Snark at 21

There haven't been many organisational cock-ups at Whitby Folk Week, however two are notable. The first was asking Phil Heaton to find a rapper team to deliver the workshop in 1984, and the second was to invite Snark back again this year on the occasion of their 21 st birthday. ‘A nod's as good as a wink’ as they say and they came flying out of the woodwork to be in Whitby and celebrate.

For those not in the know, Snark is an ‘occasional’ team drawn from rapperists across the length and breadth of the UK. They appear when required, to answer the clarion call of their spine tingling battle cry “Minesapint” The selection criteria for membership are strict and rigidly adhered to – has Phil got your phone number? If Phil hasn't got your number... then Aubrey O'Brien probably has!!

That's enough history, so on to Whitby Folk Week 2005. Proceedings started with a Saturday morning reunion in the yard behind the Barclays Bank where legend has it, the first Snark manifestation met to compose and practice... tee hee!!... their dance and plan the workshop. This year, the pub next door (The Plough) was closed – something to do with one Humphrey Smith and his love of music – but despite this inauspicious start the team was selected, the wheel chairs parked, and practice got under way. After lurching through a dance or two, the commemorative plaque was unveiled, and Victoria Rigdon representing Barclays Bank, read from the seminal poem ‘The Hunting of the Snark,’ The veterans then tottered off to delight the public at the various dance locations around Whitby... So far so good!

Monday evening saw the main event, the launch of the Snark Heritage Trail, the dancers and their entourage of groupies and sycophants visiting the many sites of significance from that first momentous week back in 1984. Most of the locations were treated to a nostalgic dance – nostalgic because they were trying to remember the damn thing – and all the locations were marked with the ubiquitous blue plaque. Few of us will ever forget the moving sight of Vince Rutland standing and swaying on the shoulders of two groaning Snarks whilst fixing the plaque to the wall of the café in the East Side Market – with warm chewing gum.

The Heritage Trail snaked around the town starting in Barclays Bank yard and visiting The Plough – where the assembly recited Happy Birthday because Humphrey prefers poetry to music, the site of the Sea Cadet Hut – now relocated and The Tap & Spile – just for refuelling. Next The Elsinore, where to give the lads a rest, Sharpe Sword, did a turn to rapturous applause from Hammersmith Morris who happened to be lodging opposite. The Pavilion (or Spa as it was in 1984) the East Side Market, The Shambles – it was, The HSBC Bank corner and back to the Plough to embarrass Colin Messer. The whole sorry procession eventually ground to a halt in the Pavilion and one final dance. WHEW!!

It was a great and memorable night out, punctuated by the emotional blowing of noses, wiping of eyes and dribbling down shirt fronts.

How many Blue Plaques remain in place after two months? Who can tell but rumour has that at least one has been offered on eBay for a six figure sum!

The rest of the week was bound to be anticlimactic, but Snark 2005 lived up to the finest traditions of their predecessors. They were seldom sober, ALWAYS superbly entertaining, never missed a dance spot and arguably, stole the show at the final Ceilidh with their facsimile of the Plough tap room dance – Oh! and they carried the garland as well!

Well done and Happy Birthday!