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Step-by-step: ceilidh

A traditional Gaelic gathering, involving music and dancing, promises lots of fun for the whole family. Plus, it gets everyone up on their feet regardless of how little rhythm they may have!

  1. Book a local caller at least three months before your planned date. Prices start at around £300 for a caller playing recorded music, or an average of £435* for a live ceilidh band. They will need their own public liability insurance, and any electrical equipment should be PAT tested.
  2. Book a venue. You will need enough floor space for people to dance without feeling cramped (based on everyone standing with their arms outstretched). The capacity of your venue may limit the number of tickets you can sell, so factor this into your costings.
  3. Consider what food and refreshments you will offer - baked potatoes, ploughman's or chilli are good options - and have an interval for food to be served and to give people a chance to mingle before they get back up again for a boogie.
  4. Run a raffle, selling tickets on the door as people arrive. Draw and announce the winners at the end of the interval. If you don't have the time or resources to source raffle prizes, boost profits by running a quick game. Need ideas? Read our online feature on interval games.
  5. Check which licences you need. Read our licensing guidance online or verify requirements with your local authority. As a rule of thumb, if you're featuring live or recorded music (where copyright applies), you should obtain a PRS for Music licence (your venue may already have this). You may also need a PPL licence. If serving alcohol you will need a TEN, unless your venue holds a premises licence. Since the Live Music Bill came into effect in October 2012, a TEN is no longer required as long as the music is unamplified and the audience does not exceed 200 people.
  6. At least four weeks before the event, publicise with posters. Charity Print Shop offers 10 x A3 posters for £9.95 (excl. p&p). Offer family tickets, as well as individual tickets.

Ceilidh tips and advice

Reviews: Check reviews of local callers in order to gauge how good they are, or seek recommendations.

Children: Make it a family event and encourage adults to bring along their children, after all, they're usually first on the dance floor!

Tickets: Assess your costs (venue, band/caller, catering and licences) and the capacity of your chosen venue, and agree the ticket price. Running a bar and offering food will allow you to increase your ticket price, but if you want to keep things simple, ask people to bring their own drinks and snacks.

Interval: Have a half-time break, giving dancers a chance to catch their breath, chat to friends and re-fuel.

Variations: Ceilidhs, barn dances and hoedowns are similar, with people dancing together in pairs or small groups. Some dances involve changing partners as the dance progresses, making this a great event for meeting new friends! Ceilidhs are associated with Scottish or Irish (ceili) music, while barn dances are based on English dancing. Traditionally, a ceilidh would have other entertainment, such as singing, interspersed with the dancing. Hoedowns often have an American theme, with checked shirts, cowboy hats and country-style music.

Ceilidh success story:

Sam Reed, treasurer, Friends of Garras Community Primary School (FROGS), 
Cornwall: 'Last autumn our PTA decided to hold a soiree with live music, food, auction and bar. Music was provided by a local Ceilidh band, who were excellent at getting both young and old onto the dance floor. We sold pasties provided by a local supplier, and soup and cakes which were donated by parents. We had a licensed bar, with beer from a local brewery supplied at a hefty discount. The main financial success of the night was a silent auction, with prizes donated by local businesses, artists and parents. We decorated the hall with bunting, fairy lights and foliage, which all helped to add to the ambiance. We charged £5 for adults and children were free. We made a profit of over £1,100, which is fantastic for a tiny school and pre-school with just over 50 pupils! The event started at 5pm and finished at 8.30pm, and volunteers had finished clearing up by 10pm. All in all it was a great night and we have decided to make it a biennial event.'

Download a step-by-step guide to running a fundraising ceilidh.

The above is intended as guidance only. We recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held responsible for any decisions or actions taken by an organisation, based on the guidance provided. 

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