Five people who have made key contributions to the folk arts are the latest recipients of Gold Badge awards from the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS).
Pete and Sue Coe, the musician and dancer who were founders of Ryburn Three Step, Maggie Fletcher, a leading musician on the English country dance scene, and long term EFDSS and folk dance volunteers and advocates Mike Wilson-Jones and Mary Wilson-Jones have all been chosen to receive the awards.
Gold Badges are given for unique or outstanding contributions to folk music, dance or song, distinguished service to EFDSS and/or exceptional contributions to EFDSS’ work.
They join an illustrious list of Gold Badge holders including EFDSS founder Cecil Sharp, composer Dr Ralph Vaughan Williams, performer/writer A.L. Lloyd, and musicians The Spinners, EFDSS President Shirley Collins and Vice President Eliza Carthy.
“I am delighted that Pete, Sue, Maggie, Mary and Mike have been recognised for the important role they have played in their individual fields.
“They have all helped to inspire, support and inform generations of folk fans which enables the traditional English folk arts to continue to thrive. They are all very well deserved awards.”
Alistair Anderson, Chair of the EFDSS Board
This year, Pete Coe has celebrated more than 50 years of music making on the English folk scene. His contributions include traditional song research, song writing in traditional style, the founding of several seminal bands, plus solo and duo performances, dance calling, recording, field research, local folk activism in Ryburn Three Step and teaching at various levels.
He was the founder member and visionary force behind three particularly ground breaking groups – The New Victory Band, Bandoggs and Red Shift – all of which brought something new to the folk scene.
As well as developing a wide range of traditional songs for performance, Pete has had an illustrious songwriting career with many songs covered by other artists. His collecting of a single verse of Marching Down through Rochester with its Waltzing Matilda tune, and its subsequent expansion to a full song has made him the focus of attention by various researchers in search of the roots of the famous Australian song. Most recently Mark Radcliffe featured his rather personal Rolling Down The Ryburn on his BBC Radio 2 programme, sung by Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar.
Pete has contributed a number of field recordings including Caleb Walker (musician for Manley Morris), travellers Charlotte & Betsy Renals and Sophie Legge, and Willy Taylor. He has carried out extensive research into the work of Frank Kidson, which resulted in a touring show and a CD under the title of Five Finger Frank.
Pete has also worked extensively in schools throughout the country as a visiting musician both on his own account and for the EFDSS on the Take 6 Project. He was also a founder member of Ryburn Three Step, along with wife Sue.
Sue Coe came to English folk music later in her husband Pete’s career and added her enthusiastic contributions with huge administration efforts within Ryburn Three Step. Sue provided all the administration including early funding applications as well as teaching Appalachian dance and the longsword side for Ryburn Three Step.
Ryburn Three Step organises a range of regular activities for local people including clog and Appalachian step dance classes, a singing group, a longsword dance side plus an offshoot rapper side, a mummer’s side, monthly folk club and dance, occasional workshop days plus weekly music sessions in the local pub.
She developed Ryburn Longsword over several years, recruiting youngsters from local schools and ultimately including their mothers in the dancing, resulting in a junior and a senior team. Along with team members she developed new dances with a local flavour and has presented the Ryburn team regularly at dance festivals.
Sue continues to run weekly workshops for disabled and wheelchair bound youngsters, developing dances suitable for their abilities and providing for them a very necessary inclusion.
Maggie Fletcher has been a leading exponent of playing piano for country dance for 60 years, and played in one of the leading English country dance bands. She has led the Monday Musicians session at Cecil Sharp House for more than 40 years and produced an unparalleled repertoire of dance music that has spread worldwide. Maggie has also consistently encouraged and supported the development of young musicians through her various roles.
She became actively involved in folk dance and music in 1961 helping to start the then Curfew Folk Dance Club that became a meeting point for young musicians including John Kirkpatrick and Vic Godrich. Maggie also became an active member of The Sunday Club and attended Folk Camps and was instrumental in launch the first Youth Folk Camps.
She joined the Blue Mountain Band in 1969 as the piano player, music researcher and co-organiser. It became one of the top folk dance bands, performing and running workshops at all the major festivals, and playing for dances throughout England. The band played for free when The London Barndance Company started and continued as the resident band on most Friday nights at Cecil Sharp House.
Maggie has also researched and meticulously hand written and chorded more than 400 sheets of music drawn from a number of different sources. This music has gone into the repertoire of many bands and copies have been reported in band repertoire in locations as far afield as Shetland, the USA and Australia.
Maggie has always been keen to pass on her knowledge to others, and particularly to encourage young musicians. She has obviously done this through Monday Musicians, but has also run many music workshops with Blue Mountain Band and, more recently, on her own. She has also conducted and assisted in many workshops.
Maggie has played in a band put together for trips to France and the USA and been a regular dancer caller at her local dance clubs and on occasion, called bilingually for visiting French dance groups. She has always played a supportive role as a member of EFDSS and was a District Representative on the NEC from 1992 to 1998.
Mary’s association with EFDSS goes back more than 50 years to when she started dancing in Stratford-upon-Avon. She met her husband Mike at Cecil Sharp House and they have both been involved as leading dancers with the Sunday Club, which evolved into London Folk. She started dancing North West morris in the early 1980s as a member of Hampshire Garland and subsequently joined Kettle Bridge Clogs in 1986, with whom she still dances.
Mary showed her organisational skills at an early stage by organising the Inter Varsity festival in London in 1962, and subsequently served on the EFDSS Folk Centre committee responsible for events at Cecil Sharp House in the 1970s.
She is EFDSS’s longest serving Company Secretary, having held the position since 2003. Her role has developed significantly over the years as EFDSS has developed its governance model with the introduction of Trustees and Directors and a governing board. She also acted as temporary General Manager of EFDSS prior to the arrival of current Chief Executive and Artistic Director Katy Spicer.
Mike has been a dancer, caller, teacher, choreographer, producer, director, committee member, treasurer and library volunteer over the past 60 years.
He was introduced to morris and sword dancing at school and became hooked on all forms of folk dance. After moving to London to work he found his way into performances with the Sunday Club (later London Folk), the Whirligigs, the Westminster Morris Men and the London Branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.
Mike and wife Mary were leading dancers at EFDSS’ annual festival at the Royal Albert Hall (RAH). He became Director of London Folk in 1978 and produced the RAH festivals between 1979 and 1985.
He taught in Holland with Pat Shaw and others, and took over one of Pat’s classes at Cecil Sharp House when Pat moved to Scotland.
Mike first joined EFDSS’ National Executive Committee in 1970 and has been a member of one or more of its committees in more than 30 of the ensuing years. As former Honorary Treasurer, Mike played a key role in establishing’ EFDSS’ accounting, membership and Folk Shop systems.
He also volunteers at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library and has digitised and catalogued all of the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s 78rpm English, Scottish, Irish and American dance collection listening to more than 2,000 discs. Mike is also continuing with ongoing work on part of the Society’s photo collection and working through the Society’s historical paper records so that they can be archived.