belgium to honour men from Sheffield who gave died during the First World War.

The Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers visited the town of Ypres in Flanders to take part in the daily Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate.

The team also performed alongside other folk dance teams from across Europe at the Zwaarddanstreffen festival in the city of Sint-Niklaas.

The team also performed alongside other folk dance teams from across Europe at the Zwaarddanstreffen festival in the city of Sint-Niklaas.

The ceremony is held every night at 8pm in honour of the memory of the soldiers of the former British Empire and its allies who died in the Ypres Salient during the conflict.

In particular, they honoured two men from Handsworth who are listed amongst over 54,000 names on the Menin Gate.

Private Eli Cox, of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was killed on April 9, 1915 and Private Jacob Bishop, of the York and Lancaster Regiment, died on June 5, 1917.

Team captain, Simon Brock, said: “It was a very moving experience to honour the brave men from Sheffield and Handsworth who died during the First World War. Our dance team has been going for over 130 years and wearing the same kit throughout that period. It’s humbling to think that Eli and Jacob would probably have seen the dance performed in their native Handsworth and would recognise us at the ceremony.”

The team at Manin Gate

The team at Manin Gate

“It was great to represent Sheffield and England and put one of our folk traditions - which originates right here in Yorkshire - in front of an international audience.

“Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers are a proud team with a long history, but unfortunately in recent years our number of dancers has dropped and we’ve been unable to go to these type of events. Thankfully we’ve had a resurgence of interest in the last year and with several new recruits the team is now in a fantastic position to continue this tradition - hopefully for another 100 years.”

During their time in Belgium the team also performed alongside other folk dance teams from across Europe at the Zwaarddanstreffen festival in the city of Sint-Niklaas.

Sword dancing exists in many cultures around the world, from China, India and the Middle East to Western Europe. In England sword dancing describes two types of dance; rapper dancing, which is danced using flexible swords called ‘rappers’ and comes from the North East; and Yorkshire longsword, which is danced with rigid swords around a metre in length. In Sheffield there are two rapper teams and two longsword teams - Handsworth and Grenoside Sword Dancers.

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