The University of Sheffield
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Ask A Friend: Thoughts about folk singing in England from people outside of the folk scene

posted on 2024-06-13, 12:48 authored by Christopher Gordon, Fay HieldFay Hield, Emily Porter, Trista Selous, Esbjorn WettermarkEsbjorn 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.

'Ask a Friend' invited people in the English folk scene to interview friends, family and acquaintances about their relationship with folk singing in England. In the autumn of 2022, 22 people with some involvement with the folk scene in England interviewed 61 people outside of the scene. All interviewees had a personal connection to the interviewer and most had an interest in other forms of music, arts and culture, but were not currently involved with folk singing. Interviewees were asked about their culture and arts background, their attitudes and experiences of folk singing. They also took part in a word association game using seven terms common in the folk scene: ‘folk music’, ‘traditional music’, ‘folk songs’, ‘folk singing’, ‘folk singer’, ‘folk club’ and ‘folklore’.

This report was prepared by three co-researchers and two academic partners. It presents a summary of the findings from the interviews along with suggested action points for people wishing to engage more people with folk singing. Large and small versions of the report are available for online or print use.

The Ask A Friend method was approved by the University of Sheffield ethical review process: number 47631.

All the available items arising from the project are available in the Access Folk Collection.


Defining ethnomusicological Action Research through the regeneration of English folk clubs

UK Research and Innovation

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