Explore English folk music, learn from inspiring tutors and play with other young musicians from your region. Take part in a day of creative folk music workshops and, if you want to, audition for the National Youth Folk Ensemble.
Each May half-term we run free Youth Folk Sampler Days across England for 14-18 year old instrumentalists.
Sampler Days have taken place in Bristol, Birmingham, Basingstoke, Cambridge, Derby, Didcot, Exeter, Gateshead, Leeds, London, Sheffield, Manchester, Okehampton, and York.
Look out for bookings opening in early 2019.
I absolutely loved this experience and it was very empowering playing with others, playing traditional English tunes but making them our own
Sampler Day participant
Congratulations to cohort 2 on a fantastic year!
Many talented musicians applied for the second cohort of the National Youth Folk Ensemble and 18 players were selected to form the 2017–18 Ensemble.
The Ensemble met for residential courses in different parts of England (Somerset, Northumberland, Kent and Norfolk) and they gave performances at Sage Gateshead, Cecil Sharp House, Cambridge Folk Festival, Sidmouth Folk Week, and on BBC Radio 3's In Tune.
National Youth Folk Ensemble members talk about their love of the folk world as they get set to play Cambridge Folk Festival
Leeds College of Music
The National Centre for Early Music
Royal Northern College of Music
Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Sidmouth Folk Week
Whitby Folk Week
The first cohort of the National Youth Folk Ensemble was made up of 17 talented young folk musicians who play fiddle, flute, accordion, melodeon, cello, viola, guitar, harp and uilleann pipes.
Between October 2016 and August 2017 they took part in four intensive residential courses, led by Artistic Director Sam Sweeney, and gave public performances at The Met in Bury, Cecil Sharp House in London, Guildhall Theatre in Derby, Whitby Folk Week and Shrewsbury Folk Festival.
The first meeting took place at Halsway Manor and it was a great success!
The young musicians travelled to Somerset from all over England and spent 5 days learning from and making music with tutors Sam Sweeney, Rob Harbron, Miranda Rutter, Saul Rose, Becky Price and Ben Nicholls.
The Ensemble members created music in small groups and as a full band, had one-to-one sessions on their instruments, wrote compositions, discovered repertoire in English tune books, performed to each other, danced in a ceilidh and had a taster session in morris dancing! They got to know each other musically and socially and began to create musical arrangements for their first public performances in 2017.
The National Youth Folk Ensemble's debut performance took place at The Met on Friday 17 February 2017. The Ensemble supported traditional trio Leveret, who had also tutored the young musicians during the intensive residential course at Waddow Hall.
"Seventeen strong, the NYFE played as a unit and in smaller sections, but worked best and sounded marvellous in their full ensemble when the sweep and swell of strings from half the band really lifted and carried the tunes." Fatea Magazine
The week in Clitheroe was filled with creating repertoire and preparing for the gig, with guidance from Sam Sweeney, Miranda Rutter, Rob Harbron and Andy Cutting. The guitarists and flautists had specialist tuition from Seth Tinsley and Sam Partridge, and everyone took part in folk dancing and sessions.
In April the young musicians were tasked with doubling their repertoire for their first full-length concert at Cecil Sharp House. Guided by music leaders Sam Sweeney, Rob Harbron, Sarah Hayes, Jack Rutter, Saul Rose and Miranda Rutter, they created a varied 90 minute programme that they performed with confidence and enjoyment.
“Congratulations on a really excellent concert. It was so good to see that level of musicianship from the folk tradition in a young group who performed with such obvious enjoyment and confidence.” Rachel Pantin, Joint Artistic Director, Musiko Musika.
“What a triumph, for them, for their tutors, for EFDSS… It should take its place in the pantheon of youth music ensembles, amongst which it can hold its head high.” Peter Hewitt, Chief Executive, Benslow Music.
During the week we welcomed composer Peter Wiegold as a special guest to lead an improvisation workshop, and the young musicians were treated to a tour of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library.
For their final residential course of the year the Ensemble met at Lea Green Development Centre in Derbyshire with music leaders Sam Sweeney, Rob Harbron, Jenn Butterworth and Dave Gray. The week included workshops on teaching skills and song accompaniment, and the young musicians chose to record some of their favourite tracks in a live session.
The summer tour was a celebration of their fantastic year together! They performed at Guildhall Theatre in Derby (supported by the Derbyshire Community Fiddlers and young trio The Barber Sisters), Whitby Folk Week and Shrewsbury Folk Festival, where they went down a storm!
"On the Sunday afternoon it was a similar delight to experience the major festival debut of the National Youth Folk Ensemble, a brand new initiative funded by the Arts Council and EFDSS and spearheaded by artistic director Sam Sweeney (Bellowhead, Leveret). Nobody performing was aged over 18 but the standard of musicianship on display was quite outstanding. Equally impressive were the gleeful smiles on all their faces alongside many a tear of joy from proud parents in the audience" Gerry Evans, efestivals.co.uk
Partnership working and consultation have been very important to the development of the National Youth Folk Ensemble. We have consulted with the folk and music education sectors, including dialogues with professional folk artists, specialist folk organisations, music education hubs, schools, higher education providers, arts organisations and major venues. This scoping and research process has provided us with strong foundations for the programme and resulted in the two reports below.
To help with planning for the National Youth Folk Ensemble and associated engagement programme, in early 2015 we carried out a mapping survey with Sound Connections to audit youth folk music provision across England.
The full report, Youth Folk Music Activity in England: Findings from a national mapping survey, February – March 2015, summarises the findings from the survey.
Everyone involved in running youth folk music activities outside of the school curriculum, including those who have run activities in the past or plan to do so in the future, were invited to respond. The findings from the survey give us a greater understanding of youth folk music activities across England and indicate potential partner organisations and complementary activities to support the development of the National Youth Folk Ensemble and engagement programme.
Visit our Youth Folk Opportunities page to see our interactive map of current youth folk music activity in England and download our PDF directory.
In early 2014, we worked with Sound Connections to consult with the folk music and music education sectors on the desirability and feasibility of creating a national youth folk music ensemble. The consultation also aimed to seek views from young people currently involved in folk music.
The consultation resulted in a report, Towards a National Youth Folk Music Ensemble, which was instrumental in helping to shape initial planning.