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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Howard Jones The current state of folk music in UK (2105* d) RE: The current state of folk music in UK 15 Oct 19

The positives:

A far broader range of opportunities to hear live folk music, from festivals big and small, traditional folk clubs, house concerts, sessions, singarounds, etc. As well as the traditional pub, which may have excluded some, folk can now be found in a wider range of premises, from theatres to private homes.

The internet makes it much easier to listen to recordings of both contemporary and source singers - VoTP is on Spotify. For example, I recently decided to re-learn "Our Captain Cries All Hands" and I was quickly able to find several sets of lyrics and listen to versions as varied as those by the Oysterband and Pop Maynard - all immediately available on line.

It also makes it much easier to learn about folk music and folk performers, and discover where to find it. The demise of magazines such as fRoots is sad but is a reflection that much of what it provided can now be found online.

Greater availability of good quality instruments and more importantly much better access to tuition, from workshops to one-to-one sessions. Thanks to Skype you don't need to find a local teacher, they don't even have to be on the same continent.

As a consequence, the standard of performance by those who make the effort to learn and improve is on the whole far higher than it used to be. The technical ability and musicianship of many young musicians amazes me. They have also got away from the reverse snobbery that saw musical knowledge and training as a barrier to being an authentic folk singer, many have had a good musical education and are all the better for it.


An overall reduction in the number of venues, especially the traditional club model with regular guest performers supported by floor singers. This reduces the choices available and perhaps leads to the situations Jim has found himself in where his choice of material is not acceptable to a particular audience, and their preferred material is not acceptable to him. Once this wouldn't have mattered, you'd simply find a different club more aligned to your preferences, but now this might not be possible in your locality.

Despite the higher standards at the top end of the scale, there is also a tolerance of low standards of performance which once would not have been acceptable outside events intended specifically for novices.

Taken together, this makes it less likely that on a random visit to a new folk club you will find the sort of folk music you like performed to a reasonable standard. This now takes more searching out and perhaps a willingness to travel further.

Continual and fruitless attempts on Mudcat to answer the unresolvable question "What is folk?"

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