Advice on Organising a Ceilidh

Between us, the members of Albireo have over a hundred years’ experience of playing for events. We’ve attended thousands of them, ranging from parties for a dozen people to halls and marquees holding many hundreds. Along the way, we’ve picked up a few tips and tricks on the smooth running of an evening. The advice below will help ensure that you have a hassle-free and enjoyable event.


We are usually pretty flexible, and will do our best to fit in with your plans. Here are a few suggestions to get started.

  • We are happy to provide entertainment for a whole evening.  We’ll usually expect to be on stage roughly between 8pm and midnight – admittedly with a couple of short breaks to go to the bar!  We’ll also need about an hour before the dancing to set everything up and sound check, and a similar time afterwards to pack it all up again.
  • Our contract will specify the agreed performance times, and we’ll usually expect to finish playing no later than midnight.  It’s really up to you to ensure that the event runs to schedule, but we recognise that this isn’t always possible, especially at weddings.  If the event over-runs, despite what the contract says we’ll do our best to accommodate you if we can, but please bear in mind that we have to pack up and drive home (and then unpack everything again!).
  • We can supply a microphone for announcements and speeches during the evening. We also have radio mics, so the speech doesn’t have to be from the stage.
  • We will usually be willing to set up the PA system early so that you can use it for speeches or background music before the entertainment starts. We might charge a bit extra for this if it means the sound crew has to be there earlier.
  • Tell us if you have a special piece of music recorded for a first dance or interval which you’d like us to play through the PA.
  • If you are thinking of having a disco as well as a ceilidh (see below) for an additional fee we can play your own choice of music from an iPod or laptop through our PA

When booking

  • We want your event to be a success.  It is no good for either of us if you’re expecting something different from what we can provide. Do you like our style? You can listen to tracks from our album for free. We’re also happy for you to come along to one of our gigs to check us out – just contact Steve.
  • We have successfully played for Burns Night for a general audience and we can include some Scottish or Irish tunes and dances, but specialist Scottish Country Dancers might expect something a bit different.  We are not a Scottish Ceilidh or Irish Ceili band, so listen to our music to be sure we are the right band for your event.
  • We will bring our own amplification (PA).You don’t want to be ringing round PA hire firms; that should be the band’s problem.
  • We will usually provide a caller for the dances, or if you prefer we can work with a caller of your choice.  If you are booking a caller yourself, please put us in touch with them beforehand so we can discuss repertoire
  • We will need access to the venue at least an hour before the dancing starts, to set up the PA and the last ten or so will be noisy as we sound check the instruments.We will need sufficient space to perform. Albireo need at least 150 square feet (15 square metres), but that’s the bare minimum and we’re always happy with more! To estimate this space, think about parking a people-carrier in the room. Right… at least that much!

The band and the venue

Most hotel managers are used to dealing with bands and discos, but they’ve not all come across ceilidhs. A few quick checks with the venue can save some hurried rearrangements on the day.

  • Is the venue safe for the band, the dancers and those not dancing?  Things to consider include a safe and reliable electricity supply, adequate lighting (although we don’t need stage lighting), and a safe dance floor. We’ll do our best to play in most circumstances, even if we have to manage without PA, but our and your safety is paramount.
  • Is there enough space for the band?  We need at least 150 sq ft (preferably more). This doesn’t have to be on a stage, but if one is provided then this must be safe and stable
  • Is there enough space for the dancers? Ceilidh dancing takes more space per person than a disco and the dancers move about more.  Think about possible hazards and be prepared to wipe up any spilled drinks as soon as they happen.
  • Will electricity be available? This is especially true for outdoor events and marquees, but even indoors we need a power supply reasonably close to where we’ll be playing.
  • We have Public Liability Insurance  and the band’s equipment is covered by a current Portable Appliance Testing certificate. Some venues, usually the higher-class hotels, will insist on seeing the band’s certification in advance.
  • A barn isn’t actually an ideal venue for a barn dance.  Straw bales may provide convenient seating and look rustic, but stray pieces of straw soon make the dance floor slippery (and dangerous) and dust gets in people’s lungs, as well as in our PA and instruments.  Providing safe and reliable power and lighting may be a problem.  If you’re planning an event in a barn, think about keeping the floor swept and the dust damped down
  • Events are subject to various licensing requirements, not only if alcohol is to be sold but also for the performance of music and dancing.  A licence may also be required from the Performing Rights Society to cover music copyright.  Private parties are not necessarily exempt.  Venues which regularly hold events, such as hotels, village halls and pub function rooms should already have the necessary licences, but if you are planning an event in a venue which doesn’t usually hold them then you should seek advice from your local authority, especially if the event will be open to the public

Ceilidhs and Children

Ceilidhs are great entertainment for children of all ages. If you’re expecting a lot of children, tell the band when you book – most bands work with different callers, and they’ll bring a caller who’s good with children (and very likely a parent themselves).

Ceilidhs and Discos

Many people like to mix a band and a disco – it works pretty well, especially at weddings. If you’re planning to do this:

  • Keep the band and the DJ separate. Usually, the band will go on first and the disco will finish the evening.
  • Tell the band there’s going to be a disco as well, and tell the DJ there’s going to be a band playing. We both need to take account of this when setting up our equipment.  We may need a little more time, as we’ll both need to sound-check before the event starts.
  • As an alternative, we may be able to play your own selection of music from your iPOd or laptop through our PA.  There will be an additional fee for this, but it will certainly be less than a DJ will charge, although you won’t get the banter!

On the day

  • Make sure somebody’s got the money to pay the band. Unless we’ve agreed beforehand that payment will be by cheque, we’ll expect cash as it’s easier to split between the band members.  We can provide a receipt if required.
  • Relax and enjoy your event! If you’ve followed these checklists, the band shouldn’t be a problem.