By Jess Arrowsmith, singer, fiddle player and dancer.
Welcome to my village. I don’t mean the geographical area where I live, I mean my community, and for me that includes people from all over the place – who are brought together by a common interest or love of traditional music, song or dance. We’re a varied lot – a mix of backgrounds, ages, life-stages, and within the broad folk genre, of interests. Some are gregarious types who interact widely with lots of other communities, some are introverts, narrowly focussed on one element of the folk whole, some veer wildly between these two extremes or reside steadily somewhere in the middle.
We’ve got our fair share of oddballs and tend to be pretty inclusive of people being a bit different to the norm (whatever that is!) But the thing that I love and value most, is that our community is so much more than just a bunch of people with a common hobby. By coming together and sharing our music or dance, we end up sharing each other’s lives – joys and sorrows and food and drink and children and silliness and the peace at the end of the day. That’s why I think of it as a village.
I’m not claiming that other communities don’t also experience these qualities – but I think the folk world is pretty special in that it is (or can be) so broadly accepting and so easily accessible. It often puzzles me how surprised the non-folkies in my life seem by the range of places I go and people I know. Maybe my rosy tinted spectacles mislead me to think that a few generations ago it would have been the norm to join in community activities as a matter of course. Then, actual local geography did play a much larger part and your local community was centred around church, school and wider extended family living close together.
Maybe I am wrong in thinking that for a lot of people nowadays, modern life doesn’t include so much social activity because it is too easy to hide away in front of a screen, and only really interact with close family, friends and work colleagues on a fairly superficial level. But getting out there and sharing a common goal or experience with a bunch of people who I don’t necessarily know very well, and through that getting to know them better and both of us coming away richer at the end of the day – is hugely important to me and I can’t help but evangelise about it. I often joke that I don’t understand how anybody can bring up kids without a morris team to help – and it isn’t as much of a joke as all that.
Now for many people reading this article, I am probably preaching to the choir. You know all this stuff as well as I do and already regularly experience some or all of my following list of “Things that are good about the global folk village” (or could add extra bullet points of your own):
That said, I do also wonder whether there are a few down-sides to being part of such a global village.
I’m not able to offer any definitive answers to any of this, but am pretty sure that awareness and sensitivity go a long way towards mitigating most of the above issues.
So, if you have stumbled across this article by chance I can only share my own thoughts and suggest that my village is a wonderful place to be and you’d be very welcome to move here! By which I mean, check out what there is geographically near to you – there’s bound to be a festival or a dance team, a folk club or a session – dive in and have a go and see where it leads you!
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of EFDSS.