20 FAQS ABOUT BOOKING A BAND AND CALLER FOR A CEILIDH OR BARN DANCE

Please note: if your event is not in the East Midlands area, CLICK HERE to visit Fiona's agency website. She will be able to offer excellent bands in most areas of the country!



This collection of 20 FAQs comprehensively covers all aspects of booking JIGABIT or another band and caller, giving useful tips about venues most suitable for ceilidhs, and many helpful guidelines about timing, format and general requirements.

Click on each question to open up the answer.

FAQ 1 What’s the difference between a Barn Dance, a Ceilidh or Ceili and a Hoe Down?

I don’t tend to distinguish between the terms too much as which ever name you use, it’s really all about having good fun! JIGABIT is very well suited for playing for a Scottish or Irish or American themed Ceilidh or Barn Dance event.

A Barn Dance, Ceilidh (pronounced “kaylee”) or Ceili and a Hoedown are similar in that the dancing involves people dancing together either in couples or in small groups of couples. The dances at a Barn Dance or Ceilidh or Hoe Down are done in formations of couples in circles for as many people who wish to join in, squares of 4 couples, lines of boys facing lines of girls. Some dances are progressive with couples moving on to new couples to dance with, or one person in the couple moving on to a new dance partner as the dance progresses – it’s very sociable and therefore a terrific ice breaker for weddings and occasions where people don’t all know one another.

In bygone days, a traditional Ceilidh had song spots and other entertainment spots interspersed with the dancing. These days, some, but not all bands offer songs in addition to dances, as part of the evening’s entertainment. The bands who offer additional songs tend to be those who play professionally or semi-professionally and this includes JIGABIT.

A Hoedown may have slightly more of an American theme and people often dress up in check shirts and cowboy hats to add to the atmosphere. A Hoedown evening may feature more American style dances than, say, Irish, Scottish, Welsh or English ones. Some bands are definitely more suited to playing for Hoedowns than others. JIGABIT is extremely well suited to playing for an American themed evening and we play a wide range of American tunes and we sing some American popular songs between the dances.

Some people like to have a more Scottish or Irish theme. JIGABIT has played for many Scottish and Irish style Ceilidhs / Ceilis over the years, and we’ve been told that we’re just as good as the bands who come from either Scotland or Ireland, so that says it all really!

However none of these styles of music and dance are the same as Line Dancing, which is done solo rather than in couples and often to recorded music. JIGABIT plays Achy Breaky Heart which is suitable for people to do line dancing to, but please note that WE DO NOT TEACH THE LINE DANCING STEPS!

It’s also important to know that the music played for Ceilidhs and Barn Dances is definitely NOT Country & Western music. JIGABIT plays a few country style songs, but Country and Western style music is not our primary speciality. Occasionally people get these styles mixed up – it’s important to be aware of this when booking JIGABIT Ceilidh or Barn Dance band!

FAQ 2 What makes a Ceilidh or Barn Dance or Hoe Down such a good form of entertainment?

This type of dancing is suitable for all ages and abilities. The joy of a ceilidh or barn dance is that it gets everyone mixing together, even if they’ve never done this sort of dancing before and don’t know one another. Very young toddlers can dance with their parents, and children of about 6 or 7 upwards can easily join in the dancing on their own. We’ve known 95 year-olds join in the fun, so all the Grans and Grandads, Uncles and Aunties can get involved too – there’s no reason not to! Having said that, some of the dances are far more energetic than others, so maybe advise Granny to avoid Strip The Willow as that dance really can whip along at a pretty fast pace by the end of it!

Having a Barn Dance, Ceilidh or Hoedown is highly recommended as very suitable evening entertainment for Weddings, Civil Partnerships and marriages, anyone celebrating a “Big” Birthday, all special Wedding Anniversaries, any other private parties and corporate occasions, Charity fund raising events, School PTA gatherings, Church social occasions and really, just about any other event where the public can come along. JIGABIT plays for all of these occasions, but mostly for weddings, birthdays and anniversaries (See section on Events).

Some dances are what’s called “progressive”, which means that you or your dancing partner move on to a different person (or couple) each time through the dance, which makes it a great ice breaker and very sociable indeed.

It’s fine for girls to dance together if they want, and to the amusement of some people, yes, lads sometimes dance together too!

Good news - absolutely no previous dancing experience is necessary. Even better news - there’s no need to be particularly fit – just be willing to have FUN!

FAQ 3 Do we need to book a Caller as well as the band?

