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At the heart of English folk
Archive photos and folders

Who is in the frame?

Mike Wilson-Jones, former EFDSS Board Member and longstanding VWML volunteer, writes about identifying and indexing the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s (EFDSS) collection of photographs. Having been assembled and donated from many sources over the last 100 years, the collection is thought to contain about 20,000 photographs.

A lot of work has been done to identify and index them for the archives, but a significant number have been ‘waiting for some attention’. There have been pressing projects (like Take 6 and The Full English which have consumed the Library Director’s time), so I volunteered to take an initial look at some of the social dance, morris and sword photos needing closer scrutiny.

I have attempted to group them into discrete ‘bundles’ and on 9 July I assembled a small working party to start work on a small batch, attempting to identify people, place and date. We looked at a collection where the dates were pretty clearly identified – Royal Albert Hall festivals, going back to 1948 and through to the last event in 1984. We also looked at a number of events at the House, particularly those attended by HRH Princess Margaret.

My stalwart group consisted of Marjorie Fennessy, Brenda Godrich, Mary and Peter Brimelow and Alison Reynolds. Our combined experience was enough to get us started on what will inevitably be a long task, as each photograph needs to be identified as closely as possible for indexing and cataloguing. Ideally each photograph also needs to be digitised and stored with its written record.

Identifying photosIdentifying photosIdentifying photos

Click here to view photos of the group at work, identifying photos, on Flickr

The photos I have identified are mainly dated from the early days of English Folk Dance Society (EFDS) up to about 1980. I am sure there are more to be unearthed related to more recent events. We have photos from Stratford in the 1940s and 1950s, Sidmouth from 1955 onwards, Whitby, other holiday courses, lots of morris and sword, many still completely unidentified. There is also a whole drawer full of foreign teams at various EFDSS events. It is a fascinating task if you are interested in the Society’s past and have a reasonable memory and an eye for detail.

The whole project is going to take time and resources. Some of that will come from volunteer help like the group assembled earlier this month, but some will need technical help and computer resources, which will cost money.

If you think you would be able to help identify places and people and would like to offer some time to come in to the Library and assist, then I am sure the new Library Director would be pleased to hear from you. You can get in touch by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or calling T: +44 (0)20 7485 2206 ext.233.

Alternatively, if you, or your local group, would like to contribute something towards the costs that will be incurred, particularly for the digitising and computer resources, then I am sure that would be gratefully received and put to excellent use to help maintain the records of OUR Society.


National Youth Folk Ensemble

National Youth Folk Ensemble


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