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The following does not pretend to be a comprehensive or authoritative guide, but is based on our own experience of playing at and running ceilidhs over many years. It was written as advice to a PTA, but much of this applies to any other organisation.
Check your proposed date carefully: try to liaise with neighbouring schools and village associations to avoid clashes or similar events happening too close to one another, and avoid Bank Holiday weekends, major sporting fixtures, etc.
Book the band as early as possible: at busy times of year we are booked up about a year in advance, but usually 6 months ahead is soon enough. (Phone 01223 860752.) We may have dates available at shorter notice, too. If we are busy on the date you have chosen, we have a list of other ceilidh bands we can recommend.
Ceilidhs are great social occasions, but if you are also intending to try to raise lots of money for PTA funds make sure you organise the bar and food yourself - there's no point letting other people take the profit home with them! You should aim at least to cover the cost of the band (and food) on ticket sales - after that money from any extra tickets sold, the raffle and bar profits will go straight into the organisation bank account.
If the hall is not licensed for music and dancing, you may need a TEN (Temporary Event Notice, costing about £21) from the District Council, but only if you are selling tickets to people not in the organisation. You will need one if you are having a bar.
Insurance is easily organised. For example, if you are a member of the county council PTA Scheme you will have some liability insurance (check your policy). If you need it, hirers liability insurance can be organised through the school or Shire Hall.
Arrange to buy the wine and beer on sale-or-return from your local supermarket or off-licence. Most will also lend you some glasses. If you have some idea how much beer will be drunk, you could have a barrel, otherwise bottles or cans will be fine. Organise a rota of 30 minute slots for serving behind the bar. Many dads prefer this to dancing! If you charge pub prices you should be able to make a good profit, or you can choose to sell childrenís soft drinks at affordable prices, rather than pub prices. Remember, people will drink quite a lot when theyíre dancing. (Alternatively you could get a local pub to run an outside bar for you.)
It is often obvious where to put the bar, but bear in mind that itís a bad idea to have it out of sight of the dancing. Donít make it too comfortable a place to sit and chat, or the atmosphere in the hall and the dancing will suffer. If there is space at the back of the hall, this usually works best.
Have a break in the middle of the ceilidh for a supper and to sell raffle tickets, or have other fund-raising activities. For a ceilidh from 8 to 11:30 or 12:00, a break at about 9:30 is best. You may get volunteers to provide food to share, organise a ploughmanís supper, a barbecue or a big curry, or call in the local fish and chip van or hot potato man, to save on the work.
Raffle prizes can be brought into school (try a competition to see which class does the best), or often village shops will donate a prize, to show that they support the school. Sell the tickets at the door, during the dancing and the interval, then draw the raffle after one or two dances in the second half. If you end up with lots of donations, you could run a tombola as well as a raffle.
We have seen other interval fund-raising activities: one of the best was bowling for the Whisky or Champagne bottle. Set a handsome bottle at one end of the hall, draw a line or lay a rope at the other end, and let people bowl their £1 or £2 coins from behind the line. Keep a note of the person who bowled the closest coin, and the coin closest to the bottle when the time limit is up wins it. (You can remove coins from the outside and exchange them for £5 notes to keep the game going!)
A family ceilidh can be good fun, but be careful not to let it go on too late. Aim for most people to be able to stay until the end: if those with young families leave early, you can end up with too few people to keep the dancing going.
Above all, share out the work, so all of you can enjoy the evening yourselves.