The University of Sheffield
Accessing Folk Singing in England A Gathering of Views Consulting Groups Report.pdf (16.52 MB)

Accessing Folk Singing in England A Gathering of Views

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posted on 2023-11-20, 11:55 authored by Christopher Butler, Morag Butler, Fay HieldFay Hield, Esbjörn Wettermark

Access Folk is a research project exploring ways to increase and diversify participation in folk singing in England. Like many in the arts, the folk scene is facing hardship because the impacts of covid-19 and the current economic climate are affecting venues, organisers, amateur and professional singers and audience members alike. These issues, combined with the ageing of many of the scene’s key activists, raises questions about how the folk singing scene in England might develop over the coming decades. At University of Sheffield, a team of academic and community partners are looking into the current problems and testing potential solutions. The five-year project (2022-2027) hopes to prompt action to help increase accessibility to folk singing for more diverse populations in England.

This report presents views and experiences gathered through the first phase of Access Folk through a process we call the consulting group. The purpose of the consulting group was to gather current issues faced by different sectors of society when accessing folk singing in England in order to inform our future research. We began by identifying six areas where it seemed that access to folk singing might be problematic. Informed by the protected characteristics categories from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (2010), and Arts Council England (2021), our six chosen themes are – Belief, Politics & Religion; Disability; Gender & Sexuality; Race & Ethnicity; Age; and Class & Socio-Economic Background. Each group looked at the access issues for their specific area in relation to folk singing participation. We tried to be as inclusive and open as possible so that we can include anything that those taking part in the research consider to be folk singing in England in our definition – otherwise we felt we would be risking policing the boundaries before we even started the research.

This report summarises what we found from the consulting group which will be of interest for those involved in folk singing and the folk scene: academic, singer and organiser alike.

The report includes a methodology describing how we gathered and analysed this material, a summary of the combined group findings with suggested action points, the main themes in the individual group findings to provide detail, and our overall conclusions. We have also included resources for further reading, along with the referenced work we have cited. The findings from the consulting group will also feed into the remainder of the Access Folk project and contribute to future planning and publications.

Although the issues may seem obvious to some readers, we have found they are not always widely understood in the folk scene by people who are not directly affected. We hope this report will highlight the issues around folk singing participation found by different sectors of society and provide insight into how activities might be adapted to make them more accessible to a wider range of people. We'd be very interested to hear your feedback:

This project was approved by the University of Sheffield ethical review process: number 19926


Defining ethnomusicological Action Research through the regeneration of English folk clubs

UK Research and Innovation

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