Most definitely YES! The key to a successful and fun dance is an excellent Caller and that’s what Bob Ballard is! He does a great job of making people feel at ease at the start of the evening, so people are then willing to get up and join in when being invited onto the floor. Bob is great at persuading people politely and with good humour that they really should get off their backsides and dance – RIGHT NOW!!! He’s more of an entertainer than a teacher – a real gem who persuades even the most reluctant people to join in and have a laugh.

Unless you are booking the band just for listening to, without any organised “called” dancing, it’s absolutely essential to book the Caller. There may be some people at a party who are experienced dancers, having done a lot of this kind of dancing before, and they may believe they know all the steps and don’t need the guidance of the Caller, but there will almost certainly always be people at Ceilidhs or Barn Dances who have never done this sort of interactive social dancing before and therefore need more guidance than others. It’s very reassuring for novice dancers to have all the dance steps explained before each dance and Bob always walks people through the whole sequence of moves before JIGABIT is let loose on you, so no one is left wondering what to do next.

If you’re worried about “getting it wrong”, please be reassured that Bob would never expect you to get every single step of the dance correct. It’s all part of the fun of a Ceilidh, when people go a bit hay-wire, do-si-do the wrong person, fall over - whatever….. Three left feet? No problem!

FAQ 4 How much does it cost to book JIGABIT?

The exact cost will depend on the size of the line-up – whether you’re booking our 4 or 5-piece band, and our travel costs, and on which day of the week the ceilidh or barn dance is to take place. Discounts are sometimes given for mid-week non-weekend dates and very local or very short notice bookings.

If the booking is for a “prime date” like New Year's Eve, St Patrick’s Day, Burns Night or St Andrew’s Night, the cost will very likely be higher than for other dates in the year.

Without wishing to sound cheeky, some people are surprised at what they consider to be a high cost of booking JIGABIT and I say this to them:

Remember that a DJ charges anything from £150 - £1000 – (yes, I said up to £1000!) and that is for one or two chaps and recorded music, so if you do your sums, it's clear that a band of 4 or 5 experienced musicians is bound to cost more than a couple of hundred quid. It actually represents very good value for money, given that each person is involved for anything between 6 and 10 hours, packing the car, travelling to the venue, unpacking, setting up, playing, dismantling the PA, packing up all the gear, travelling faq, unpacking the car . . . .

All bands and callers charge per evening, not per hour, so the cost will be the same, how ever long or short a period of time JIGABIT is booked for.

FAQ 5 How and when do we pay JIGABIT?

JIGABIT’s preferred method of payment is for a deposit to be paid up front by cheque or bank transfer when the booking is confirmed in writing, leaving the balance to be paid to Fiona in cash on the night.

If a booker is unable or unwilling to pay cash on the night, then I request that a bank transfer or cheque for the remaining balance is settled up directly with me at least 2 weeks ahead of the booked date.

I don’t offer a credit card facility.

FAQ 6 Venues – Important guidelines and essential requirements


This is a HUGE section of Q&A. It is well worth a read if you’ve not yet booked your venue, but even if you have, this information may still be helpful for you - Who books the venue and which venues are most suitable? - What shape and size of venue is best? - How much space is required for the dancing? - How much space is required for the band? - Does the band need a stage? - What about Barn Dance events in farm barns? - Important things you need to know if your dance is in a marquee or outdoors
It’s your responsibility to choose a suitable venue. There are some essential guidelines to bear in mind when choosing your venue as there are a large number of factors involved and some venues are far more suitable for a ceilidh or barn dance than others. If you’ve already booked your venue and some of the following points make you think that your venue is unsuitable – don’t despair! There are ways of maximizing the circumstances - feel free to discuss this with Fiona.

The venue for a wedding ceilidh will largely be determined by where everything else takes place during the day. However, if you’re in a position to choose a venue specifically to suit the Ceilidh, the choice of the right kind of room can make a massive difference to how the Ceilidh or Barn Dance goes.

The decision about which venue to use can largely be dependent on cost – for example, a village hall will obviously be far cheaper to hire than a hotel function suite.

JIGABIT (and other Ceilidh and Barn Dance Bands) play in many different places – hotels, village halls, community and leisure centres, marquees, stately faqs, converted function barns, private faqs, castles, restaurants, school halls, social clubs, pubs, market places, fields and farm barns….

The key suggestion is to choose a venue with the bar in the same room as the band, Caller and guests! If the venue has several rooms, your party may tend to split up into smaller groups. This is fine socially of course, but it is more difficult to involve people in the dancing when they’re spread out in different rooms.

- What shape and size of venue is best?

