Who We Are

Photo of Fay Hield, Access Folk Project Leader

Fay Hield

Fay is the lead researcher on the project.  She has a history of folk music research in a range of settings from community groups to commercial CD audiences.  Alongside research, Fay performs folk music internationally. She is also the Founding Director of Soundpost, a community music organisation in Sheffield. 

Photo of Rowan Piggott, Access Folk Communications Officer

Rowan Piggott

Rowan is the communications officer and current designer on the project. He is involved in traditional folk music as a professional performer, teacher, tunebook author, and the founder of Scribe Records. He is known for the Songhive project, his folk trio, The Wilderness Yet & oldtime duo, Old Spot.

Photo of Esbjörn, Access Folk Research Associate

Esbjörn Wettermark

Esbjörn is a research associate on the project. He has a background in ethnomusicology and worked on issues relating to cultural sustainability and policy as well as music education. In addition to research, he has worked in arts management in England and Sweden. He is also a musician and occasional morris dancer.

Photo of Helen Grindley, Access Folk Project Manager

Helen Grindley

Helen is the project manager for the project. She has extensive experience working on and supporting different types of projects within a University setting, including working with external suppliers and contractors. She has been a choral singer for many years and sings with two choirs in Sheffield, for whom she also acts as treasurer.

Kirsty Kay

Kirsty is a research associate focusing on survey methods for the project. She has a background in ethnomusicology having researched national identity and cultural heritage in the Hungarian táncház revival and has gained a wealth of methods experience whilst researching minority groups in Scotland for health related projects. 

Access Folk Board:

We have 13 Board Members. Members are updated annually and if you feel you have experience and ideas to contribute as a Folk Access Board member, please get in touch through the Contact page.

Katy Spicer - Chief Executive, English Folk Dance & Song Society

Liz Sheppard -  Ethnomusicologist

Roger Wilson – Director of Operations, Black Lives in Music

Oliver Mantell - Director of Evidence & Insight, The Audience Agency

Hazel Marsh - Associate Professor, University of East Anglia

Laura Midgley

Tom Besford -
Chief Executive, English Folk Expo

Cat McGill – Head of Programme Development & Delivery, Drake Music

Jon Lewis – Producer at 7digital / BBC R2 Folk Show

Tony Phillips -
Musician and Rolling
On Project

Crispian Cook – Chief Executive, Halsway Manor

Rowan Gatherer

PRiM - Participatory Research in Music

Behind the scenes of Access Folk, Esbjörn has been working with five different organisations in the English folk scene to co-write a report on conducting participatory research in music. Participatory research is an approach to research that attempts to create equal relationships between everyone involved in the research project and avoid old division between researchers and the people being researched. The report aims to help both academics and people working in the music industry to find ways of working together and give examples on what to avoid and what to think about to develop new research together. 

The people and organisations involved in the report are:

Sue Whitehead & Nygel Packett
The Goose Is Out

Amy Wilson
Wren Music

Fay Hield

Esbjörn Wettermark
University of Sheffield

Who are you?

As this is co-produced research there are LOTS of ways you can get involved - sign up to receive our newsletter below or contact us to find out more...

Where are we now?

In England today, folk singing is an expressive way for people to connect with their cultural heritage. Different people engage with English folk singing in different ways, such as joining folk clubs, community choirs, going to private parties, listening to CDs and more recently through online platforms such as zoom or tiktok. Although folk singing is often considered accessible and open by musical insiders, in practice, participation can be riddled with intricacies and unwritten rules, making it difficult for new people to simply “join in”. 

Since the height of the folk revival in the 1960s, 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. 

What is the point of Access Folk?

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 is built on co-production principles - this means that instead of academics leading how the work is conducted, the people who will be most affected by the results are given power in directing the research questions and are key decision makers about how the project’s resources are used. Access Folk will not only address the needs of existing musical communities but serve as an opportunity to meet the needs of a wider population seeking fulfilling leisure activities that align with their values.

The purpose of Access Folk is to understand: 

These questions will be developed further as we progress and adapt to the different groups’ needs.

Who will be involved?

What is Access Folk expecting to do? 

The Access Folk project will:

How will this be done?

The whole project follows a Co-production approach. This means that the people who will be most affected by the findings are involved in the decision making, delivery and sharing results as part of the project’s research community. This will happen through: a Board holding overall responsibility for the project rather than a single academic or institution; dedicated consulting groups of experts sharing their knowledge and guiding the research; and reaching out to many people to help us gather data through designing and running events, conducting interviews and helping to build databases of information.

What does Access Folk hope to achieve?

Once the Board is established the specific outcomes will be refined, but we broadly hope 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.

How long will it take?

The project is funded for five years 2022-2027.  It comes in three phases:

1) Understanding where we are, Identifying the problems, questions to ask and methods to use to get answers.

The Board will look at the findings from these activities and create specific research questions and methods for phase 2…

2) Developing and testing new approaches


3) Assessing impact, analysing and sharing findings

Who is funding this?

Access Folk is funded by UKRI through the Future Leaders Fellowship scheme. We expect ideas to develop throughout the project and we may also apply to other funders for more related activities.

Can I get involved? 

Yes please! Look for our Call to Action to join one of our Consulting Groups. You can also sign up to the Newsletter to hear about and the various surveys we will be producing.  Or do feel free to Contact us to talk about other ways in how you or your organisation may get involved.