The Beginning

    The Ring of Eight is based in Dorset and the group was formed in 1981 at the suggestion of Ted Hutchinson, a well-known and well respected member of the folk fraternity.  His idea was that a group be formed to display a specific style from our English Dancing Heritage – known as Playford - with dances from the time of the restoration of Charles II to the throne.  The challenge was taken up by Margaret Thomas & friends, already experienced dancers, costumes were made, dances learned and they were ready for their first display for the Christchurch Folk Festival.  The title “Ring of Eight” was chosen by Margaret and the group was established.  Since everyone enjoyed it so much it seemed a very good idea to carry on and 1982 saw the first full season of dancing for the group, continuing without a break now for 30 years - dancing in venues ranging from Stately Homes to Village Halls, private gardens and village fetes to Grand Ballrooms, to audiences large and small.

    The Festivals Connection

    We regularly perform at Wimborne and Swanage Festivals and have also performed at Chippenham and Winchester.  Always fun, always enjoyable.


    The Kingston Lacy Connection:

    Kingston Lacy was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1982.  In 1986, when the house was opened to the public, the Ring of Eight were invited to dance there, and this lovely house, in its beautiful parkland setting, has remained a favourite ever since.  It was here that the Group performed to its largest audience – estimated at 5,000! The event was, in fact, the Bournemouth Sinfonietta’s Summer Open Air Concert and our dancing was the ‘pre-concert’ entertainment. 

    A chance encounter with a visitor one year led to the Group being invited to dance at a Chateau at St Sauveur le Viscomte in Normandy.   The Chateau had suffered greatly at the time of the Revolution.  No furniture, no carpets, no pictures – a great contrast to Kingston Lacy.

    2010 saw a first for both the National Trust and the Ring of Eight.  We were invited to recreate a Ball held there in 1791 to commemorate a major refurbishment of the Hall.  This presented another challenge – change of period, change of costumes, new dances.  As before, the challenge was accepted and October 2010 saw the first event held inside the House since it had been given over to the National Trust – dancing in the beautiful Ballroom was truly a privilege.


    The Twinning Association Connection:

    Lymington – Mosbach (Germany) & Vitre (France):

    There have been 3 visits by the Ring of Eight with the Lymington Twinning Association, twice to Mosbach in Southern Germany and once to Vitre in Brittany.

    Mosbach:   For the first visit, dancing was at the National Garden Festival held in the town, the second visit being an International Folk Festival with dance teams from all over the world.

    Vitre:   We had been invited to take part in the celebrations to commemorate Vitre’s 30th year of  “Twinning”.  Our dancing here was in various locations around the town on the first day. On the second day the events were taking place in the gardens in the centre of the town. Lymington had taken an oak tree sapling to Vitre as a commemorative gift and after our dancing we formed an impromptu escort for the sapling at the planting ceremony.


    Ferndown - Segre:

    We were invited by Ferndown Twinning Association to travel with them to Segre to take part in a Cultural Event held in the town.  We shared the evening with Dorset Buttons Morris Team and the French Dancers “L’Avant Deux de Haute Anjou” where we danced in the Cultural Centre in the town – a very different venue to our performance in the morning which was on the Car Park of the Hotel de Ville.

    Through the Ferndown connection, we held a Day of Dance in Ferndown, hosting L’Avant Deux, from Anjou, and sharing the event with Quayside Cloggies (Poole) and a Ferndown Dance School.

    All these visits have demonstrated how, through dance and music, the ease with which international boundaries are crossed, always being treated with kindness, generosity and great hospitality.



    Our displays have taken us to many and varied locations:

    Historic houses:  Kingston Lacy, Lulworth Castle, Montacute House, Polesdon Lacy, Braemer House, Somerley House, Deans Court, Sherborne Castle, Stapehill Abbey.

    Fetes, Fayres & Galas:  Kingston, Isle of Purbeck; Pamphill, Wimborne; Priest House Museum, Wimborne; Zetland Court, Poole, Delaware Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea; Milton Abbas, Dorset.

    A theatrical connection:  With the Swan Theatre Company, Wimborne, at their open-air theatre productions.


    Continuing the Tradition:

    From those early beginnings 30 years ago, the Ring of Eight have maintained the original aim – to ensure the continuation of a special branch of our English Dancing Heritage, encompassing as it does now 150 years of dance and music.  Displaying these dances with grace and elegance, we also aim to show how dancing can be fun and sociable – a tradition well worth continuing.