I would recommend choosing a venue which is as square or oblong as possible – but it can still be possible to hold a ceilidh or barn dance if the room is an odd shape because JIGABIT will make the most of whatever the circumstances are!

The size of the room required will of course depend on the number of people coming to your party or event. It’s best to check the maximum capacity with the venue management or the marquee providers. It’s a good idea to take a tape measure along to any venue you may be considering, with the band and dancing space requirements in mind, and pace it out so you know you’re booking a venue which is large enough. Arranging tables and chairs around the edges of the hall or room naturally creates the dancing area.

- How much space is required for the dancing?

The space for the dancing should be at least 5m x 5m, ideally double or triple this, but it’s not essential for the dancing area to be square. I’d suggest that it’s best to discuss available space with the venue manager or marquee provider, to ensure that enough space can be created for JIGABIT and for the dancing. You never get 100% of a group dancing at one time, so as long as there is enough space for about 30-40 people to dance at one time, that is fine.

Ceilidh dancing requires much more space than dancing at a disco, where you dance “on the spot”. Movements in Ceilidhs and Barn Dances include galloping up and down and swinging partners, so more room per person is required, and the more dancing space available the better.

At weddings, after any afternoon reception meal and speeches, the venue management should be prepared to move tables and chairs aside to make a good sized area for dancing. Putting some chairs around the edges of the room encourages people to remain involved in the Ceilidh. Ask me or Bob the Caller when we arrive which of the tables need to be removed, and ask the management to sort this out for you.

- How much space is required for the band to set up?

Ideally, JIGABIT needs 5-6m width and 3m depth to set up comfortably. If we’re booked as our 5-piece band with full kit drummer Simon Evans, we really DO need 6m width and 3m depth. Allowing approximately a square metre per person plus a square metre for each of the 2 speaker stands is a good guide. It’s best if JIGABIT is able to set up fairly close to the dancing area but not so near that we get trampled!

- What if we’ve booked a Disco as well?

If you are booking a Disco or other live band as well as JIGABIT, do please make sure BEFORE THE DAY that there is sufficient room for both bands or for JIGABIT and the DJ to set up all their equipment. It’s essential to check directly with the DJ beforehand about his space requirements.

- Does JIGABIT need a stage?

No, we don’t need a stage. It’s a bonus if a good sized stage area is provided, but it’s definitely not essential. If you (or the venue management) were to provide one, it must be at least 6m wide x 3m deep and no higher than 1m. Some venues have a ready-built stage, other venues are able to build a portable one, but JIGABIT prefers to set up on floor level rather than trying to cram onto a stage which is too small. It's easier for Bob the Caller to move between band and dancers if he’s on the floor rather than a high stage.

- What about Barn Dance events in farm Barns?

JIGABIT isn’t at all keen on playing in dusty draughty farm barns. I generally try to steer people away from barn dances in farm barns. You may think that a farm barn would be the ideal and most appropriate venue for a BARN DANCE – But, speaking from several of my own bad experiences in the very distant past, I advise that a farm barn is not ideal because grit and dust in a barn is a total nightmare to the musicians and dancers alike. Everyone inhales the dust as it flies around during the dancing, and you feel the next morning as though you’ve smoked a hundred fags. The dust settles on the band’s instruments and amplification equipment, meaning everything has to be cleaned the next day.

Barns are draughty and it’s impossible for musicians to play well if we are cold. YUCK! Some bands actually refuse to play in a farm barn, although obviously a converted function barn is fine. If you have already booked a farm barn, we strongly recommend hosing it down during the daytime of the date of the event, arranging heating and reasonable lighting and making sure as much draught is excluded as possible, especially where the band is to set up.

- Important things you need to know if your dance is in a marquee or outdoors

Some of the points in this section about marquees and outdoor events also apply generally to other venues, i.e. the space requirements, flooring, access and parking, power source, lighting.

- If the event is to be held outdoors –

Outdoor events have their own pitfalls – mainly the unreliable weather in this country, so it is your responsibility to have contingency plans for bad weather. While all attempts would of course be made to continue with the dance, if it has to be abandoned due to weather conditions, the full fee would still payable to the band.

- If your event is in a marquee -

Please note that it is up to you to discuss and arrange all the following requirements with the marquee providers well before the day.

- Access to the marquee, parking and setting up

JIGABIT would of course need the full address and post code for exactly where the marquee will be sited, and we ask you when arranging where the marquee will be situated to bear in mind that we really do need to get our cars as close as possible to the marquee for unloading and loading our instruments and PA system. We need to know ahead of the date if the access is long way away or difficult, as we would need to allow more time for the get-in and then setting up.

