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Getting involved with Access Folk

Access Folk, the new project exploring ways to increase and diversify English folk singing, is calling for consulting group participants.

Those of us who keep an eye on folk Insta and the other platforms may have spotted the recent appearance of Access Folk, a relatively new initiative set up under the guidance of Dr Fay Hield at the University of Sheffield. Running from 2022-27, the project intends to, “explore ways to increase and diversify participation in English folk singing.”

“Since the height of the folk revival in the 1960s,” the Access Folk website explains, “we’ve seen a major decline in folk clubs and fewer people taking part in other folk singing events in England. There is little indication that many new people are finding their way into folk singing communities. With Brexit and growing discussions of the impact of colonialism and empire on culture and national identities, it is also a time for many people to question what Englishness is and how they can connect positively with this national cultural identity.”

The site continues, “For folk singing to remain relevant in 21st century England, new singers and enthusiasts need to engage with both the music and the meaning of a shared English identity. To that end, the Access Folk research project explores ways to increase and diversify participation in folk singing in England.”

The project states that its purpose is to, “understand what is the place of folk singing in contemporary England? How do people want to engage with English cultural traditions through song? How can we facilitate participation in folk singing in England?”

With that in mind, the team has today begun recruiting for the project’s Consulting Groups. They’re looking for people over the age of 18 to get involved. Noting that the project will follow a co-production model, meaning that the people who are likely to be affected by the findings will be involved in the decision making, the organisers are calling for participants, “with ideas or experience that feed into the specialist areas can join the Consulting Groups. We are looking for professional experience and marginalised lived experience in particular, though all with an interest are welcome.”

In particular, they are interested in the views of folk singers and folk song audiences, anyone who would like to give folk singing a try, professionals or volunteers who work in the folk arts, people who work in the wider culture sector and might like to get involved in folk singing, and academics with an interest in the project.

“In the coming months there will be opportunities to get involved through a folk singers’ survey to understand what existing singers get out of it and an events survey to see where folk singing is happening. We will also be recruiting for ‘ask a friend’ activities to explore the experience of people who don’t currently sing.”

It is the intention of Access Folk to, “create a change in how folk singing happens in England. This may include changes in attitude towards English folk music and changes in how some folk singing events are organised and presented. Ultimately we want more, and more diverse, people singing.”

Look out for our interview with Dr Hield in the near future.

For more information on Access Folk, head to the official website, and for more information on the consultation groups, click here.