Hundreds of folk songs and tunes, representing a huge swathe of English traditional music heritage, are on their way back to the communities that gave birth to them.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded a grant of £154,500 to the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) for an exciting new project entitled Take 6. The grant will enable the EFDSS to archive and conserve six unique folk song manuscripts and make them more widely accessible to the public, including some of the communities where they were first collected.
The six manuscript collections are held by the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library of the EFDSS, based at Cecil Sharp House in London’s Camden Town.
The award will enable the EFDSS, over the next two years, to archive and conserve over 4,400 paper items, digitise them and make them widely accessible through the web. The EFDSS will also pilot the use of the materials in London, in conjunction with a primary school in Southwark which has a history of promoting singing games – an annual festival there in the 1960s led to an album of recordings on the prestigious Topic Records label. Two of the manuscript collections will be used in primary schools and communities in two English regions where the songs were originally noted – Lancashire and Hampshire.
The Take 6 project will also produce classroom materials and exhibitions and the EFDSS will work in partnership with regional folk development agencies and volunteers to bring the songs to life for young people and hold showcase events in schools.
A Project Archivist and a Heritage Education Officer will be employed as part of the project.
Apart from Lancashire and Hampshire, other counties covered by the Take 6 project include Oxfordshire, Sussex, Norfolk, Yorkshire and Dorset. Some of the collections date back to the ‘golden age’ of folk song collecting in the early years of the twentieth century, while one comes from the immediate post-Second World War period.
The collectors include the gifted composer George Butterworth who died tragically young during the First World War. One of the folk songs he collected, “The Banks of Green Willow” provided the inspiration for his best-known composition.
Library Director of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, Malcolm Taylor OBE, said, “Our vision is to take these wonderful collections from a tiny room in Camden, and give them back to the communities whose history and traditions they represent.”
Sue Bowers, Heritage Lottery Fund Manager in London added; ‘This is a great opportunity to open up six important collections of folk music and materials to communities across London and beyond. It is so important to get young people interested in the past on their doorstep, and the scheme will allow schoolchildren to bring the past to life in a fun, interactive way.’
Chairman of the National Council of the EFDSS, Mike Norris, welcomed the Heritage Lottery Fund grant. “We are delighted with this support. These folk song collections are a vital part of the country’s heritage and the grant will allow new audiences to enjoy the songs.”