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Changes to Tradfolk

First things first: thanks to everyone who has supported this website over the last 20 months. 346 articles, 97 Tradfolk Digests, 10 podcast episodes, a bunch of lovely videos and two popular wassailing/morris directories ain’t too shabby for a team that was mostly three people geeing each other on. But it isn’t sustainable, even with the kind patronage that some of you have kindly bestowed, not to mention the wonderful support from the English Folk Dance and Song Society. With the rising costs of hosting and running a website, as well as all the peripheral, technical bits and bobs, I wasn’t able to pay anyone for their writing, and the sheer volume of hours it took me to put the majority of those articles and podcasts together meant that I said goodbye to weekends and evenings long ago.

Between the beginning of April and the end of June, Tradfolk attracted about 22,000 visitors per month. During the peak months of January (wassail month) and the merry month of May, that number grew to about 26,000. In the grand scheme of the internet, that’s a tiny audience. However, as far as niche-interest websites go, that’s reasonably healthy, and it suggests to me that the English folk scene still generates a lot of interest. More importantly, over the last 20 months, Tradfolk has put me in touch with some truly wonderful people – passionate folkies who have great ideas, loads of enthusiasm and want to see it thrive. There is definitely room for a resource that focuses specifically on the English folk scene, but I’m not sure that Tradfolk is it. The website grew out of a period of ill-health brought on by an overload of work – a desire to do something that I had a passion for rather than grinding soullessly away at my day job. My fear at the moment is that the demands of maintaining the day job as well as the demands of running Tradfolk will put me right back where I started.

So Tradfolk is changing. I’m not going to shut it down entirely. For as long as I can afford to, I’ll leave the site where it is so people can use it as a resource. I may write for it occasionally (as, I’m sure, will some of the writers that have contributed in the past), but I’ll only be able to look at the things I have the time and interest to cover. That means the site will no longer be weekly, will no longer have album reviews, will lose the events directory and will most likely focus mainly on traditional folk music.

There are people around and about who do a lot of this stuff in their own wonderful way, so I recommend following them if you’re interested in any of the following…

English folk music: Obviously, the EFDSS and VWML resources and staff have been a massive part of Tradfolk’s work. I’m often asked how I have learnt so much about traditional folk music, and the answers are all there. The digitized archives are invaluable. Elsewhere, Alex Gallacher’s long-standing Folk Radio UK website is a non-stop source of support and exposure for folk musicians and a huge resource for fans of the genre. If you want to lend your patronage to any other website, that’s a website worth preserving. In print, Folk London does an admirable job for folk fans in the capital.

Rituals, stones and folklore: The indefatigable Lally Macbeth runs Stone Club and The Folk Archive, the latter of which has recently launched as a print magazine, too. Those that wish to explore the psychogeographical landscape from a folkish angle would also do well to take out a Weird Walk subscription.

Folk art: Ben Edge does all he can to keep the folklore flag flying and depict it on canvas while he’s about it (click for his website and Instagram). Alex Merry has turned morris dancing into something that shows up semi-regularly on TV. Lucy Wright is a non-stop generator of folk art manifesti and ideas. Libby Bove is one of the most exciting artists I’ve come across in ages, folk or otherwise. Rhia Davenport has my complete respect for what she’s doing in Stroud with the Weven shop.

Events: I’ve already mentioned Lally Macbeth and Stone Club. Elsewhere, I think the things that Campbell Baum is doing at MOTH Club in Hackney are wonderful, as are those that Chris Brain is involved with in Leeds. The folk scene in this country will ultimately reimagine itself in the way that upcoming generations wish to see it, and at MOTH Club and the Hyde Park Book Club building in Leeds this year, I feel like I caught an exciting glimpse of what’s to come.

There are lots of people to thank for the gratifying success Tradfolk achieved. Rachel Wilkinson, first and foremost, for helping the site to find its feet and running those incredible wassailing and morris dancing directories. James Merryclough for becoming the finest morris dancing editor in the land. Jon Nice for the amazing videos he created in the squash court at FolkEast (he’ll be doing more this year). Alex Merry, Jim Moray, Angeline Morrison, Eliza Carthy and Nick Hart for their often daily encouragement and recommendations. Alex Hurr, Gavin McNamara, Abbey Thomas and all the other writers for making as many contributions as they were able. Becky and John at FolkEast for giving the website such early and enthusiastic backing. James and Tash at Sidmouth/ABM for inviting Tradfolk into the fold. Glenn and Josh at Topic Records for their enthusiasm, and for putting Tradfolk quotes on record sleeve stickers. And enormous thanks to Peter Craik at EFDSS for being a huge champion of what I was trying to do here – the man’s an unsung folk hero.

I’ll try and maintain a relatively steady stream of articles and podcast episodes up until the end of August, after which things will become much more quiet around here. Until then, look out for…

All the best, thanks for reading, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the website.

Jon Wilks