Reading Group

This runs online as drop-in sessions led by members of the community. You will have the opportunity to discuss a variety of folk-related material, ranging from articles and blogs to albums and interviews. For each session, there will be two readings and/or media and you can take a look at either, or both.


Everyone is welcome: No formal qualifications or academic background is needed - just an interest in folk song and traditional music. Attendance is flexible: come to as many or as few sessions as you like, depending on what suits you, or which topics interest you most!

Autumn 2022 - Boundaries and Margins

What is Folk?

Thursday 13th October, 1-2 pm

Some questions to think about:

  • Who is defining it and why?

  • What are the differences - some are about the kinds and sounds of music, others are about who’s making it and where it is made, others still about the ways music is framed.

  • Is it important to know what folk music is? Where are your limitations? What are your assumptions?

Cole, Ross. 2021. The Folk Music, Modernity, and the Political Imagination. University of California Press, p8-13. https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520383746/the-folk

McKerrell, Simon. ‘Folk’ and ‘Traditional’ (definitions) Accessed 30 September 2022. https://simonmckerrell.com/2014/06/02/98/

https://www.britannica.com/art/folk-music (very long! Suggest you skim and look at bits you find interesting)

https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-folk-music-definition-artists-history.html (lesson summary video)

https://www.makingmusic.org.uk/resource/introduction-folk-music

Interestingly (?!) There is no definition supplied from folk organisations such as EFDSS, BBC Radio 2 Folk Show, English Folk Expo, or the Folk charts on how they categorise the work they do or materials they include in their programming. If anyone finds something that would be useful to share during the meeting, please do bring it along.

Further reading/listening:

Noble, Will, Noble, Cuthbert and Noble, Lydia. 2017 ‘The Brown Hare of Whitebrook‘ https://youtu.be/sziOZUy7JY0

Sartin, Paul. 2012. ‘Bellowhead Sessions, Paul Sartin, Cock a Doodle Doo’ https://youtu.be/OmfpFVbe0SI

Thursday 27th October, 1-2pm

Some questions to consider in relation to the reading/listening:

  • How have Gypsy and Traveller music and culture been represented in the English folk scene?

  • What are the ethical implications of MacColl and Seeger’s comments about Gypsy/Traveller singers and ‘English/Scottish’ folk songs?

Main Reading:

Marsh, Hazel. ‘Romani/Traveller Music in the UK and Ireland - RomArchive’. Accessed 3 May 2022. https://www.romarchive.eu/en/music/northern-and-western-europe/romanitraveller-music-uk-and-ireland/

Le Bas, Damian. ‘The Travelling People 50 Years On’, 2017. https://www.travellerstimes.org.uk/sites/default/files/inline-files/Damian%20Article.pdf

Maccoll, Ewan, and Peggy Seeger. Travellers’ Songs from England and Scotland. 2nd ed. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2016 [1977]. Pages 11-15. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/mono/10.4324/9781315645520/travellers-songs-england-scotland-ewan-maccoll-peggy-seeger
[Click on “Preview PDF” on the website to download the reading]

Further reading/listening

Staelens, Yvette. ‘English Folk Music on the Margin - Cecil Sharp’s Gypsies’. In Sharing Cultures, edited by Yvette Staelens, 247–53. Greenlines Institute, 2011. https://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/18360/

MacColl, Seeger and Parker, 1968, “The Travelling People”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GehYE1c9tc

Le Bas, Damian 2017, “Searching for the Travelling People”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ID-3rjKD0c

Interview with Thomas McCarthy on the “Searching for the Travelling People” companion website https://www.travellerstimes.org.uk/heritage/watch-heritage-documentary-searching-travelling-people#

Thursday 10th November, 1-2pm

Some questions to consider in relation to the reading/listening:

  • Are there similarities/differences between folk culture and popular culture? Is folk culture compatible with popular culture?

  • Are there any instances of folk occurring within popular culture that are ‘unexpected’ or ‘surprising’, and if so, why?

  • What might the occurrence of folk within popular culture mean in terms of artists and performance and audience and reception?

  • Does the occurrence of folk within popular culture change how folk is understood/perceived?

  • Does popular culture occur within folk?

