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Malcolm Taylor OBE

New chapter for the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library

The English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) has announced that Malcolm Taylor OBE is to step down from his role as the Director of the EFDSS library and archive, the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library (VWML), in July 2014.


Malcolm joined the Society as Assistant Librarian in 1979, becoming Director of the VWML at Cecil Sharp House in Camden in 1981.

During his time at EFDSS, Malcolm has transformed the library and found new and innovative ways to make its contents as accessible as possible, ensuring that folk tradition and the history contained within the collections is kept alive for future generations.

His achievements include:

  • Starting the Library Lecture series in the 1980s and introducing conferences and exhibitions, as well as books and cassettes to the library’s collections
  • Contributing to and editing numerous EFDSS publications, including education resource packs for schools, songbooks and audio recordings from traditional musicians and storytellers
  • The ‘Collecting Folk’ series of BBC radio programmes in the 1990s focusing on contemporary fieldworkers
  • Receiving an OBE in 2002 for services to music librarianship and heritage
  • Being only the second working member of EFDSS staff to receive the Society’s Gold Badge, in 2004
  • Leading the library to received Designated Status from the Museums, Library and Archives Council (MLA) which is only awarded to libraries of national and international importance
  • Creating the Take 6 free online database in 2007 featuring six major collections from the VWML archive
  • Being the first non-musician to receive the Good Tradition award - the Roots Award - at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2012
  • Developing The Full English in 2013, the world’s largest online free digital archive of a further 12 major collections, including six from other archives.

Malcolm Taylor and Ursula Vaughan Williams in the VWML
Malcolm Taylor and Ursula Vaughan Williams in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library

Malcolm Taylor receiving his EFDSS Gold Badge Award in 2004

Malcolm Taylor receiving his EFDSS Gold Badge Award in 2004

Malcolm Taylor in his first week working at the VWML

Malcolm Taylor in his first week working at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library
Photo: Doc Rowe

Tributes have been paid to Malcolm from leading figures in the arts, folk and library sectors.


“Rather as see the library as somewhere old songs go to die and be mummified, Malcolm understands that his job is to keep culture alive. The library is undoubtedly a national treasure, as is Malcolm.”
Lee Hall, playwright and screenwriter behind Billy Elliot and Warhorse, who presented Malcolm with his BBC folk award


“Malcolm Taylor is the man who transformed the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library from a jealously guarded and rather forbidding fortress into a place that welcomed and encouraged visitors. When he took up his position as Library Director some 30 years ago, his first action was to put a window in the library door, letting light and life into the place.

“And what he has accomplished in those 30 years, with grace and good humour, is prodigious - the digitisation alone of the many thousands of songs and collectors’ notebooks is an extraordinary achievement, enabling people from all over the country, and indeed the world, to access this unique material.

“Malcolm also has the gift of speaking about his work with knowledge, eloquence, passion and humour; couple that with his love of English folk music, his passion for cricket and walking the South Downs, and you have an ideal Englishman. I admire and love Malcolm, and will miss him. He is one of my present day heroes.”
Shirley Collins, folk singer and EFDSS president


“Malcolm has always been the most supportive of colleagues. I arrived in 2008 completely green about the folk scene and Malcolm was there giving me the background on EFDSS and the sector, suggestions of what to read and listen to and wonderfully open with his ideas and taking on board mine. He has been a constant source of inspiration and the work he has achieved through the ups and downs of EFDSS has been remarkable. He will be greatly missed but I know he will want us to look forward to an exciting new chapter in the history of the VWML.”
Katy Spicer, Chief Executive of EFDSS


We are currently recruiting for a new Library Director. Applications close on Friday 30 May, 5pm. Click here for details