The High Spen Blue Diamonds were formed in the Durham pit village of High Spen in 1926 by Fred Forster. When formed, all of the dancers were young boys, and one of them was Fred's own son of the same name. He grew up and led the team until his death in 1986 when his son Frederick (Ricky) took over leadership. Ricky's two brothers, Joe and Colin are also active members of the team as are his two sons Gary and Gordon along with Joe's son Lee. Previous to 1926 the High Spen rapper team were simply known as High Spen Sword Dancers. From the late 1800s there appears to have been 4 High Spen teams. It is likely that this clip shows the Vernon Troupe dancing.
This clip was taken from a selection of film made by the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library in the early 20th century. The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library was established in 1958 following the death of composer, song collector and President of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was previously known as the Cecil Sharp Library because it chiefly comprised Sharp’s personal library, which he bequeathed to the EFDS in 1924. Its first permanent home was established with the opening of Cecil Sharp House in 1930, and Sharp’s daughter Joan was the first librarian. With the amalgamation of the two societies and subsequent bequests, donations and purchases, the library has developed considerably over the years, most notably with the addition of the literature, sound and manuscript collections of other eminent folklorists and collectors of the twentieth century.
Sharp was one of the first people to study rapper dancing in the region and made detailed studies of the individual dances in the area, publishing them in his Sword Dances of Northern England, between 1911 and 1913. This clips form part of a selection of clips of local rapper teams performing their unique dances and steps. It is not certain when the film was made, but we can probably assume that it was around the time Sharp visited the area.