Main Readings:

Davey, Merv., (2017). Folklore, Fakelore, and Tourism in Cornwall, Telynyor an Weryn Gorsedh Kernow Conference 2017 P. 2-5 https://www.academia.edu/34546861/Folklore_Fakelore_and_Tourism_in_Cornwall


Wilks, Jon. (2022) “Fisherman’s Friends announce new movie”. Tradfolk.co. Accessed 4 October 2022. https://tradfolk.co/news/fishermans-friends-announce-new-movie-seek-world-domination


Loo, Kevin. (2017). ‘Tracing The Irish Musical Influence On Ed Sheeran’s New Album ‘÷ (Divide)’’ Genius.com. Accessed 4 October 2022. https://genius.com/a/tracing-the-irish-musical-influences-on-ed-sheeran-s-new-album-divide


Further reading/listening

Afonso, Jonathan. (n.d.) ‘When Indie Meets Shakespeare: Laura Marling’s Songs for As You Like It’. Undergraduate essay. pp. 1-4, p. 8 www.academia.edu/10247958/When_Indie_Meets_Shakespeare_Laura_Marlings_Songs_for_As_You_Like_It


Asimos, Vivian (2020) ‘The Folklore of Taylor Swift’. Incidental Mythology. Accessed 4 October 2022. www.incidentalmythology.com/blog/the-folklore-of-taylor-swift


Harris, Harry (2021) ‘Way beyond Hadestown: the windswept rush of folk musicals’ The Guardian. Accessed 4 October 2022. www.theguardian.com/stage/2021/may/03/hadestown-folk-musicals-anais-mitchell-maz-oconnor-harry-harris

Thursday 24th November, 1-2pm

Some questions to consider in relation to the reading/listening:

  • What makes a good tune?

  • What do you think about the responses on thesession.org, were they what you would expect

  • What are Sturm and Ben-Tal’s ambition with their AI tune maker and what are your thoughts about this technology?

Sturm, Bob, and Oded Ben-Tal. Let’s Have Another Gan Ainm : An Experimental Album of Irish Traditional Music and Computer-Generated Tunes, 2018. http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-235167 https://soundcloud.com/oconaillfamilyandfriends

Sturm, Bob. ‘Folk the Algorithms: Traditional Music in AI Music Research’. The Sound of AI (blog), 20 June 2019. https://medium.com/the-sound-of-ai/folk-the-algorithms-traditional-music-in-ai-music-research-b19bf392d991

Discussion on thesession.org forum after the reveal that most tunes on “Let’s Have Another Gan Ainm” was composed by an AI, https://thesession.org/discussions/42712

Further reading

Harley, David. “Review of ‘Ó CONAILL FAMILY AND FRIENDS – Let’s Have Another Gan Ainm (Digital release)’. Folking.com. 2018. https://folking.com/o-conaill-family-and-friends-lets-have-another-gan-ainm-digital-release/

Sturm, Bob. ‘58,105 Irish-Style Double Jigs’, 2021. http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-296578.

Meddings, Rachel. ‘Rachel Meddings / My Work’. Rachel Meddings. Accessed 6 September 2022. https://rachelmeddings.journoportfolio.com/my-work/.

Thursday 8th December, 1-2pm

Some questions to consider in relation to the reading/listening:

  • Where is the limit to the level of influence/infusion where one genre becomes another? Is there a limit?

  • Why might the combining of folk with other genres, or of other genres with folk, receive positive and/or negative responses?

  • What, if anything, makes folk compatible with other genres? Are there genres that are more/less compatible with folk than others?

  • Are ‘categories’ and/or ‘definitions’ important/necessary? What might they mean in terms of artists and/or audiences?

  • Does the combining of folk with other genres and vice-versa change how folk is understood/perceived?

Main Readings

Cossu, Andrea., (2012). Chapter 2: There’s No Success Like Failure: Performance And Audience Mobilization In The Electric Turn, from/in ‘It Ain’t Me, Babe: Bob Dylan and the Performance of Authenticity’ [Book]. https://www.academia.edu/14202846/It_Aint_Me_Babe_Bob_Dylan_and_the_Performance_of_Authenticity_Chapter_2


Ellis, Iain. (2021). ‘Folk Punk: Three Chords and the Truth’. PopMatters.com. Accessed 4 October 2022. https://www.popmatters.com/folk-punk-three-chords-and-truth


Author unknown. (2021) ‘What is Folktronica?’. TEDxTalks. Accessed 4 October 2022. www.ted.com/talks/oopus_oopus_what_is_folktronica

Further reading

Ballet Folk https://balletfolk.com

Summer 2022