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Locating female folklore: Sussex conference to celebrate the role of women in folk

The University of Sussex will play host to a wealth of storytellers, singers and scholars in June as they gather to celebrate and explore the role of women in folk story, song and cultural traditions across the centuries.

Locating Women in 'The Folk' , a one-day conference taking place on Saturday 9 June, will have as its focus the influence of female-driven folk narratives across counties and countries: from Wales, Orkney and Sussex, to Norway, Italy and northern India.

The event is being co-presented by Sussex Traditions and the Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research at the University of Sussex, in partnership with The English Folk Dance & Song Society.

The Centre for Memories, Narratives and Histories at Brighton University and the Department of Music at the University of Sussex are also supporting the event.

The headline attraction is an exclusive first reading from her new book All in the Downs by famed folk singer, Patron of Sussex Traditions and President of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, Shirley Collins MBE.

Collins first found recognition in 1958 with two celebrated solo folk albums and her collaborations with legendary player Davy Graham, and folk collector Alan Lomax.

She returned to the folk scene in 2016 with the critically acclaimed Lodestar, her first album for 38 years, for which she received two nominations at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

Collins received an Honorary Doctorate in Music from the University of Sussex in the same year and the process of her return to the musical stage was chronicled in a documentary, The Ballad of Shirley Collins.

The keynote speaker will be Lucy Neal, co-founder of the London International Festival of Theatre and descendent of Mary Neal CBE, whose vision for the power of the arts help drive the first revival and English Folk Song and Dance more than a century ago.

Tickets can be purchased here.  

Speaking about the day, Conference Co-Director and Trustee at Sussex Traditions Dr Elizabeth Bennett said:

“The role of women in folk traditions is an extremely timely and important topic and we’re honoured to be presenting an entire conference dedicated to exploring the past, celebrating the present and predicting the future of these extraordinary folk figures.

“We are particularly excited to be hosting international contributions, as well as presenters from both academic and non-academic backgrounds.

“The conference is an important part of our Sussex Traditions’ continuing efforts to promote and support the understanding, enjoyment and continuation of cultural traditions in inclusive and diverse settings.”

Dr Bennett’s thoughts were echoed by Dr Margaretta Jolly, Director of the Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research at the University of Sussex:

“For anyone interested in the deep life story of a particular place, wherever that may be, listening to and learning from the voices of women in the folk traditions of that region is incredibly important and informative.

“The event will use the perceptions of Sussex singers, dancers, storytellers to connect with the cultural traditions and histories of other counties and countries, finding the common thread between all the women that these folklores represent.

“We’re honoured to be working with Sussex Traditions and the English Folk Dance and Song Society on this journey of exploration.”

For more information about the event, please click here.

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By: Patrick Reed
Last updated: Thursday, 14 June 2018

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