Ideally, JIGABIT would be able to leave our cars where we unload, or we could possibly move the vehicles elsewhere if necessary, after unloading.

Arranging for a removable or openable flap in the marquee near to where the band will set up is a good idea, so we can gain access to set up without having to walk through the guests.

- Power source in the marquee

Mains power is ideal, but a generator is fine too. JIGABIT won’t be able to play amplified if we don’t have a safe and suitable power source. We just need access to one ordinary safely earthed 13A plug socket, which should ideally be easily accessible from where we set up, and no further away than 10m and if possible, not outside the marquee. Please let me know if the plug socket is going to be any more than 10m away from where we are to set up. We provide all other extension leads for our own use on the evening.

The amplification equipment for a Ceilidh band does not draw more power than, say, a 2KW electric kettle. If a generator is used, it needs to offer a 240V (not 110V) supply, with a standard 13 Amp socket available for our sole use. We recommend having the band situated well away from a generator as these machines can be quite noisy. Any cable, plugs and sockets should obviously be safely protected from the elements whenever leading outside.

- Space in the marquee for the dancing and for the band

You will need to talk in detail with the marquee providers about the overall space required to "house" your group of guests, depending on the number invited.

We will need to know the approximate width of the tent “wall” along which we will be setting up, and what the approximate area is that you’re allowing for the dancing.

JIGABIT need an area with a minimum width of 5-6m and 2-3m depth, with us situated against one side or end of the marquee and near, but not too close to the dance floor, or we get trampled! Allowing the required depth of space for the band is very important.

For the dancing area, I recommend an absolute minimum of 5m x 5m for the dancing, ideally double or triple this. The dancing area doesn’t need to be square. You never get 100% of a group dancing at one time, so as long as there is enough space for about 30-40 people to dance at one time, that is fine.

Arranging the tables and chairs as close to the sides of the marquee as possible is the best way to create the dancing area.

- Flooring in the marquee for the dancing and for the band

Grass is difficult to dance on, and concrete can be harsh on the knees if you take a tumble. A solid wooden floor or heavy-duty rush matting or carpet is ideal for dancing on. Wooden flooring isn’t critical, as coconut rush matting does a perfectly good job for dancing on and costs less to install than a wooden floor. Wooden “mobile” dance floors often have steep edges and it’s almost better – and safer – for people to dance on matting than on a floor with steep edges.

If you are having a proper wooden dance floor laid, you'll definitely need to ask the marquee providers to allow a good 3m depth for JIGABIT to set up comfortably, so the dance floor isn’t too close to where we set up.

Please note – JIGABIT needs waterproof covering underneath where we set up – whether in a marquee or if playing outdoors – it’s not acceptable to put equipment and musical instruments on bare grass or dusty concrete or other potentially damaging surfaces. It gets damp in marquees later on and expensive instruments and PA equipment need to be kept dry.

It may seem obvious, but it’s essential to have the marquee set up on totally flat ground, because even the slightest slope will make it very difficult indeed for the dancers to dance and they gradually end up at one end of the tent either sitting on the knees of the band or in the bar!!!

The surface must also be level where the band is situated, as we have speakers on tripods to set up and these must be stable for obvious reasons!

- Stage

The band doesn’t need a stage, but if you were to provide one, it must be at least 6m x 3m and no higher than 1m.

- Lighting in the marquee

There definitely needs to be some reasonably bright lighting in the marquee, particularly over where the dancing is taking place and also where JIGABIT is sited so we aren’t in a gloomy corner of the tent! Bob the Caller definitely needs to be able to see what the dancers are doing, so this is an important thing to sort out beforehand. I recommend chandelier type lights from the marquee “ceiling” or side lights and strings of white / coloured lights, and maybe some uplighters too. We recently played in a marquee which only had up-lighters and it was horribly gloomy, so I recommend having more lighting than just up-lighters. For the rest of the marquee, it’s up to you, and you may choose to have lower level lighting for the other areas.

- Heating in the marquee

Even for summertime dances, I strongly recommend arranging for optional access to portable heating as it gets chilly in a tent later in the evening and it’s impossible to play well if we are cold. I recommend hiring or borrowing portable propane (or similar) heaters – for the guests and also for near the band.

- Armless chairs and table

We like the use of 5 or 6 armless chairs and a sturdy oblong table about 1m x 2m for a mixer / amplifier. The table should be available for us on our arrival, to enable a speedy set up. If a table isn’t available at the venue however, we do carry a fold up table with us.

FAQ 7 Indoor events - What are the technical and other requirements for the band and for the dancers?

