The Last Dance took place in Selby Park on Saturday 16 July from 12 midday – 3pm highlighting the works dances that used to take place in Selby in the 1940s and 1950s.

The event was a tribute to, and small-scale re-enactment of the BOCM (Olympia Mills) works dances that used to take place in the Park, when the swimming baths (now demolished) would put a dance floor over the swimming pool and transform into a dance hall.

The Last Dance was a community event, devised and managed in collaboration with artist Patricia Mackinnon-Day. This event was part of our research residency based along the Barlby Road area, commissioned by Selby District Council, which will feed into designs for new developments in the area.

We have delved deep into the history of the area, talking to local historians and history groups, and in particular have been researching BOCM (now Forfarmers) and the community that grew around the Olympia Mills workforce. We captured people’s memories of the works dances on the day, with music, drinks and ice cream!

We reflect on our residency: “Meeting local historians who have kindly shared their rich archival material with us has helped us to appreciate the human side of the animal feed industry, which has naturally led us to investigate the recreational activities BOCM encouraged.

“Much was our excitement when we discovered an actual ball dress still in existence that had been worn to a worker’s dance in Selby Park in 1947, still vivid in its screen-printed florals in colours of lilac, brilliant yellow, cobalt blue, and fuchsia pink. We observed old cine movie clips of BOCM and noticed the flowers in vases in factory rooms and the on-location dentist and hospital as well as planting at the entrance to the factory grounds. This is why we are so drawn to the annual dance provided by BOCM, that shows us how much people matter within industry, with the treat of dressing up for an annual dance as important a tonic to lift employee’s spirits as anything can be.”

Cllr Tim Grogan, Selby District Council’s Lead Executive Member for Health and Culture, said: “This will be a fantastic event to attend but also serves another important purpose – to capture the stories linked to this part of Selby’s fascinating history.”

The event was centred around the bandstand and surrounding grass in Selby Park, and involved music and dancing, an outdoor bar run by the Jolly Sailor brewery (based on Barlby Road), memorabilia of the park, dances and BOCM, and an invitation to contribute oral histories and reminiscences. The first 50 children to attend received vouchers for free ice creams from the park pavilion kiosk (the BOCM works outings often involved free ice creams for children).

That Old Swing Thing band played during the afternoon on the bandstand. Dancers from Selby’s Theatre and Dance Academy performed specially devised dances to the music and encouraged audience members to dance alongside them.

In between the band sets, the Swing Time Vintage Dance Group gave dance lessons accompanied by their own pre-recorded music, encouraging audience and passers-by to join in, and learn 40s and 50s dances, of the type that would have been popular during the BOCM dances.

Oral history volunteers from Selby Abbey chatted to passers-by and recorded memories and histories of such events. Posters, bunting, cups and even beer tap labels were all specially designed to transform this corner of the Park into The Last Dance.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2022


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