Since the late 1970s, John and his wife Katie (also an IRT member) have been heavily involved in researching, preserving, promoting, performing, recording and reviving interest in the stepdancing, singing and musical traditions of East Anglia.
In the early 1980s they founded The Old Hat Concert Party which brought traditional musicians, singers and stepdancers from Suffolk and Norfolk, including Dick Hewitt, Cyril Barber and Font Whatling to a wider audience amongst folk festival goers across the UK.
Around the same time, John established a highly respected recording label, Veteran, specialising in lesser-known traditional singers and musicians. Several albums include stepdancing – particularly Pigeon on the Gate, named for the region’s ubiquitous step dance hornpipe – see http://www.veteran.co.uk for further information.
In 2000 John and Katie set up the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust to extend the scope for encouraging and nurturing the continuation of local musical traditions. In 2005, EATMT inherited a stepdance competition from previous organisers who wanted it to move to Suffolk and John masterminded some crucial developments in order to both celebrate expert local dancers and encourage newcomers. He retired from his role as Director of EATMT in 2017.
Over the last four decades, John and Katie have brought the raw, improvised East Anglian style of stepping to wider notice through performances at many folk festivals across the UK and many community events locally, as well as high-profile vents such as Gateshead Garden Festival, These Lands Are Our Lands (South Bank), Aldeburgh Festival and Cambridge Music Festival. They have worked with several regional community theatre groups, with the local education authority to produce dance resources for schools and have put stepdancing into the homes of many millions of people through spots on popular TV programmes including Escape to the Country, Ade in Britain and Inside Out, where he was a “dance detective” seeking out little-known traditions!.
In 2010, John was awarded a Gold Badge from the English Folk Dance and Song Society in recognition of the various aspects of his work to promote and preserve traditional music and dance.
John brings to the Instep team a vast knowledge of the East Anglian tradition, practical skills in graphic design and promotion, and experience in event organisation.