- Also see FAQ 6 Venue guidelines – the section about dances in marquees

- Power source

We just need easy nearby access to an ordinary properly ea

rthed 13A plug-point. We need to know if the plug socket is more than 10m away from where we will be setting up. JIGABIT reserves the right to refuse to use an electricity source if we believe the wiring system is faulty or dangerous. We do an earth test on the night. We will be unable to play amplified if the power source is unsuitable or unsafe – and the Caller will not be heard.

- Flooring for the dancers

(For dances in marquees and outdoors – see FAQ 6 - Venue Guidelines on Marquees)

Generally speaking, a solid wooden floor or carpet or matting is fine for dancing on. Many venues have a purpose-built, solid, wooden dance floor. Wooden flooring isn’t critical, as carpet does a perfectly good job for dancing on. Some venues offer a portable segmented “mobile” wooden dance floor, which the venue management assembles on the day. These floors often have steep metal edges and therefore pose a potential safety hazard. It’s better and safer for people to dance on carpet than on a floor with steep edges. It’s definitely better NOT to have the floor laid, and to dance on carpet, rather than dancing on a floor where people could trip over the edges. If you are having a proper wooden dance floor laid, you'll definitely need to ask the management to allow a good 3m depth for JIGABIT to set up comfortably, so the dance floor is not too close to where we set up. Watch out for floors that are very slippery - some venues have a tiled or polished floor and this can be hazardous when doing the faster ceilidh dances.

- Stage

JIGABIT doesn't need a stage.

It’s a bonus if a good sized stage area is provided, but it’s definitely not essential. If you (or the venue management) were to provide one, it must be at least 6m wide x 3m deep and no higher than 1m. Some venues have a ready-built stage, other venues are able to build a portable one, but JIGABIT prefers to set up on floor level rather than trying to cram onto a stage which is too small. It's easier for Bob the Caller to move between band and dancers if he’s on the floor rather than a high stage.

- Lighting

Reasonably bright lighting in the room is best, as Bob the Caller needs to be able to see what the dancers are doing, so the lighting shouldn’t be as dim and gloomy as for a Disco!

- Armless chairs and table

We like the use of 5 or 6 armless chairs and a sturdy oblong table about 1m x 2m for a mixer / amplifier. The table should be available for us on our arrival, to enable a speedy set up. If a table isn’t available at the venue however, we do carry a fold up table with us.

- Access & Parking

We need easy close-by access to the area where we will be playing. Parking facilities for our 3, 4 or 5 cars as close as possible to the venue or marquee entrance for unloading and loading our PA equipment & instruments is essential.

- Directions

If the venue is particularly difficult to find, some additional directions will be appreciated in addition to the venue post code for using a SAT NAV

FAQ 8 How many people are needed to make it a successful Ceilidh or Barn dance?

I generally recommend 40-50 as a minimum number, and 70 upwards is ideal. As long as at least 20-30 people are willing to get up at any one time, the dance will go well. Even better, of course, if far more people are willing to dance, but we realise that occasions like weddings, birthdays and anniversary parties are a good opportunity for people to meet up for the first time in ages and catch up on news, so socialising is also a priority.

If there were, say, about 80-120 guests, we’d never expect everyone to be up dancing every time. There will always be some people who don’t wish to join in at all and who prefer to sit and watch or chat, which is fine.

If you’re having a party of fewer than 40 people, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t really recommend a barn dance or ceilidh, as having any fewer than 16–24 dancers participating at any one time during the evening makes it feel a bit of a struggle so a small group means that the same people would be asked to dance every dance and it would be totally exhausting!

FAQ 9 How long does it take the band to set up?

We always set up immediately prior to the agreed start time. We like to allow an hour to set up our PA system and instruments. However, we can do the set up in half this time if necessary.

Ceilidh and Barn Dance Bands don’t need to set up earlier in the day, but will do if it is essential, but this will be reflected in the fee, since it means adding several hours of time to the 8-10 hours already committed for the evening – i.e. packing the car, travelling to the venue, unpacking, setting up, playing, packing up, travelling faq and unpacking the car – it soon adds up - and many people overlook this.

FAQ 10 What’s the best length of time and overall format for a Ceilidh or Barn Dance?

Generally, between 1 and 3 hours of this style of dancing is about right. If the Ceilidh Band and caller are to share the evening with a Disco later on, the band would play for less time and then the break would happen naturally between the Band finishing and the Disco taking over. I never ever recommend having any style of entertainment for longer than 3 hours as people need a change of style and sound. Trying to run a Barn dance or Ceilidh for 4-5 hours is a no-no – everyone would be on their knees, and in need of a change and variety.

