How to run a ceilidh

men and woman dancing

A ceilidh (pronounced 'kaylee') is a traditional Gaelic gathering with music and dancing. This event promises lots of fun for the whole family, and is a great way to bring your community together.

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 live ceilidh bands charge an average of £435. Suppliers 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. Have an interval on the night, allowing food to be served and giving people a chance to mingle, before they get back up again for another dance. Baked potatoes, ploughman's, or chilli are good options.

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 prize donations, boost profits by running a 100-square grid.

5

Check which licences you need. As a rule of thumb, if featuring live or recorded music (where copyright applies), your school should have PPL and PRS for Music licences (most already have these). If you intend on selling alcohol, you must obtain a Temporary Event Notice.

6

At least four weeks before the event, publicise with posters. 
PTA Print Shop offers 10 x A3 posters for £9.95 (excl. p&p). Allow people to buy family tickets, as well as individual tickets.

Tips and advice for running a ceilidh event

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 children to bring along their parents – they are more likely to attend your event if their child wants to go.

Tickets

Assess your costs (venue, band/caller, catering and licences) versus the capacity of your chosen venue. 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

A ceilidh, barn dance and hoedown are similar, with people dancing together either in couples or small groups. Some dances involve individuals moving on to new partners as the dance progresses, making this a great event for making new friends. A ceilidh is associated with Scottish or Irish (ceili) music, while a barn dance is based on English dancing. Traditionally, a ceilidh would have other entertainment, such as singing, interspersed with the dancing. A hoedown often has an American feel, with checked shirts, cowboy hats and country-style music.


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 a school, based on the guidance provided.