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At the heart of English folk
Flo Brooks

Flo Brooks

Flo Brooks will be opening his new exhibition at Cecil Sharp House on Tuesday 10 February. Under the title Heaving the Lead, the works are inspired by research conducted in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, where Flo looked into what he describes as “marginalised or invisible narratives within a larger folklore landscape”.

An important concept at the heart of this exhibition is that of liminality.

“Liminality kind of denotes an unstable, mutating in-betweenness,” Flo explains. “I like thinking about people and physical spaces, and time I guess, as all potentially engaging with it. Instead of looking at social history as this kind of linear progression, it’s like interrupting it.

“For me it’s inherently political in a way, because it’s sort of rejecting these very stable, fixed constraints of the way we look at things. It’s an interesting way of re-interpreting stuff – folk histories, the way people have lived and the things that they’ve done, because we often forget about the little things.”

A good example of one such liminal narrative depicted in the exhibition is the history of rapper swords.

“Their origin is cited as either coming from old mining tools, or … sawn down bed slats,” Flo says, “Because a lot of folk dances are pretty male-dominated, I thought it would be great to re-insert more of an invisible narrative into that. So I wanted to make a painting about a pit brow lass, which is a Lancashire term for a woman that works in a mine. I thought maybe she could be the one who would either discover the tools or saw down the bed slat to make this flexible sword.”

Folk history has always been a source of inspiration to artists of all disciplines – as humans, we have a natural inclination to find other humans interesting. Flo explains what it is that catches his interest:

“[Folk history] appeals to my interest in vernacular culture, the things local people have made out of what’s been at hand. [It’s] a good way of finding out about the way people behaved, the things that were important or necessary, and how those things manifested themselves culturally, and the radical effects of them – that’s the thing I’m probably most interested in.”

These stories will be depicted in the form of eight acrylic paintings and a sculpture in the stairwell, which will remain on display until Thursday 30 April. The exhibition will open on Tuesday 10 February with a private view at Cecil Sharp House, featuring performances from The Muddy Lane String Band and rapper dance team The Tower Ravens.

Find out more about the exhibition
Find out more about the private view


National Youth Folk Ensemble

National Youth Folk Ensemble


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