Having two roughly equal halves to the evening is what I usually recommend, whatever the occasion or event, as it gives everyone time to work up an appetite with some dancing, then have a bit of grub, and then work off the calories in the second half! JIGABIT usually do two dances in a row, then we give the dancers a few minutes break for them to have a slurp and a breather, then on with the dancing. We play songs in between the pairs of dances to give the dancers a bit of a rest and this also gives people a chance to dance without the caller telling them what to do!

For any event, we recommend a latest finish time of 11.00pm or 11.30pm, and I always advise against a midnight finishing time. We’ve found that at most parties or events, some people start drifting away from about 10.30pm onwards – especially if they have young children, or a long journey faq.

We always prefer to round off on a high with everyone still there, rather than going on til later with fewer people there just for the sake of it.

When deciding the start time for a wedding Ceilidh, please bear in mind that you need to allow much more time than you might expect for everything else happening during the day. I always suggest allowing 6 hours from the ceremony time to the evening party getting started, which surprises some people. The photos, greetings and drinks, the meal - and especially the speeches - take up the time! Unless you take this into account, the Ceilidh will start later than you’ve planned, and the band will be sitting around for ages waiting to set up.

For a wedding, in most cases, the band and caller setting up coincides naturally with the preparation of the room or marquee ready for the evening party. I would avoid booking any band which says it needs more than an hour to set up – it will create a massive gap in between your afternoon and evening celebrations. This would not be an issue for a non-wedding occasion though.

FAQ 11 When’s the best time to serve the food and what do we do about music for the break?

If JIGABIT is playing for the whole evening, we would usually take a break at a suitable point about half way and this break is the best time to serve any refreshments, to avoid splitting the evening more than necessary.

We recommend having the food in the mid-way break rather than having a “rolling buffet” all night, as food is always a big distraction from the dancing.

Occasionally, people prefer to serve the food at the start of the evening, in which case JIGABIT would need to be aware of this before the day. We would still most likely need to take a mid-way break during the remaining part of the evening, depending on the overall time slot we are booked for.

It can take an average of about 30-45 minutes to serve food for a party of, say, 70-100 guests. If there is no evening buffet, the band’s mid-way break would be about 20-30 minutes.

Recorded music can be played during the mid-way break. It’s fine to bring along your own compilation on an Ipod or mp3 player as long as we know beforehand that you wish for this. An Ipod can be plugged into our PA system if you have your own selection of musical favourites you’d like played during the break.

If your music is on CD you’ll need to bring the CD player as well as the CD for us to play through our system, ensuring that the CD is compatible with your CD player.

FAQ 12 Can we do an Opening Dance or First Dance at our wedding Ceilidh or Barn Dance?

Yes! At weddings, the bride and groom - “newly weds” - sometimes like to do a First Dance or Opening Dance to their favourite song. We ask you to bring along your chosen track on an Ipod for the band to play through the PA system, making it clear to the band or caller exactly which track you want played, so the correct track starts the night! A word of warning - be prepared to be more scared dancing “on show” than you thought you would . . . . !

The Ceilidh or Barn Dance begins immediately after the First Dance and works well as a way to start the evening off.

Occasionally, couples even learn a dance routine to open the evening party and impress their guests. In this case, it’s essential to make a note to bring the track on your Ipod or all that dance routine practice may be wasted! I’ve seen one couple do an amazing Cha-Cha routine and another couple had rehearsed a fabulous Salsa routine – good enough for Strictly Come Dancing – but this is the exception to the rule.

To open the night, some couples like the chance to do a simple ceilidh dance on their own or with the “Top Table” guests or immediate family members. Dances like The Grand March or the Gay Gordons are very suitable for this, but we will definitely need to know your wish for this beforehand.

For some people, the very thought of dancing alone is terrifying, naff, awful, a total no-no – So you’ll be pleased to know that since it’s YOUR DAY – there’s NO obligation whatsoever to dance alone. It really is OK if you prefer not to make a thing of the fi

All of these alternatives are fine.

FAQ 13 Should we book a DJ or arrange an Ipod disco as well as the Ceilidh Band?

Having a Ceilidh as well as more contemporary music during an evening certainly caters for a wider range of musical tastes, providing both traditional and modern music. You do need to make it clear to me if you are booking a DJ or arranging your own Ipod disco.

Arranging your own Ipod disco is far cheaper than hiring a DJ and takes up far less space. Please be fully aware that you will need to arrange – borrow or hire – and bring along your own speakers and suitable amplifier to play your music after the ceilidh or barn dance ends, as JIGABIT’S PA will not be available after we have finished our slot.

