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Martin Graebe giving a lecture

Library Lectures 2019

The new series of Library Lectures kicks off in January, welcoming four fantastic speakers who guide you through fascinating topics around folk song and dance.

Tickets £8 per lecture | £6 EFDSS members


How Percy Manning saved morris dancing by Mike Heaney

Wednesday 16 January, 7.30pm

Cecil Sharp’s encounter with the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers on Boxing Day 1899 is famous, but it did not spring out of nothing, and would probably not have happened at all if it hadn’t been for Percy Manning, the first serious researcher into morris dancing. This talk describes how he revived the Quarry dancers as the culmination of a decade-long journey of investigation and discovery, which underlies a lot of what we now know about the history of the dancing.

Percy Manning was an Oxford antiquary interested in all aspects of life in his county. He was a respected expert in local archaeology and history, but expanded his range into social history, custom, folklore and dialect. With the aid of his indefatigable agent Thomas Carter, he quartered the county looking for survivals of dying aspects of social life and custom, at first with an emphasis on collecting material remains but then turning to the more intangible aspects. He left his collections to the University of Oxford, where they now reside in its museums and libraries.

Manning died in 1917, and the centenary of his death in 2017 was the stimulus for a lot of research into his life and work. While focusing on the morris, the talk places it within the wider context uncovered by the latest studies.


Mike Heaney is musician for Eynsham Morris, and has been researching morris dancing and its history for over forty years. He is the author of the Library’s Introductory Bibliography on Morris Dancing, and over 50 other pieces, including Annals of Early Morris (with John Forrest), Bedlam Morris, and the Dictionary of National Biography entries for, among others, William Kimber, Jinky Wells, Cecil Sharp and Percy Manning. In 2017 he organised and co-ordinated exhibitions, events and study days devoted to Manning in Oxford, and edited and part-authored the centenary work Percy Manning: The Man Who Collected Oxfordshire. In 2018 he edited and contributed to The Histories of Morris, the proceedings of the 2017 conference organised by the EFDSS in conjunction with the Historical Dance Society. He is currently working on a general history of morris dancing.



Cornish Folk Dance by Merv and Alison Davey

Wednesday 13 February, 7.30pm

Folk dance is more than just a collection of steps movement and music; it is a form of human expression and its essence lies within its community role and social context rather than purely commercial or artistic interests. The story of folk dance in Cornwall, from medieval roots, through narratives of the nineteenth Century folklorists, the activity of the Celtic revivalists and on to the present day, is a fascinating one that reflects the distinct cultural profile of Cornwall.

There are a number of different threads that can be followed in Cornish folk dance. This talk explores the arcane world of the Cornish Guise dancer, the intricate steps of “Scoot Dancing” the ubiquitous Furry dance, the serpent dance and the intriguing named “Snail Creep”.  We took a look at the social context of folk dance from the Methodist Tea Treat and the rather less sober “troyls” of the fish cellars and how these relate to folk dance in Cornwall today.


Merv and Alison Davey have been involved as researchers and practitioners of Cornish dance since the 1970s. Alison is a dance teacher and works in schools as well as running the Cornish Youth Dance group “Tan Ha Dowr”(Cornish: Fire and Water).  Merv completed a PhD on Cornish folk tradition at Exeter University and is director of the An Daras Cornish Folk Arts Project. Both are Cornish speakers and Bards of the Cornish Gorsedd. They are part of the team that organises the Lowender Peran Celtic Festival in Newquay each November. Most weekends find them busy with the family group North Cornwall Ceili Band.



Invisible Music: Angela Carter and Folk Song by Polly Paulusma

Wednesday 20 March, 7.30pm

It is a surprisingly little-known fact that the novelist Angela Carter was a folk singer in the 1960s second-wave folk revival. A newly unearthed archive reveals that she not only co-founded a folk club in the 1960s with her first husband, folk producer Paul Carter, but that she also sang there fortnightly for several years.

This lecture firstly collates some of the evidence of Carter’s folk singing praxis through revealing some key details from the newly-discovered archive, as well as passages from Carter’s 1960s diaries, the album sleeve-notes she authored for Topic releases and recordings of her singing and playing.

