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At the heart of English folk
National Youth Folk Ensemble

National Youth Folk Ensemble

The National Youth Folk Ensemble celebrates excellence in youth folk music, bringing together talented young folk musicians from across England to create and perform inspiring new arrangements of folk music and work with leading folk artists. 

With young musicians at the heart of the programme, the National Youth Folk Ensemble aims to nurture their talents, aspirations and creativity, enabling them to develop into the folk performers, educators and leaders of the future.

These talented musicians receive expert tuition and guidance from Sam Sweeney, Artistic Director 2016-19, and a team of leading folk artist-educators.

Find out more about our professional development day for music educators

Buy tickets to see the National Youth Folk Ensemble at Cecil Sharp House 


The National Youth Folk Ensemble:

  • takes talented young folk musicians from across England
  • has up to 25 players
  • is open to young people aged 14–18 
  • is open to any instrument 
  • focuses mainly on instrumental music, with song and dance included as elements of the programme
  • has a significant focus on English traditional folk music, reflecting its regional variety, complemented by folk music from wider Britain and beyond
  • includes newly devised and composed music drawing from the tradition
  • offers membership on an annual basis via audition
  • meets for residential courses, rehearsals and performances at various locations across England
  • aims to complement, build on and help link existing youth folk music provision
  • seeks positive relationships with similar youth folk music ensembles in the other nations of the UK and, in time, beyond

The standard was excellent – their musicianship, stage presence, performance skills and enthusiasm made it an evening to remember for a long time

Songlines, June 2018

Longer-term development plans (requiring additional funding) include:

  • extension opportunities for 19 - 25 year olds who have 'graduated' from the ensemble
  • an engagement programme that will help foster the growth of local and regional youth folk music ensembles, courses etc., particularly where there is currently little provision


With the Ensemble we aim to increase opportunities for young people and audiences to discover folk music and raise the profile of folk music in England through high quality performance and learning experiences. 

Longer term, we aim to enable progression from earliest grassroots activity in schools and community settings to professional careers and lifelong engagement with folk music.

The National Youth Folk Ensemble is an English Folk Dance and Song Society programme, funded by Arts Council England.


Arts Council England

National Youth Folk Ensemble on Instagram

See highlights from the Ensemble's residential courses and performances