For the evening to work best, it really is best if the Ceilidh is the first part of the evening, and the Disco takes over entirely after the Ceilidh or Barn Dance finishes.

Alternating short spots of Ceilidh / Disco / Ceilidh does NOT work, believe me!

If you’re booking a DJ, you need to make sure BEFORE THE DATE that both the Band and DJ have enough space at the venue to set up comfortably. It’s best to situate the Ceilidh Band in a position which will enable our easy exit so once the Band has finished and packed up their equipment and instruments, we can leave without walking through the dancers and disturbing the Disco. We ask for 10-15 minutes of packing up time before the DJ starts and the lights go dim!

FAQ 14 Which dances work best and what instruments are played by JIGABIT?

- Dances

Over the years, our band has found that it works best to offer a wide variety of dances from all the British Isles and further afield, i.e. Scottish, Irish, English, Welsh, French Canadian, American and Continental dances which are good fun, straightforward and definitely NOT TOO COMPLICATED!

Some bands specialise in a particular music and dance style, but most Ceilidh and Barn Dance bands offer a more general and mixed repertoire. If you want more of an emphasis towards, say, the Scottish, or Irish style of music or dance, this is quite feasible – but do please make this clear on your initial enquiry.

You can expect JIGABIT to do some of the well-known favourite dances such as The Bridge of Athlone, Pat A Cake Polka, Cumberland Square Eight, The Gay Gordons, Dashing White Sergeant, Strip the Willow, Farmer’s Jig, Ninepins, Canadian Barn Dance, to name a few. There can be regional variations and slightly different versions of some dances – for example, Strip The Willow – but they are all fun!

These will be danced to lively jigs, reels, polkas, rants, marches, schottisches, hornpipes or whatever is the most appropriate music for the particular dance chosen. We have a set of dances and accompanying tunes which we know work very well indeed.

The complexity of these social ceilidh and barn dances varies enormously. The simplest dances would be done at the start of the evening and our Caller offers a programme of dances which are most suitable for the crowd on that night. The first few dances serve as a way of helping the most reluctant dancer to realise it’s easy and that joining in won’t be anything but a bit of fun! Having a laugh is definitely the top priority rather than getting the steps perfect.

We avoid the more complicated dances, because these dances take longer to explain and walk through, which can slow down the pace of the evening too much

Do make it clear to Fiona on your initial enquiry if you wish to book a more specialised band, and also if you want a band that can perform some songs as well as the “diddly diddly” instrumental tunes for the called dancing.

This may sound obvious, but if you are booking a band independently of Fiona, do just check that any band you’re interested in is used to playing for dancing rather than just for listening.

- Instrumental line-up

JIGABIT has a varied line-up including piano accordion, bass guitar, banjo, mandolin, rhythm guitar, drums / percussion and multi-vocals for songs.

Instruments played by other bands include melodeon, concertina, button accordion, keyboard, flute, whistles, clarinet, oboe, saxophone, recorder, trumpet, tuba and other brass, bagpipes and other pipes, hurdy gurdy, fiddle, cello, viola, ocarina, hammer dulcimer, Appalachian dulcimer . . . . . the list is endless.

FAQ 15 Does JIGABIT sing songs as well as playing the instrumentals for the dancing?

Yes we do, but not all bands sing songs. If you want a Band which does songs as well as playing music for ceilidh dancing, do please make it clear on your initial enquiry. This will clearly determine which band will be most suitable for your function. Some bands play and sing some traditional Irish and Scottish songs, and a few of the more professional Ceilidh bands do excellent covers of 50s, 60s and 70s country and rock ‘n’ roll numbers, but many Ceilidh and Barn Dance bands just play music for the ceilidh dances.

FAQ 16 Can I listen to the band and “try before I buy”?

Please have a listen to our sound samples and watch our videos as these are very representative of what we will be offering for your event or party. The sound samples were recorded live so you can hear Bob the caller in action on many of them.

If I’m not offering JIGABIT, whenever I recommend a particular band to a potential booker, I always send out sound samples by email. If you are booking a band independently of me, do always ask to hear some sound samples of the band and make sure that the samples are actually representative of the band line-up they would be offering for your party. I would be very cautious about making a booking if a band or agency cannot offer good quality recent recordings of the band.

Since most Ceilidh and Barn Dance Bands play for many private functions, it’s not always easy to hear a band playing live, but it can occasionally be arranged, if permission is granted by the hosts, though it can feel a bit strange “gate-crashing” even with permission! Of course, if the band has a pubic event they’re playing for, you can buy tickets and go along and see the band playing and join in the dancing.

