Fairy Lovers

Sep 09, 2020

Fairies in the British folklore tradition are spirits of nature: they are as ancient as wind and rain, manifestations of the living spirit in all organic matter. They are spirits of place, inhabiting certain trees, hillocks, rock formations, rivers, lakes; and they are embodiments of the numinous quality of nature that we feel but can never adequately describe -- except through the metaphor of myth, which tells the truth but tells it slantwise…

These words, from Terri Windling, capture the magic and mystery of fairies, and their connection to ourselves and the world. Their slantwise nature, however, means we need to have our wits about us in order to make sense of what they give us. This really hits the nerve of the Wrackline concept - the relationships between the physical and spiritual, the understood and the unknown. ..

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Animal Voices

Sep 03, 2020

I have talked about animal transformations in two previous posts, but what about animals in their own right? Animals have lived alongside humans as helpmates, sustenance, enemy, or companion, and they dwell in people's unconscious in dreams, as symbols, or as a reflection of self. The ways we interact with them raises a question of how we negotiate that space between their understanding of their lives and our own. Folklore that features animals can show us much about humanity and its place alongside our animal kin...

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Selkie Secrets

Aug 26, 2020

Returning to ideas raised by the hares post, this entry looks to another mythical creature, the selkie. A mystical blend of seal and human, the transition from one world to another is stark here, and gives rise to the title of the album. The wrackline marks a rift between two worlds, two selves, two ways of life. Between the wrackline and the water edge is a liminal space, a pause between this choice, or that. There are so many 'wrackline moments' in our lives, where the ending of one phase shades into the beginning of another...

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Problematic Pregnancies

Aug 18, 2020

The end of life brings difficulties to navigate as we saw in the last post but so does the beginning, especially for women. Pregnancy, childbirth and raising children is life-changing for anyone, but depending upon the society you are a part of and the health of yourself and the child, having children can be hugely problematic, fatal even. I am blessed with two wonderful children, thankfully conceived and raised in happy circumstances, but I can identify with the deep feelings of fear and uncertainty being in this position could engender. Thankfully for me it is only imagined, yet I know for many, even today, these issues are prevalent and powerful...

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Ghostly Visitors

Aug 12, 2020

None of us are untouched by the mystery of what happens when we die. Religions provide explanations of where the departed go, but in death the living also have journeys to make. Songs provide a means to explore the stories of others, to act out emotions vicariously providing us with the tools to handle our own grief. We make meaning for our own lives out of pieces of folklore.

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Go into a Hare

Aug 06, 2020

As society evolves, the way we react to the world around us reflects our changing attitudes. And so with folk song, as a living tradition, I want to reflect that in creating and interpreting the songs I sing. This blog series takes the six themes on my new album, Wrackline, exploring the folklore they are based in and how I responded to them. Two songs are about hares - specifically about the magical process of a woman able to cast herself into the shape of a hare. ‘Hare Spell’ grows out of a true historical event in the 1600s the other, ‘When She Comes’, is a response to the idea, developed during the Modern Fairies research project with poet, Sarah Hesketh.

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How to run an Online Singaround

Apr 07, 2020

We started the @TradSongTues online singaround because a lot of online concerts and films shared by pro and semi-pro musicians started popping up and I wanted to remember all the people who go out and sing every week who might not want to put themselves out there in that form but still wanted a place to share a song and be with other singers. ..

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Courage calls, we need to talk…

Dec 18, 2018

After a lifetime of quietly getting on with my own brand of feminism, I have recently been involved in not one but two all-female line ups, more or less overtly questioning the roles of women in the world and the folk world more locally...

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Modern Fairies Gather

Aug 28, 2018

It’s all a bit vague this project, and a bit magical – a bit like fairies themselves I suppose. Everyone who gathered that first time in Oxford was palpably anxious about what was to come, but conversation flowed and a wealth of different experiences and perspectives emerged from the chrysalis. The openness was startling, and I had to quickly expand my perception of belief on hearing what the others had to say. ..

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The problem with gypsies and outsiders…

May 09, 2018

Yesterday I went to a ‘Widening Participation’ conference, hearing about all things bias, barrier and bigotry when it comes to accessing university for various social groups. I am on the side of stopping all that nonsense and on the team that spots it in others and finds ways to address it.  The conference happened to fall on a Trad Song Tuesday, so while learning how to be the saviour of education for all, I was also tweeting away discreetly at the back. The theme was ‘Gypsies and outsiders’ – chosen through popular vote in a twitter-poll. Now, if the context I was in wasn’t enough to ring alarm bells, I got a tweet from a follower sensitively pointing out the potential for offence - cue to think more deeply.

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In Defence of Revivals

Jan 24, 2018

I recently found this article I wrote for a fairly obscure publication. It strikes me that it might have some interesting information about how we run Royal Traditions that it would be good to share, and that it might open up the conversation around the folk club practice  more broadly - so with the generous permission of David Atkinson, I reproduce it here. I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts.....

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#TradSongTues - how it works*

Jan 09, 2018

#TradSongTues is a place on Twitter to explore all things traditional song - with themes. Posts include exciting findings, recordings, photos, quotes, blogs and other oddments. You are welcome to just follow us and look at the posts but we’d love you to contribute too as the whole thing relies on people sending in interesting things that others are interested in seeing.

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Audiences and Expectations

Oct 26, 2017

I was invited to King's College, London as part of their colloquium series yesterday and, as the talk introduced my research in a fairly succinct way, I thought it might be useful to share here so you can get a broad overview of what I do and how I go about it.  Some of the key findings are on the slides, but obviously I used a lot of words too, and some videos (which I will post in another post soon)....  It would be great to go into more depth about anything you find interesting through the comments below - go on, post your thoughts and let’s thrash it out - I'm up for a discussion...

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Folkies Against Fartface

Feb 13, 2017

Hello again, dearest reader, I hope the year is settling down well for you? What with all last year’s Brexit, Syrian nightmares and the political upheaval in the States, many people are unsettled but perhaps that unsettledness is becoming a new kind of norm while we try to make sense out of what is going on. Please excuse the broad political opening to this post – but it is really very tied to the theme this time around – just how political is folk song?..

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Ringing out the old, blogging in the new

Jan 05, 2017

Welcome to my first ever blog post.  This is going to be an experience for us both.  I have been meaning to do this for a while and I’m sure you have no idea what to expect, so I’ll start by telling you why I’m doing this and what sort of things I envisage writing about.  Firstly, it is not going to be about my navel or what’s growing in the garden.  Neither is it going to be about life backstage.  I want to share some ideas in the work I come across in the course of my research and teaching at the University of Sheffield – this will often involve music making and touring, but I’m trying to approach it as opening questions for discussion and debate rather than purely giving you gossipy tit bits.  Sorry if that’s put you right off!..

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