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Our story: a brief history

The English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) was founded in 1932 to preserve, promote and develop the English folk arts, and specifically song, tune and dance.  The organisation was created by the merger of the Folk-Song Society (founded 1898) and the English Folk Dance Society (founded 1911).


Here is a quick recap of some of our major milestones.


Folk-Song Society (FSS) founded to collect and preserve folk songs and tunes primarily from Britain and Ireland.  Its membership included existing researchers Sabine Baring-Gould, Lucy Broadwood and Frank Kidson and many other researchers, academics and musicians.



Cecil Sharp collects his first folk songs in Somerset. The composer Ralph Vaughan Williams starts collecting folk songs.



English Folk Dance Society (EFDS) founded to both collect folk dance including Morris, sword and country dances, and to publish and teach them.



Cecil Sharp House, the first dedicated folk arts centre in the UK, opens in Camden, London, as a memorial to Cecil Sharp following his death in 1924.



EFDS and FSS merge to form the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS). Ralph Vaughan Williams becomes President.



EFDSS hosts the world’s first International Folk Dance Festival in London.



Princess Margaret becomes President.



Douglas Kennedy retires as Director, a position he had held since the death of Cecil Sharp in 1924.



National Folk Week launches, with more than 1,000 events nationwide.



The centenary of the Folk-Song Society is marked with the release of the album A Century of Song.



The Heritage Lottery Fund supports Take 6, which sees the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library digitise six major manuscript collections (Janet Heatley Blunt, George Butterworth, Francis Collinson, George Gardiner, Anne Gilchrist and Henry Hammond).



Shirley Collins becomes President, and Eliza Carthy Vice-President.



EFDSS becomes an Arts Council England Regularly Funded Organisation (and in 2012 a National Portfolio Organisation).



The Heritage Lottery Fund, National Folk Music Fund and Folklore Society support The Full English, to create the world’s biggest online portal of English folk music, song and dance manuscripts – as well as a national programme of workshops, lectures, training and community events.



EFDSS undertakes the largest capital spend on Cecil Sharp House since 1951 with the installation of a lift to make the building fully accessible.



EFDSS mark 800 years of democracy from the signing of Magna Carta with a music commission entitled Sweet Liberties, presented in partnership with the Houses of Parliament and Folk by the Oak Festival.



EFDSS wins the Lifetime Achievement Award from Folk Alliance International and Music Teacher Magazine’s Best Digital Resource for its educational resource bank.

A major restoration and refurbishment of Kennedy Hall, including Ivon Hitchens’ mural, with funding from Arts Council England, Foyle Foundation and individual giving and legacies.  

EFDSS Education recruits the first cohort of the National Youth Folk Ensemble, funded by Arts Council England.



Refurbishment and restoration by top conservators of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, supported by the National Folk Music Fund.

The National Youth Folk Ensemble performs for the first time, with acclaimed debuts at The Met in Bury, Cecil Sharp House, Derby’s Guildhall Theatre, and Whitby and Shrewsbury Folk Weeks. 



The Carpenter Collection – more than 2,000 items of traditional song, 300 folk plays and more, collected around Britain by James Madison Carpenter in the 1930s – is added to the online digital archives.