FAQ 17 How far ahead do we need to book a band and caller?

JIGABIT gets booked up a long way ahead in time, so I strongly recommend giving as much notice as possible of your date, to ensure booking JIGABIT or another suitable band and caller in your area.

Some people plan well in advance – up to 18 months ahead – and others leave it much closer to the day. 3 – 9 months ahead seems to be the average.

I strongly recommend that you don’t leave it until the last minute, as the better bands WILL be booked up. I have known people who expect to book a band and caller at 2 weeks’ notice and they are disappointed and even surprised that everyone’s already booked!

FAQ 18 Can we make a provisional booking without committing ourselves?

Most bands are willing to hold a provisional date for you with no obligation, until you’ve made a final decision, as long as you don’t take too long to decide! Meanwhile if the Band is offered another booking on that same date, I would contact you and give you “first refusal” on the Band I’ve offered, but I would need an immediate decision for obvious reasons. Some bands work on a first come first served basis, but I would tell you this when I recommend them to you, if that is how they work.

FAQ 19 What happens when we say YES to booking JIGABIT or another band Fiona recommends?

Once all the details have been discussed and agreed, I confirm the booking in writing. All Bands and Callers all have their own particular way of confirming bookings. Some bands are happy with only a verbal agreement, but for the sake of all parties, I really believe it’s best to put everything in writing. When I confirm a booking for my own band JIGABIT or for any other band, I send out a detailed confirmation letter and one or two clear, detailed Booking Forms for you to complete, sign and return to me. I ask for a deposit or booking fee up front to secure the date, leaving the balance to be paid in cash to the band on the night.

You keep the letter (and make a copy of the forms if you wish), and then everyone has something in writing. Once I have received the completed booking forms and deposit from you, then the booking is definite and confirmed. Only serious illness or accident on the day would prevent things happening as agreed, and then the band, caller or myself would do our utmost to find a replacement as we all know a good range of musicians to call on in extreme circumstances.

All bookings are subject to a cancellation clause and an overtime clause, along with a number of other terms and conditions clearly stated in the confirmation paperwork.

All you then need to do is turn up and leave the rest to the Band and Caller!

So there you are – it’s easy to book JIGABIT or another band and caller through me - GO FOR IT! ‘Phone or email me with your requirements and let’s get started! Please supply as much information as possible on your initial enquiry, to speed up the booking process.

The date, the venue and location are the key details I need, plus any preference for the particular style of band, and an idea of your budget

FAQ 20 Is there anything else we need to know about putting on a ceilidh or barn dance?

- Safety and Insurance / Dress Code / Special needs / Refreshments for the band and caller / Volume level
Safety and Insurance

Some venue managers require sight of a band’s current Electrical Equipment Safety PAT Test Certificates and occasionally they require evidence of a band’s Public Liability insurance. Please give me at last 2 months notice if the venue management request this.

Dress Code

Make sure you and your guests wear appropriate footwear and clothing! Hate to say it, but sensible, boring flattish shoes and reasonably loose clothing are best for this lively sort of dancing – NOT stiletto heels and tight clothes! Brides – it’s a good idea to consider making sure that any long dress train can be “hooked up and tucked away” for ease of leaping about the dance floor without tripping up or stepping on that gorgeous dress!

Unless something specific is requested, band members tend to dress in a fairly informal but smart/casual style. I always ask people making a booking whether they have any preference for how the band dresses – i.e. casual, smart casual, smart, any tartan for, say, Scottish themed events, or jeans, check shirts and cowboy hats for American themed events etc.

Special needs

It’s useful for the Caller to know beforehand, for example, if some people who will be dancing can’t speak much English, or maybe have a disability, so the band and Caller can allow for that in the pace of music and choice of dances and the way the Caller instructs the dancers.

Providing refreshments for the band and caller

Playing for several hours for a Ceilidh or Barn Dance is very hungry and thirsty work, so any food and drink refreshments provided for the band and Caller are ALWAYS greatly appreciated. It’s not obligatory, but it’s the “norm” to offer the band some hospitality. It’s a known fact that musicians work better when they are well fed and watered!

Volume level

If you’re concerned about Granny Mabel, Uncle Arthur and Aunty Joan being able to hear each other talking whilst they’re watching the dancing, fear not! Most Ceilidh Bands play at a reasonable level so that people can sit and chat and still hear each other. However, if you feel that the Band is a little too loud or even a little too quiet, it is perfectly OK to go up and ask us to adjust the volume level a bit! We won’t bite!

THANK YOU for showing an interest in JIGABIT
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