Monday December 09 2019



Village Music & Drama

Cycle group to dance troupe!

Posted on January 15 2012 at 2:10:17 0 comments

Hopwood Ladies' Riverdance

Hopwood Ladies’ Cycling Club founder Deb Weston tells the story of the group’s latest adventure.

I started Hopwood Ladies’ Cycling Club almost six years ago in the hope that I would find friends with an interest in exploring the local countryside by bicycle, visiting local cafés and pubs, and all with the added benefit of getting a little bit fitter.

I was soon overwhelmed by interest in a women-only group, and realised that discouraging competitiveness made more room for fun. Plentiful social activities filled the calendar, adding to the usual weekly timetable of rides for all abilities.

The planning has always been very casual, with lots of spontaneity and a constant expectation that there is something exciting afoot – and the past year has been no exception. We started early with an overnight trip to a Welsh youth hostel; we have been “glamping” in the Cotswolds and camping on a tour of North Wales.

We visited and rode with the East Kent Ladies Cycling Club and The Chester Fabulous Ladies and took part in the Apperley and Long Mynd audax rides. We have had a great influx of new ladies and I truly feel the group is evolving into something very special.

Now you may recall reading in The Village about two local ladies (Jill Ellison and Sue Heard) who were setting off to cycle from Vietnam to Cambodia to raise money for Acorns Hospice and Multiple Sclerosis.

What caught my attention was the fact that they were funding their own trip and using their initiative to raise money, and I felt that I wanted to help. It was mentioned that they would like to raise £5,000 but after visiting the ladies, I gained the impression that the task was harder than it seemed.

I found myself getting carried away with the idea that maybe Hopwood Ladies could put on a fundraising show… we have some very talented children among us, there are ladies who can play various instruments, and my son’s girlfriend, Jasmine, has a fantastic operatic voice.

It all seemed quite exciting, although Jill and Sue were concerned with the problem of who would want to come.  I thought hard. If all the families of all the performers came, we might fill 40 seats – not good enough!

“I know how to do it!” I suddenly exclaimed, “We need more performers, as more performers equals a bigger audience. I will propose that Hopwood Ladies do… errrr… ummmm…”

I was struggling. Then:  “That’s it, we will do a Riverdance!”

Jill and Sue shared a puzzled look, the kind that says: “Go home now, you are not being serious,” but I was so very excited at the thought, not doubting for one minute that my ladies would once again follow me.

“We could also do a drum samba!” I added. My son Harry, a drummer aged 15, teaches the Year 7 samba band at school. He has two drum kits and another lady’s daughter, Immy, also has one; not forgetting Charlotte’s kit.

“But what about the dancing?” Sue asked. Now I have always seen myself as a bit of a dancing queen – you know, the sort that annoyingly steals the floor at discos – and although I have never had a lesson in my life, I could enlist the help of Yvonne, who does Appalachian dancing, to choreograph a routine.

Anyone who knows me knows just how convincing I can be, and before I left their house that evening, Jill and Sue were planning to make enquires about booking The Ark in Alvechurch for a one-night-only performance by Hopwood Ladies and Friends.

My proposals were received by the group with the usual laughter, the kind of response I am used to until it registers that my intentions are serious. I enlisted at least a dozen dancers and 10 drummers. We chatted about nothing else while waiting to hear back from Jill, and then confirmation came – we were on.

The New Flatleys

The following day, I took out my usual Tuesday riders, and smiled at the thought of what our new member Sally would think of the plans.

I asked my friend Gill to ride with her and when I dropped back to check Sally was managing OK, I found a very excited Gill insisting that I should ask Sally what she does for a living.

I was curious; it must be something useful, I thought. We seem to have a good share of nurses, teachers and lawyers but had jested that recruiting a hairdresser would be nice.

“So what do you do, Sally?” I quizzed enthusiastically. “I teach dance,” she said, and was startled by my response of “Wahoo!”  Was this some sort of cosmic intervention?

Within the week, we had gathered together with our new dance teacher to learn a few steps. Sarah’s patio seemed the ideal rehearsal studio.

I had decided that we should have a bit part for the two men who offer great support to our club: my partner Graham and Yvonne’s hubby Chris were to be “The New Flatleys”. We didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously and with an appearance from the boys, that would certainly be made clear.

We also wanted to add a cycling theme so while the men did their thing, we were to exit the stage, put on our helmets and grab a tyre for the fun finale.

Sally thought it best if she worked alone with Gray and Chris after a hilarious evening of us laughing at her efforts to teach grown men to skip while someone videoed them. I must admit, I still struggle not to laugh even thinking about it.

The evening came round all too quickly, so the final preparations were made only hours before the show. The doors opened and in flooded our expectant relatives and friends – we had managed to sell all 120 seats.

At 7.30pm the ladies took their place at their drums and bashed out the Cyclist’s Samba to get everyone’s attention. A beautiful set of ballads by Alice McMahon gave everyone’s ears a rest before my son Harry and his friend Tom (as Fatality) livened things up.

A well-earned break made way for lots of lovely cake (baked by almost every Hopwood Lady), hot dogs, pizza, tea and coffee before handing back to compere Daniel for the fundraising auction and raffle. In our makeshift changing room, we put on our little dresses (adorned with a pink trim – thanks Jill), curly pony tails and make-up and prepared for our entrance.

We walked on to huge applause and the music started; there was no going back now. Nerves calmed and we were soon in full swing. A change in the music was a cue for the men to swoop on from either side while we made a short exit – the noise level rose significantly in appreciation of their full-sleeved shirts, cycle tights, pink cummerbunds and abandonment of all self respect as they skipped and hopped enthusiastically.

Once again, we took the limelight – this time, to everyone’s amusement, with helmets and tyres – and worked up to our finishing single line formation to be rewarded by huge applause. The show continued with the high standard we had told people to expect, and our star turn Jasmine was to raise that standard even higher.

Not only did all involved have a fantastic night, but we also raised a total of £1,400. I am very proud of everyone who came forward to take part and extremely pleased to give some a chance to showcase what had become dormant talents.

Hopwood Ladies are the tops when it comes to pulling together and I feel so grateful to have had their support for such an absurd proposition. Actually, they are not bad cyclists either.

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