Creating a legacy of folk music at the Museum of St Albans

THE curators of an exhibition to be held in the Museum of St Albans next year would like to hear from anyone with memories or memorabilia from the history of local folk music and dance.

They would welcome videos, films, photos and recordings of performances, posters, fliers, costumes or musical instruments as part of the celebration of a century of folk music and dance performance in the district.

The exhibition next March coincides with St Albans’ annual MusicCity celebrations.

St Albans Folk at the Festival, the umbrella group which organises St Albans Folk Festival, will coordinate the contribution of local groups and be guest curator for the exhibition, working in association with The Museum of St Albans, and The Arts Team at St Albans Arts, Sport and Health (SAASH).

The district has a history of over a century of activity, starting from the beginning of the 20th Century when piano manufacturer John Tschudi Broadwood and his wife Ada lived at Bone Hill in Chiswell Green and Ada Broadwood and her daughter Janet collected some songs from local people, with some help from John’s sister Lucy Broadwood, who was secretary of the Folk Song Society, formed in 1898.

Folk dance groups were formed in the inter-war years and held summer folk dance festivals at local stately homes including Gorhambury and Rothamsted Manor.

The Herts district of the English Folk Dance and Song Society ensured those activities continued in the post-war era. St Albans Morris Men was founded in 1930 and was the only group in the City until Cottonmill Clog Morris started in 1978.

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By that time morris dancing was no longer an all-male preserve and Cottonmill was one of the first mixed groups in the country. The 1960s was a time of folk song revival. The St Albans Folk Club which ran from the the late 1950s to the early 1980s at the Peahen, the Queen’s Hotel and then the Goat had a strong team of resident singers and booked well known guests including the Liverpool Spinners and Martin Carthy.

Donovan and Maddy Prior each started their singing career at that club. After it closed, folk music could be in other clubs meeting in a number of different pub back rooms.

Folk music and dance continue to flourish in the district and anyone with memorabilia they could lend to the exhibition is asked to email a list in the first instance along with dimensions and approximate value of each item by November 23.

The curatorial team will then get back to people prior to arranging for items to be dropped off at the museum.

The information should be sent either to St Albans Folk at the Festival, email, 01727 852111 or Grae Wall at