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At the heart of English folk
Heaving the Lead exhibition

#1: Welcome!

Flo Brooks presents a new series of paintings and sculpture based on research from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library (VWML) to uncover some of the vernacular processes, materials and activities associated with twentieth century folk practices. The exhibition will focus on transitional activities surrounding the construction of folk costume, dance and prop in the otherwise invisible folds of everyday pursuits.

From a group of Beadnell flither pickers mending the breeches belonging to their rapper team, to a fictional fine artist creating a steel wired model of a Grenoside longsword dancer, the pieces will blur fact with fiction and expose the invisible narratives in folk history.

They interrupt the threshold between day-to-day life and custom – their liminality – and celebrate the innovative and radical activities of England’s ‘folk’ and their communities.

Brooks’ use of the term liminal is to describe an unstable, mutating site of reinvention. It’s meaning is characteristic of ‘inbetweeness’ of borders, margins, spaces, bodies, time and actions all potentially engage with its queer slipperiness. The exploration of this state between two fixed points can be seen throughout the exhibition, as a raised shoe about to hit the floor or a bed slat being cut.

Included within the exhibition are some of the artefacts and documents from VWML that have been fundamental to Brooks’ exploration of the ideas of liminality within customs. Heaving the Lead is not just a celebration of the transformative process of folk customs but also the wealth of material the library and archive hold and their social and historical import.

Heaving the Lead zine

The VWML archives have aided the reconstruction, revision and reassessment of historical material otherwise omitted from mainstream folkloric rhetoric, and effectively comments on the way historical exclusions are selected and made.

The research gathered here, along with the artefacts and photographs on display at Cecil Sharp House, help provide a social, historical and political context to the folk customs and activities encountered in the exhibition.

A selection of the research material will be presented here over the next 12 weeks, alongside interviews and comments from a range of people.



National Youth Folk Ensemble

National Youth Folk Ensemble


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