About Rufty Tufty

Who's Who?

Running a Barn Dance

Dance - Long Cross




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Rufty Tufty.
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Rufty Tufty - English Traditional Folk Dance Band
English Traditional Folk Dance Band

Running a Barn Dance

Easy! All you need is a date, venue, band, caller, refreshment and dancers.

Rufty Tufty members have accumulated considerable experience, so here are some hints.

In each "Questions to consider" section are direct questions you may want to ask the band, caller, hall manager, and triggers, aimed at helping you to be aware of different options available.


If it's a wedding or other celebration, dancers on the day are guaranteed - we hope!

Questions to consider

  1. Are there other conflicting local events? There may be a Big Match on TV, or local Derby causing parking chaos!
  2. Can I sell enough tickets for that day? Tickets on the door may mean dancers fail to turn up.
  3. Am I planning far enough ahead to book all I need?
  4. Can I find hall, caller, band, caterers, for that date? Having 2 alternative dates in mind initially may help.


Church/school hall, barn, garden, village green, pub car park, marquee, hotel dance floor.

Questions to consider

  1. Is it big enough? A square set for 8 people needs about 4 yards x 4 yards. Chairs and/or tables to sit between dances are useful. Some hotel dance floors are minute!
  2. Is the flooring level and smooth? Watch for hotel dance floors with a raised edge, marquee matting which tends to ruck up, ankle-twister holes in grass.
  3. Are there obstacles? Pillars, fireplaces, awkward shapes, objets d'arts.
  4. Is there a stage? It's easier, but not essential, if the caller/band has a height advantage!
  5. Is there a noise limiter? The dancers are more likely to trigger the red light than the band!
  6. Who opens up/locks up? Band, and you, will need time to set up.
  7. Is there a suitable power point? Especially outdoor events.
  8. Is electric power/heating on a timer?
  9. Can you open doors/windows for ventilation? Neighbours may be a problem.
  10. Are there toilets? Worth asking if it's a temporary venue.
  11. Is there a lot of dust? Barns, and some neglected halls!
  12. Available car parking? The band will need to be close.
  13. Acoustics? Bare walls, barrel roofs, echoes?
  14. Are the kitchen facilities what I need?
  15. Lighting? Low lighting can be romantic, but the caller needs to see the dancers, and be seen. Band and caller can bring their own. Please don't switch off stage lights just as playing begins!
  16. Has the hall got the necessary licences for entertainment, music, drinks?


The caller will tell you how many dancers, and what formation is needed for each dance. They will walk through the movements, and carry on calling as long as necessary through the dance. They will organise the music.

Callers are in it because they enjoy doing it, and their enthusiasm is infectious. Obviously opinions will vary regarding individuals, but we've only ever met one whose voice irritated all evening!

Questions to consider

  1. Are you used to beginners? Some callers prefer to work with experienced dancers.
  2. Will you call all the way through? Callers will only stop if it's safe to do so!
  3. Age group? It helps if the caller has some idea, especially if the majority are elderly or children.
  4. What amplification do you use? Callers/bands always have their own. Some halls have built-in equipment.
  5. Does the caller need a stage/platform/hay bale to call from?
  6. Theme? Ask if you want an English/Scottish/Wild West/Flower Festival flavour to your evening.
  7. Favourite dances. If you have any, please ask before the event, so that band/caller are able to provide.


We are Rufty Tufty. Our names are Jeff Sayer, Charlotte Grumball and Margaret Taylor. Our regular caller is Keith Orchard but we work with other callers from time to time.

We have a large repertoire of dance music, amplification and a selection of instruments.

Fees and method of payment need agreeing in writing in advance. Some bands require a deposit, and charge a cancellation fee. We do not.

Questions to consider

  1. What instruments do you play? Rufty Tufty has fiddle, mandolin, and keyboard as our regular line-up, but we can also play banjolin, guitar, and recorder.
  2. How many are there in the band? Space may be limited. We have 3 players and need at least 15 x 7 feet.
  3. What power do you need? A safe 13 amp socket. Leads need to run clear of dancers and exits.
  4. Setting-up time. We like to arrive 45-60 minutes before starting, to set up. Dismantling may take 30 minutes.
  5. Parking. Please reserve parking spaces for the band. We have heavy equipment to carry. Let us know if this is a problem.
  6. Staging and seating. Some bands like to stand. We like to sit. 4 armless, normal height chairs please. A raised platform is useful, but not essential. In a rectangular hall, it's best to put the band at one end.
  7. Fees. If cash has been requested, please don't disappear to the cash point at the end! Make sure payment is given to the appointed member of the band.
  8. Volume. If the band/caller is too loud/soft during the event, please tell us. We have monitoring speakers which are behind the main speakers.
  9. Refreshments. We appreciate being fed and watered (soft drinks), but can provide our own if we know beforehand.
  10. Requests. Favourite tunes, recorded music for the interval, renderings of "Happy Birthday", "Auld Lang Syne" etc may be available, if you ask in advance.
  11. Will you need a break? Dancers usually need one, and so do we. We may be playing between dances, so we usually request 30 minutes off at some agreed point, during the event.

Recorded Music

Of course live music is best! However, many callers will happily provide recorded music for a successful event, at a lower cost. Rufty Tufty can help with this too!


Questions to consider

  1. How many do I need? You can have fun with 20, or even fewer, but it may not cover your costs! Maximum numbers will be determined by venue size.
  2. Do they need experience? No - definitely not.
  3. Do they need special footwear? Please tell your dancers they will be dancing. Wedding/party guests don't always seem to know, and stiletto heels/bare feet are not so good!
  4. Can children join in? Toddlers may be trampled, or carried in back packs! Older children are encouraged, but it can help if they have an adult partner. Boys of a certain age often like to dance together.


This may be a major part of the event, a half hour break for buffet/bring-and-share meal/ploughman's supper, "nibbles" on the tables, or just water!

Questions to consider

  1. Timing? A definite break works better than running buffet, as it's difficult to persuade dancers to put down food! Caller and band like to have some idea of planned schedule.
  2. Lay-out? If dancing is your priority, a buffet you can access from both sides is faster.
  3. Fish and chips? Warn caller that arrival time is flexible - then requires urgent attention! Hog roasts are similar.
  4. Bar? A bar in a different room can be a good hiding place for wary dancers!
  5. Safety note. Please remove spills to avoid slippery floors.

Making a booking

There are barn dance agencies for your band and caller. Contacting your local folk dance group, will lead you to a selection of recommended callers and bands, avoiding agency fees.

Questions to consider

  1. How do I contact the local group? Set and Turn Single Magazine (the best), English Folk Dance and Song Society can help. See the Links page.
  2. How much will it cost? Callers will usually ask between £75-£150 and Bands between £200-£500. Agency bookings could double this! Number in the band, length of event, distance travelled and type of event can all affect the fee.
  3. When do I need to book? As far ahead as possible! Bands can be booked up a year or more in advance.
  4. How do I choose? Talking to a caller by phone will usually reassure. It may be possible to pop in at another event where the band is playing, if web site samples, or other recordings are unavailable.
  5. Written confirmation? Sounds formal, especially if band/caller are friends, but it's always a good idea. Also, ring the band a week or so before, if they do not ring you first.


A successful evening relies on all sorts of communication: caller to dancers; band leader to band; organiser to caterer; band to organiser. There are so many areas where problems can arise, but they rarely do! We hope these jottings are helpful to you, and are happy to answer any further questions at any time.