Dialect poet William Barnes relished the country-dances, folksongs and carols of Dorset, and often wrote about community celebrations, where music was a key part of the proceedings. This spring the Ridgeway Singers and Band, led by Tim Laycock and Phil Humphries and supported by Artsreach, will celebrate the rich dialect of Dorset through music, song and poetry as they invite you to ‘Tea with William Barnes’.

William Barnes was undoubtedly the greatest of the English dialect poets, but he was also, as Thomas Hardy wrote ‘probably the most interesting link between present and past forms of rural life that England possessed’. Born in Bagber, in the Blackmore Vale, in 1801, William Barnes attended school in Sturminster Newton. In later life he was an innovative schoolmaster, with a knowledge of over seventy languages, the author of over thirty books in prose, an artist, engraver, musician, folklorist, inventor and parish priest.

Many of Barnes contemporaries regarded him as hopelessly old fashioned, with his love of old ways, old words, and old customs; but now we have cause to be thankful that he captured the sound of the Dorset speech in such an artistic and imaginative way.

Led by Tim Laycock and Phil Humphries, The Ridgeway Singers and Band will be joined by guests from The William Barnes Society to celebrate the sounds and stories of old Dorset, performing traditional songs collected across the county, playing dance tunes from the repertoire of Blackmore Vale fiddler Benjamin Rose, and reciting some of the poems that keep alive the rich dialect of Dorset.

Now a popular annual fixture in the Artsreach calendar, this years’ Barnes celebration takes place at The Exchange in Sturminster Newton at 3pm on Sunday 6 March.

Artsreach are also partnering with local film company Pageant Productions to support residential care homes in the area in accessing a live streamed version of the event.

Date and times


The Exchange

Old Market Hill

Sturminster Newton


DT10 1FH


Free parking. Level access facilities.