Folk arts encompass music, dances, plays, storytelling and crafts which are an integral part of every culture. In the UK folk art is strongly linked social history, telling stories of local struggles, heroes and heroines; making it a rich source of inspiration.
‘Folk arts are art ‘of the people’ and so are really accessible. People can engage at many different levels and often the art forms interact naturally so it’s necessary we engage with more than one art form, for example, music for dance or songs for plays.’ Jan Reynolds, folk artist and Arts Award adviser
Alison Giles, Learning Officer and Arts Award Adviser at Burwell Museum is also a Molly Dancer - an East Anglian form of Morris dancing. Alison used Arts Award Discover to develop the museum’s links with their local primary school. During the project young people had lots of fun learning dances, finding out about Alison as a dancer and connecting with their local history. Alison’s project was part funded by Tesco’s `Bags of Help’ scheme.
‘Local history is an important part of the school curriculum, so using folk arts connected to local traditions is a great way to make Arts Award relevant to what children are studying. Using art rather than just historical information has also helped us to get people thinking about the museum as a cross-curricular resource rather than just part of the history curriculum.’ Alison Giles
Folk3d in Derby used the theme of ‘Merry England’ and St George for Arts Award Explore. 13 primary school children and five young people from a secondary school for those with learning difficulties took part in folk dances, songs and plays to learn about the traditional elements while creating new work, which led to a major public performance.
‘Content may reflect on daily life, often from the past but really open up opportunities for imaginative development by thinking about ‘the now’ or back to ‘the then’. Using folk arts is good for team work as well as working individually.’ Jan Reynolds
Cream Tees is a youth folk music group and part of Music at the Heart of Teesdale (M@HoT), a not-for-profit project based in Barnard Castle. Bronze, Silver and Gold Arts Awards are offered to members, who learn new songs each fortnight from folk degree students. Past tutors, many of whom now play in bands of their own, return to lead workshops that include a Q & A session at the end of the workshop, giving a chance for participants to interview them about their career.
Arts Award Adviser Jill Mclachlan decided to train after observing young people at the Sidmouth Folk Week:
‘It was 9am, it was pouring with rain and the field was muddy. There they were rehearsing, stood in their wellies in the middle of a field with not one moan, grumble or complaint. Their dedication and enthusiasm inspired me. I wondered what could be done to recognise their efforts and give them something back.’
Want to know more about folk art? Check out the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) who have lots of great folk resources for all ages. You can also contact a folk educator via their Folk Educators group.