We took a look at some extracts from her undergraduate dissertation on folk song’s relationship with medieval poetry, and her 1964 student article ’Now is the Time for Singing’ which was published in Bristol University’s student magazine Nonesuch, to get a picture of how she felt about folk song at that time, and how highly she regarded it as an art form.

We  then go on to analyse some key extracts from her novels and short stories, to discuss how her intimate knowledge of folk song seeped not just into the subject matter of her writing but right down into the structure of it. We  pay particular attention to the short story ’The Erl King’ which appears in the collection The Bloody Chamber, looking at how the greenwood is re-rendered there through rhythm and prosody, and look at ways in which her pronoun and tense shifts might correspond to perceived modal shifts in the folk songs she loved. We took a look at some key passages from her first novel Shadow Dance, to propose that Carter was inspired by folk song’s acceptance of men being able to sing women’s songs, and vice versa, to write herself into the life of a man - a cruel man, at that.

This paper represents a small part of my ongoing PhD research at the University of East Anglia, which is asking questions about ways in which Carter’s folk singing praxis affected her imaginative output, in a bid to ask wider questions about ways in which musical performance imbricates itself in literary production more generally.


Polly Paulusma read English at Cambridge University and graduated with a First in 1997. In 2003, she signed a record deal with One Little Indian (home to Bjork), and publishing to Sony/ATV in Los Angeles. She has released seven indie-folk albums to date, and has toured the USA, Europe and the UK, supported Bob Dylan, Jamie Cullum, Coldplay and Marianne Faithfull, and played festivals including Glastonbury and Cambridge Folk Festival. In 2012 she founded indie-folk label Wild Sound, releasing the work of nine other artists including Maz O'Connor, a label which is now a folk imprint at One Little Indian. She is currently working on two new releases, an album of traditional folk songs which inspired Angela Carter, and a new studio album of original songs. She began teaching Cambridge English undergraduates in 2013 and subsequently returned to study, receiving a distinction for her MA in Contemporary Literature at King’s College, London in 2016. She is now a CHASE-funded PhD student at UEA, researching Angela Carter’s influences from folk song performance, under supervision from Dr Stephen Benson, and she continues to teach for the Cambridge English Faculty, specialising in song studies. In academic circles she goes by and publishes under her full name, Hippolyta Paulusma.



“I am longing for another voyage of discovery in the summer”: The Gill brothers and their collecting of folk songs from the Isle of Man (1894-98) by Stephen Miller

Wednesday 17 April, 7.30pm

The Gill brothers, W.H. Gill (1839–1923) and Deemster J.F. Gill (1842–99) have remained marginalised and neglected figures in the collecting of Manx folk song, overshadowed by A.W. Moore (1853–1909), whose own Manx Ballads and Music appeared in 1896, and by Dr John Clague (1842–1908), whose collection was published in large part in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society between 1924–26, edited by A.G. Gilchrist. Ironically, the Gills have left more manuscript material behind than any of these collectors, found amongst the personal papers of Deemster Gill when they were released in 2000. They are now known to have made three collecting tours overall, travelling over most of the Island, making use of a network of helpers to locate twenty-eight singers and taking down one hundred and one tunes as a result. The outcome was Manx National Songs (1896), the lesser-known Manx National Music (1898), and the unrealised Manx National Airs. The letters from the helpers survive, as do notes made in the field, the annotations to the tunes allow the identification of the singers in the 1891 census, and the detail overall allows for the reconstruction of their collecting tours. The letters between the brothers detail the compilation of Manx National Songs and the argument over Manx National Airs. “Music hunting sounds charming,” wrote WH Gill in 1895, and it is this “hunting” itself is the focus of this talk.


Stephen Miller previously worked at the Austrian Academy of Sciences on the Austrian Academy Corpus and taught recently at the University of Vienna. Born in the Isle of Man, he has a BA in History and an MA in Folk Life Studies, both from the University of Leeds. He has combined interests in folkloristics and digitisation and has lectured on both. Research interests include Manx folklore, folk song, and folk dance, and the figures and collectors involved with the Celtic Revival. Other areas are the Scottish folklorists, the Rev. Walter Gregor and W.G. Black, and the institutional history of folkloristics in the British Isles.