most Wuthering Heights Day Ever – Folkestone
Do you ever need an excuse to don a red floaty dress and prance around doing your best Kate Bush impression? No? Well, come and join the rest of us on the Harbour Arm in Folkestone for the Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever! It’s been a growing success each year, with nearly 1000 Kates dancing in 2023 for Kate Bush’s 65th birthday celebrations. Returning on 28th July 2024 event organisers Toby Cotton and Jo Blach took a moment to reflect with Folkelife on the success of this event.
Toby: “The first ever Most Wuthering Heights Day was done by a group in Brighton in 2013, and they called it Shambush. Other places around the world have done it too like Sydney, Berlin and of course we decided to do it in Folkestone! It was back in the day when people still commuted to London and there was a group of us who would get a gin and tonic, sit in the same place and have a merry time on the way home.
“It took a few g+ts to persuade us but that’s how the first 2018 Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever came about. I was allocated the role of Chief Choreographer which, as you can see, I’m built for! Now, a few years on and post Covid, we decided it was time to try again. Our video of the 2019 outing was shared by the comedian Kathy Burke and I sent her a tweet saying ‘oh, that’s us’ and it went a bit viral. It was because of that that we thought maybe people would come if we put on another show.”
building a following
Jo: “I’d missed the first two events in 2018 and 2019 and so I badgered Toby in the pub one evening. He gave me his stock answer to the question ‘Is there going to be another Most Wuthering Heights day?’ ‘If you are willing to help me put it on…’ and I thought about it. I texted him back later and said ‘yes, ok!’.
“I’m more of a behind the scenes person, so standing on the plinth and helping others follow along isn’t my idea of fun. I find it hard enough to get the dance moves, without having to do a ‘mirror-image’ version for everyone to copy. My jobs were to liaise with the Harbour Arm team and do the social media.”
practice makes perfect
Toby: “Without Jo’s support though I’d never have done this again. I still have the frame-by-frame workings out of the dance that I did in 2018. I watched it and froze each frame to annotate what’s happening throughout the dance. Kate Bush puts in loads of extras, and we’ve thinned it out now to something which is manageable for people to follow. The next step was to have a few rehearsals which we did in The Goods Yard on a Saturday running up to the event. These were for anyone to come along and practice and we found that people who were just hanging around joined in too.”
training the dancers
Toby: “Then we trained a few dancers to be on plinths as we were getting an idea of just how many people might come along. The Harbour Arm released 840 free tickets for The Goods Yard – this is an area that has a limit on how many people it can hold, and it’s where we were going to meet beforehand. Those tickets all went in 24 hours, and that’s when we knew that this was going to surpass the 300 Kates from 2019.
“In effect, on the day, we had probably well over 1000, with the same amount of spectators. There were porpoises in the sea around the Arm too which made it really quite magical.”
Jo: “What I like about this event is it’s totally free, and anyone can join in. I loved talking to people on the day and just finding out who they were with and why they had come. People had come from Birmingham, Germany, France, London, just to come and dance with us. There was a lady in her 90s in a wheelchair. There were other ladies who had just come down by themselves because they wanted to be a part of this. It was a truly joyful moment and that’s what I love about it.”
Toby: “The national papers picked it up because the photos were so colourful and, as Jo says, it was a joyful moment. Our friend Andy Aitchison had the Picture Editor from The Guardian down for the weekend as they’re friends. They came down and I think that’s how we got into there. The other newspapers had a photo from the Press Association, but it certainly livened up an otherwise dreary news day.
“It’s difficult to know how to top this for next year though. We did our event on Kate Bush’s 65 birthday, and so many people came. I think part of that was due to post-Covid people wanting to join in a group activity. Will we get more next year? I’m not sure. We’ll have to see…”
With thanks to Klip Films for capturing the Kates.