Ask A Friend

Why are people not engaging with folk singing?

This question is important to understand if we want to encourage more and a wider range of people to take part in folk singing. To this end we are launching Ask A Friend, a new research method where members of our extended research community (aka YOU) will conduct short interviews with people they know to explore their thoughts about folk singing.

Learn more about Ask A Friend by watching our short introduction video, have a look at the how to get involved list below and other material on the website, and please sign up and take part!

It is easy to get involved with Ask A Friend.

  1. Sign up: co-researcher agreement and consent form

  2. Decide who to interview

  3. Get details on how to conduct the interview and how to make sure your interviewee has consented: Ask a Friend Interview Guide

  4. If you want more confidence in interviewing you can look at our optional Interview Tutorial

  5. Have a half hour chat with your friend using the themes in our interview overview

  6. Write up your thoughts about the chat in the interview report form

  7. Send the recording and your thoughts back to us

  8. Wait for your love2shop voucher to arrive :)

Here is a more detailed Co-Researcher Checklist to make sure you don't miss anything. Everything you need to get started is on our website but feel free to email us if you have any questions,

You can watch and listen to Fay and Esbjorn going through the different parts in the video, or look through the texts below that will tell you everything about how you can get involved, what you would do and how Ask a Friend will help us to understand what people's thoughts about folk singing and the folk scene.

Please use the sign up button to become one of our "Ask a Friend" co-researchers.

What is Access Folk all about?

Access Folk is a research project run by Fay Hield at the University of Sheffield.

The aim of Access Folk is to support and explore ways to increase and diversify participation in folk singing in England. The broad questions the project will address are:

  • 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?

Access Folk is built on co-production principles. This means that instead of only academics leading the work, the people who will be most affected by the results are involved in designing and directing the project. Over several years the research project will trial and evaluate new approaches in collaboration with the wider folk singing scene.

Access Folk is directed by a board consisting of key stakeholders affected by the research, including singers, event organisers, academics, arts managers and experts from the wider cultural sector. The board will make decisions on the research direction and use of resources and work together with the research team to design and deliver research, ensuring folk singing stays relevant in the 21st Century.

For more information go to About the Project or listen to our short podcast about Access Folk.

What is Ask a Friend?

‘Ask a Friend’ is a method of conducting interviews aimed at reaching a wide range of people in an informal way. We are inviting volunteers as co-researchers to talk to friends who don’t currently participate in folk singing, in order to understand their motivations and attitudes towards folk singing. Interviewees can include close friends as well as acquaintances, relatives, or colleagues; anyone within the co-researcher’s social network.

The Ask a Friend methodology is designed to take advantage of the fact that most people will feel more comfortable talking to a friend than an unknown ‘researcher’, or by filling in a survey. The project’s research team will provide support and training as needed to the co-researchers to carry out the interviews and interviewees are also welcome to learn more about the project by signing up to our mailing list. The findings from these interviews will feed into the next stage of the research where we will try different ways of doing things to engage a wider variety of people in folk singing.

Who can do it?

Anyone over 18 can be a co-researcher and do interviews. You don’t have to have any formal qualifications or particular experience of folk singing or conducting interviews. There is an interview guide to follow and we have put together a voluntary training with videos and some exercises for anyone who wants to get a quick introduction to how to conduct a research interview.

We are looking for interviewees who may have interests that are similar to folk singing, but who don’t usually get involved. For example people who sing in community choirs, or have interests in other forms of cultural heritage or the arts. They may have been to a few folk events, with positive or negative experiences, but wouldn’t consider themselves regular attendees. Interviewees need to be over 18 and be able to give consent independently.

What would I have to do?

Co-researchers need to: recruit a friend and ask them to sign our consent form; conduct and record a conversation/interview with them; fill out an interview report form; and send all files to Access Folk. You should interview one person at a time but you are welcome to do multiple interviews with different people. You will receive detailed instructions on what and how to submit your material after you have signed up to take part in the project. There will be opportunities to get more involved with the analysis of the interviews later in the research project if you are interested, but this is not required. To give you an idea of the process you can look at our Co-Researcher Checklist.

Interviewees need to be comfortable being recorded talking about their experiences and opinions about folk singing. The co-researcher should provide the interviewee with our interviewee information sheet and ask them to sign our consent form.

The recorded conversation should not take more than 30 minutes. It may take another half hour to recruit and arrange a meeting; and an hour afterwards to write up notes about the conversation and email the files to Access Folk. Each submission should involve around 2-3 hours of work in total.

Do I need any training?

You don’t need any previous training in conducting interviews, but as this part of an official research project, you do need to follow some structures. We have an information sheet and consent form to share with interviewees, and an interview guide to follow for the interviewer.

We have also put together an easy interview training tutorial with videos and some exercises for anyone who wants to get a quick introduction to how to conduct a research interview. The training is optional but if you have never done an interview before we do recommend that you have a look at it.

Interviewees do not need any training - they are just expected to share their experiences however they choose to.

All documents and training material is available on our website, most are also available in a printable hard copy.

What will I get out of it?

We are offering a £10 gift voucher (love2shop rewards) to co-researchers on receipt of the interview recording and the report form, up to a maximum of £50 per person. This is in recognition of the time taken to complete the process. We are not offering vouchers to interviewees.

As a co-researcher and member of our research community you will make an important contribution to the project and help investigate how we can support folk singing and singers in the future. Read more about our research community.

People who have been involved in co-produced research have described positive benefits of getting involved including:

  • learning about research methods and the topic being researched

  • developing a broader understanding of why and how research matters

  • developing practical skills by working with other participants and the research team,

  • the satisfaction of making a contribution and helping to improve the world around us

If you’re interested to learn more about co-production methods, the Co-Production Collective is a good place to start.

Where do I sign up?

If you want to take part in Ask a Friend and support Access Folk’s research as a co-researcher, you should fill out our online Co-Researcher Agreement and Consent Form. If you need to fill out a hard copy of the form, you can either download and print it yourself or get in contact and we will be happy to send you a copy in the post. Please email

When we receive your form we will confirm the agreement and send you information on how to submit your recordings and files to the project. Everything you need to prepare is available on the website and we are happy to support you if needed.

Who controls my data?

The University of Sheffield will act as the Data Controller for this study and is responsible for looking after your information and using it properly. In order to collect and use your personal information as part of this research project, we must also demonstrate a basis in law to do so. The basis that we are using for this study is that the research is ‘a task in the public interest’.

If you have a complaint or a data confidentiality or safeguarding concern related to the project please contact the Project Manager Dr. Helen Grindley in the first instance ( If this is not appropriate, please contact the Head of the Department of Music, Professor Simon Keegan-Phipps (

Ready to get involved? Sign up now by clicking the button ▻

Then read what you need to do, look at the optional training and access the forms...