By Rach Griffiths
For many years, the people of Crewe always looked forward to seeing our yearly carnival parading down West street on its way to the finish at Queens park.
There was nothing like that feeling when you are a child when you catch the first glimpse of the police motorbikes escorting the parade and then all of a sudden you can hear the sound of drums……….
Everyone has their own favourite memory of this now ended tradition.
My favourite memories were the many troupe dancers covered in shiny medals, walking past in their colourful dresses back in the 1980s when I was young.
I wanted to find out more about what goes on behind the scenes for the girls.
Jay C and I joined the St Michaels entertainers for one of their training sessions to have some of our questions answered.
The group is divided into age groups which are called lines and have different names.
Tots are aged 3 – 7 years.
Tinies are aged 7 – 11 years.
Juniors are aged 11 – 16 years.
Seniors are aged 16 and over.
To start with here is the story of the St Michaels Entertainers.
The St Michaels Story
St Michaels Entertainers began in 1990, it was founded by Jack and Sally Day & their two daughters Lisa and Maxine.
They started out with a small group of girls and over the last 23 years they have grown in quantity and stature.
They now boast approximately 100 girls form the ages of 1 up to 40+.
They are Crewes oldest and most successful dance troupe of their kind.
Over the years they have held titles such as British Outdoor Champions and the All New England Champions to name a few.
Their success is down to training, discipline, teamwork and overall fun, mixed with pure hard work and determination.
Jack and Sally are very proud of the girls success, which has just grown and grown every year.
They compete every Sunday from April until September in competitions all over England and Wales against troupes from Stoke-On-trent, Manchester, Cumbria etc.
A healthy but highly competitive hobby has kept these girls off the streets, taught them all about team work & discipline.
A lot of these girls have all grown up together from a very young age.
Some have been dancing for over 30 years now and they even have their own children that have joined St Michaels and dance in one of the younger lines.
It is like one big happy family.
Throughout the months of October to April the girls train hard, learning their new routines ready for the competition season where every move, every step, every build has to be in unison, everything has to be identical.
Fundraising is a big part of their dancing lives, where money needs to be raised to buy material for the dresses, hire dressmakers, they have to pay for the upkeep of their double decker bus which is used to take them to competitions, etc.
This proves difficult with the current recession so times are quite hard for them.
Jack and Sally Day, troupe principals back their girls 100% and are constantly working very hard so that the girls can continue with the hobby that they love to do.
Without these two important people the group would struggle so the girls are very grateful to them both.
The troupe have just returned from Hafan-y-Mor where the beginning of season championships were held.
The Tots came an amazing 2nd place, the other three lines, the Tinies, Juniors and Seniors had fantastic feedback and scored excellent points from the judges.
It is now onwards and upwards for the rest of the season ahead, the girls are hoping to steal even more titles and win more shiny, new trophies.
We managed to have a chat with some of the girls in between their training sessions.
We wanted to know what it felt like to be a first timer so we spoke to mother and daughter dancers Anita and 11 year old Emilie Sutton.
Anita has been dancing with the entertainers since September 2012.
I have been with the troupe for a couple of months now and joining was the best thing I ever did.
My daughter Emilie has been dancing for around four years now and I have been at most training sessions and every competition Emilie has been at.
I really wanted to give it a go, it looked like such good fun and all the girls have a great time.
I am 46 this year and I love being in St Michaels entertainers, I would recommend that people of all ages come down to one of the group training nights to have a look at what goes on.
It is a fun way to spend your time and have some great exercise.
We were astounded by the work that these girls were putting into the routines that have been taught to them by their line trainer.
We saw Emilie when she had a break from her training and asked her about her time with St Michaels
I have loved every minute of being with St Michaels, I joined as my friend was a regular here and i’m glad I did.
I came for a training session to watch but I ended up having a go, it was the best way to get over the fear, I felt a bit shy you see but I soon forgot all about that once I joined in.
It was a great way to build up my confidence, it really feels like you are part of a family with St Michaels and I can see myself being involved with the troupe for many years to come.
We asked Emilie about her favourite bits of her last 4 years with the troupe and about the dresses they wear.
I have been involved in Crewe Carnival and lots of competitions. When we go to competitions far away we stay in different places and it is great as parents can stay with you like a small holiday.
My favourite colour dress we had was last years when our line did a Latin theme, it was bright pink and looked lovely.
I do get nervous on competition day but we always practice for an hour before it is our turn to make sure routines are fresh in our minds.
We just like to go out there and you don’t really notice anyone looking at you when you are concentrating hard.
I recommend that people who are interested come to see us at our training night as it is so much fun.
If I could choose our lines next colour I would like to wear something that is Cadbury Purple with some silver on it, I think that would look very nice.
We wondered about who chose the dress design and who decides on the colour so we spoke to kathleen the groups seamstress.
I have been retired from work for 5 years now, I have been a seamstress all my life and I was approached by the troupe as sadly their own seamstress had passed away.
I agreed to make the girls dresses and have never looked back.
I have made around 80 dresses since the end of January until the start of the season in April.
My house is full of rolls of material and I haven’t seen my living room floor for two months but I love the girls and want them to look fabulous so that doesn’t matter at all.
I am given the material in the colours that the group trainers choose and am then sworn to secrecy on the colour and the design until the new dresses are ready to be revealed at the start of the season. You can ask me but I wont tell, it is top secret!.
The entertainers are always looking for help with donations to the tuck shop that they run on training nights.
They always have drinks on hand for the girls and other goodies but would be grateful of anything that could be donated and will be much appreciated.
They have just spent a lot of money repairing the group bus recently, this is quite an expense in itself.
If you are a local business and would like to help with donations or can help with supplying material or other services then that would be a brilliant help to the group.
Please email email@example.com for more information
If you would like to find out more about the group or join in with the training sessions then you can get in touch with Jack, Sally and the team on the same email address firstname.lastname@example.org
The group train at the Oakley centre in Crewe on Wednesday nights from 6pm.
We will be publishing details of the competitions the entertainers will be involved with soon!
Thank you so much to Jack, Sally. Lisa, Maxine and all the girls for their hospitality tonight and for talking to us.
A special thanks to Jack Day for the history of the group and allowing us to stay for the session.
We had a great time!
Story ©Rach Griffiths 2013
Photos Below ©Jason Griffiths 2013