Organising a Successful Ceilidh or Barn Dance

The origins of the barn dance goes back hundreds of years, it is part of our culture, and has remained popular with all kinds of people today. They continue to be an effective community building activity that is lots of fun.

Barn Dances are social dances. Designed to let everyone enjoy themselves. No prior knowledge or experience is necessary to join in and have fun. They appeal to all ages and are one of the few activities that an entire community can do and enjoy together. Here are some examples of the barn dances we have performed for:-

Weddings, village festivals, school parent teacher associations (PTAs), funerals, birthdays (from 5 – 95 years), wedding anniversaries, office christmas parties, Burn’s nights, St. George’s Nights, New Years Eve, Jubilee parties, fundraising, conference social evenings, homecomings, farewells, end of term parties, tea dances, Fun days, summer fetes, harvest festivals, VE day anniversaries, reunions, sports clubs, golf club dinners, ladies nights, Officers mess nights, christenings, family gatherings, holiday camps, pubs, twinning events and much more.

If you are organising a barn dance for the first time, here is a simple checklist. To help make sure you’ve thought of everything…

The Barn Dance Checklist

Step 1 – Know your audience


How many are realistically going to come?
What age range?
What time of the week suits your audience best?
How long an event? Usually 7.30 – 11pm or 8 – 11.30pm
If it is for a wedding, remember people may have had a very long day, don’t over estimate how much energy they will have left for dancing.

Step 2 – Find a Venue

Is it the right size?Ask about fire limits
Is there sufficient parking?
How much will is cost?
What dates are available?
Does it have an entertainments licence? If you are selling tickets to the general public
Power supply?
Lighting? Do you need to provide extra lighting for the audience and band?
Is the floor suitable?Carpets and carpet tiles are dangerous for dancing, so too are very slippery floors.
If the venue is a marquee the ground must be flat and even. Most marquee suppliers will provide a dance floor – this must be properly fixed.
Some provide large hessian mats – these must be stapled down to prevent tripping.

Step 3 Book a band and caller

Call: 0789190111 and ask for Pippa.

Tell us when, where, how many are expected, and what the occasion is.
We will recommend the most appropriate band and caller, and give you a price.
Check if the band knows the venue, if not, describe the venue.
Sound – Some venues have difficult acoustics (large rooms, bare walls, high ceilings, marquees), the band may have to provide additional P.A.
Lighting – Some venues (barns, marquees, etc.) have no lighting. Check if the band will need to bring their own lighting.

Step 4 – Tickets & Advertising

How much are the tickets?
For a successful barn dance – sell the tickets early!
Don’t rely on sales at the door.
Make it easy for people to buy tickets.
If you have a committee, allocate 10 to each member and tell them to sell them all.
Ask people personally to buy tickets
Even if the audience does not have to pay, tickets are still useful. Holding a ticket is an incentive to come, especially if it turns out to be a wet and rainy night. It also lets you know how many are coming.
Advertise widely.

Step 5 – Arrange Refreshment


Outside bar, DIY Bar or Bring your own?
Do you need a licence?
Some dances have no food refreshments, but most have something.
It is best to have someone to co-ordinate the food (be sure they are aware of food safety practices).
Popular options include:
Ploughman’s platter prepared on-site
Fish & Chips (delivered)
Buffet nibbles
Don’t forget to count the band into your numbers for food, they will probably leave home early to get to you and set up. They will be starving by 9pm.

Step 6 – 1 Week before


Ring around to check all arrangements are on track:
Band & Caller.
Raffle – this a good money earner. Get someone to organise raffle prizes and selling tickets on the night.

Step 7 – On the Day


Ensure the heating is switched on early (in the winter).
Ensure you have the money ready to pay the band and caller. They usually prefer to be paid in cash on the night.
Prepare the hall. Chairs around the edge of the hall are usually the best plan.
Avoid too many tables. Some people who have not been to a barn dance before may just sit at a table all evening drinking. If there are no tables there is all the more encouragement to dance (people put their drinks under the chairs).
Make sure someone is able to be there to let the band in to set up (they will arrive about 40 mins before the start time).
Organise a rota to collect tickets at the start of the evening.
Discuss with the caller the timings – food, raffle, speeches, presentations, etc.
Arrange the lighting with the caller. Barn Dances require more light than for discos or other kinds of dance.

Step 8  – The Barn Dance


The Barn Dance
Enjoy the evening.
The caller will m.c. the evening and make sure it all runs smoothly.
Get up promptly for every dance
Have a rest halfway through. Even if there is no food the band usually needs a break halfway through for 15-20 minutes.
Don’t forget to make a public ‘thank you’ for all the people who have helped put the show together (selling tickets, raffle, food, bar, door, etc).


Barn Dance? Ceilidh? – What’s the difference?

Essentially there is no difference, both are informal social gatherings involving traditional music, country dance, and sometimes song. Ceilidh is the Gaelic word, whilst the term Barn Dance came US from the tradition of holding a social dance after the community has helped construct a barn.

Country dance is the generic term for the traditional dances of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and USA.

Every dance is different.

If you have special requirements, or have any queries about the checklist,

just ring Quentin on 07877434739.

or e-mail