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Photograph courtesy of Peter Perry. The fiddler is Richard Sharp of the Boxgrove Tipteers and the ladies are dancing ‘The Black Nag’ in the garden of Richard Sharp’s house in Chichester.

Locating Women in 'The Folk'

Perspectives on women's contributions to folk song, folklore and cultural traditions

Saturday 9 June 2018, University of Sussex

A one-day interdisciplinary conference celebrating and interrogating the role that women have played in folk song, folklore, and cultural traditions – as tradition bearers, performers, authors, collectors, storytellers and scholars - through presentations and papers across a variety of topics and from historical, contemporary, and future perspectives. 

View full programme


This conference is co-presented by Sussex TraditionsThe Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research (University of Sussex), and The English Folk Dance & Song Society, and supported by The Centre for Memories, Narratives and Histories (Brighton University), and Sussex University’s Music Department.


Lucy Neal

Keynote speaker: Lucy Neal (great great niece of Mary Neal CBE)

Lucy Neal, theatremaker and writer, is interested in how celebratory events act as a catalyst for change. Co-founder Director of the influential London International Festival of Theatre (1981-2005), she has been active in the global grassroots Transition movement since 2008. Playing for Time - Making Art As If the World Mattered, (Oberon Books 2015), was co-written with 60 artists and activists and maps collaborative arts practices emerging in response to planetary challenges.

Lucy is currently Creative Associate of Devon-based Encounters and Associate of the Happy Museum Project. She is author of The Great Imagining - how the arts spark cultural change in Zero Carbon Britain’s 2017 Making It Happen. Lucy staged The Making of London as a National Park City in September 2016 and is a Trustee of the Aluna Foundation. Co-author of The Turning World - stories from the London International Festival of Theatre (Gulbenkian 2005), she was awarded an OBE in 2005 for services to drama. She is an experienced broadcaster and public speaker, recently delivering The Citizen Artist as An Agent of Change at Royal Society of Arts. She swims year round at the Tooting Bec Lido near where she lives in South London.

As great great niece of Mary Neal CBE, Lucy led the HLF and Arts Council-funded Mary Neal Project in 2009 to includeGreat Aunt Mary’s Tune on Radio 4, and the celebratoryMary Neal Day at Cecil Sharp House at which Mary’s archive papers were presented to the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, now online as part of the Library's digital archive.

Lucy’s creative practice remains inspired by Mary’s radical vision for social justice and creative equality for all.


Shirley Collins

Headline Event

Shirley Collins, EFDSS' esteemed President and a pivotal figure in the 60s/70s folk revival, will be reading from her new book All in The Downs, which was published in April 2018, followed by a Q&A with Dr Elizabeth Bennett and book signing.

Shirley was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Sussex University, in 2016. She is holder of the English Folk Dance and Song Society's Gold Badge, and was elected President of the Society in 2008 as well as patron of Sussex Traditions, South East Folk Arts Network and Folk South West.


Ticket Prices

£40.00 Full price
£30.00 EFDSS and Sussex Tradition members
£20.00 Students



More detailed information and public transport recommendations can be found on the University of Sussex website.




Photograph courtesy of Peter Perry. The fiddler is Richard Sharp of the Boxgrove Tipteers and the ladies are dancing ‘The Black Nag’ in the garden of Richard Sharp’s house in Chichester.