The English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) has announced a new exhibition and associated series of special events at its north London centre as part of its first ever commission to marry contemporary crafts with traditional folk arts, music and dance.
Sonic visual artist David Littler will curate Yan Tan Tethera, a season of performances, events, workshops and an exhibition at and around Cecil Sharp House, the north London home of EFDSS, from May to September.
The inspirational commission, supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, will explore the rich vein of folk songs and dances that have emanated from, and been inspired by, England’s textiles industry.
Yan Tan Tethera – which is a traditional sheep counting system used predominantly in the north of England as well as a way to count stitches in knitting – will explore, share and bring to life some of the songs from the industry.
The collaborative project also involves other artists, who will present new work in response to the theme of textile folk songs and dances: Freddie Robins, Shane Waltener, Prick Your Finger, Stewart Easton, The McGrath Makers’ Group, singer Aimée Leonard and artists from the collective sampler-cultureclash – Jason Singh, Hector MacInnes and Anne Martin.
“Yan Tan Tehthera is a celebration of the once very close relationship between making and song.
The idea for the project came about after working with contemporary and traditional textile makers from Lithuania, Romania and Turkey. I realised I knew little about the textile songs of this country so decided to explore and found a very rich heritage.
I plan to dig into the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s (EFDSS) library and archive, in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, to connect with, build upon and share the wonderful work of collectors, researchers, writers, singers and groups already exploring local and regional songs connected with textile production.
We aim to share these songs in a variety of ways and there will be a dedicated website www.textilefolksong.co.uk for connecting people, the songs and the work created during the project.”
David Littler, curator of Yan Tan Tethera
“The English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) is very excited to be working with David Littler on this unique project. As an organisation, we are always looking for ways to explore traditional folk music and dance through different mediums and Yan Tan Tethera offers us that opportunity.
“One of the best things about this project is the way that it offers so many opportunities for people to take part, whether by coming along to one of the events or exploring www.textilefolksong.co.uk. It is a very inclusive project and we are really looking forward to the whole season.”
Katy Spicer, Chief Executive (EFDSS)
May to September
Yan Tan Tethera is not just confined to Cecil Sharp House – graffiti textile song chairs will be placed in cafes, shops and community centres around Camden. People are invited to pick up a needle and embroider their favourite textiles songs lyrics into the upholstery. The chairs will feature in the project’s culminating event, Spin Cycle.
Saturday 10 May, 2pm to 5pm
The annual afternoon festival will have a textiles theme this year. People will be able to stitch and spin around the maypole with Liam Robinson and his band, makes arts and crafts inspired by textures old and new with Yan Tan Tethera project artists, and enjoy other folk fun including barn and morris dancing, stories, songs, live music and more.
15 May to 25 September
Available to view during building opening hours
Artists Freddie Robins, Shane Waltener, Stewart Easton and the McGrath Makers’ Group showcase new work inspired by the connection between textiles and folk song. They will dig into the Vaughan William’s Memorial Library’s archive to connect with, build upon and share the wonderful work of collectors, researchers, writers, singers and groups already exploring local and regional songs connected with textile production. Expect influences from the laments of Coventry ribbon weavers, protests of Preston steam-loom strikers and Huddersfield loom breakers, as well as the processes and sounds of making; strutching and hackling to the rhythms of the spinning wheel, the din of the weaving shed, the punching of digital embroidery machines and the hum of the 3D printer.
Free (no booking required)
Thursday 15 May, from 7pm (drop-in)
A making and singing event focusing on wool and led by Prick Your Finger, Aimée Leonard and The Dulwich Folk Choir, Shane Waltener’s dance weavers, and members of Cecil Sharp House Choir. Come along to sing and stitch. Bring your needles and favourite textiles inspired song with you! This event is part of Museums at Night, Culture24’s festival of after-hours cultural events.
Tickets Free (advance booking recommended)
Saturday 5 July, 7pm
Join in the annual celebration of adult music-making at Cecil Sharp House. Experience music, song and dance inspired by the rhythms, activities and traditions of textile making and the work of artist in residence David Littler. Featuring the Cecil Sharp House Choir, Camden Clog, London Fiddle School, participants from the Saturday Folk Music Workshops, and other guests to be announced.
Thursday 25 September 7.30pm
David Littler’s sampler cultureclash collective’s multi-media performance cook up a storm of sampling shenanigans. Textile-makers, singers and musicians Anne Martin and Hector MacInnes, along with Aimee Leonard and Jason Singh, collaborate to present a unique sonic visual performance exploring all things that spin.
The project is being supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.