Discussion Papers in Arts and Festivals Management: Reviving Traditional Folk Events in the UK

Kevin Chambers, Jennie Jordan (Editor), Chris Newbold (Editor)

    Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


    Traditional folk events occupy a sacred space in the collective cultural identity of the United Kingdom. Ridiculed and suppressed there have been periods in history when it looked very much as if their decline was terminal. However, in the twenty first century many events are in good health and cherished by enthusiastic communities who organise, participate or simply turn out to enjoy the spectacle.

    That these events exist at all is usually due to the work of charismatic community activists who choose to not only participate but act as researchers, archivists and organisers. They may also be founders of revived events that were once dormant. This study examines the reasons event organisers choose to revive traditional folk events in the U.K. Research was undertaken in the form of interviews with organisers, documentary analysis, surveys of participants and observation during attendance at a series of events that took place from January to May 2017.

    The analysis presented here tested the hypothesis that event organisers revive traditional events because of a perceived erosion and potential loss of their cultural identity. In doing so it was discovered that there are complex reasons underlying revivals in the UK. Whilst a perceived loss of cultural identity may be one factor that inspires organisers to revive traditional events that sensation is not universal. Testing the cultural identity hypothesis revealed that connecting with the past is part of a richly detailed set of semiotic codes that event organisers use as part of a creative toolkit.

    Using language such as ‘tradition’ and ‘revival’ in events can create obligations to participate. Tradition can be seen as a malleable resource available to event organisers who may use it without viewing authenticity as a priority. The use of these semiotic codes link with a past that is part of an English cultural identity. These semiotic codes form a creative resource called tradition that can be employed to drive engagement and participation.

    With reference to the theories of Tönnies and Durkheim this study demonstrates that a relationship with an imagined past assists organisers in creating social interventions in a community. Analysis of the research illustrates that traditional folk events have a societal role that organisers understand and exploit for community value.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationLeicester
    PublisherDe Montfort University
    Commissioning bodyDe Montfort University
    Number of pages44
    ISBN (Print)978-1-857214-40-6
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2018

    Publication series

    NameDiscussion Papers in Arts & Festivals Management
    PublisherDe Montfort University


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