English Folk Dance and Song Society


English Folk Dance and Song Society
   The EFDSS was formed in 1932 by the amalgamation of the *Folk-Song Society (founded 1898), and the *English Folk Dance Society (EFDS) (founded 1911). At that time, the two societies had a number of leading figures in common, including Ralph *Vaughan Williams and Maud *Karpeles, who felt that the two bodies had sufficiently compatible aims to combine to make a stronger organization. Since then, the EFDSS has been the leading institution in the *song and *dance field in England, and has also contributed significantly to their performance, collection, and study and is still active in promoting and co-ordinating activities and publications at a variety of levels.
   The fact that the EFDSS has come under constant criticism since its inception, from one group or another within and outside its membership, cannot be ignored, and some of its problems can be seen in the original amalgamation plan. Even at that time there were voices who argued against the venture - Alice *Gomme, for example - who feared that the primarily recreationally minded and much larger EFDS would swamp the more scholarly minded Folk-Song Society, and until the postwar song revival this looked as if it might be true. With notable exceptions, the rank-and-file membership remained polarized into dance people and song people, with the former numerically stronger. However, not only were there dance and song camps, but there were also within each camp those whose primary interest was in research and others whose interest was in performance; and within the performance camps there were those who wished to perpetuate the styles and repertoire of the past in a relatively strict form, while others believed in artistic freedom and development. Added to this, there have been other areas of debate - whether women should be allowed to dance the *morris, for example, or whether the Society should be solely concerned with English traditions. The potential for conflict within this complex of attitudes and agendas is obvious, and tensions have periodically flared into open conflict.
   It also cannot be denied that the Society has been slow at times to understand the major changes taking place at large in the song and dance movements and has always appeared slightly behind the times and therefore slightly irrelevant. It is perhaps expecting too much of an organization dedicated to the preservation of traditional cultural forms to be at the cutting-edge of cultural change, but the new *revival which came into being in the 1950s and blossomed in the next two decades appeared to many to be taking place in spite of the EFDSS rather than because of it.
   On the more positive side, the EFDSS, by its continued existence, has provided a focal point for much of the enduring work carried out in song and dance, and has acted as a channel for information exchange between its members and the outside world, in addition to providing thousands of ordinary enthusiasts with the opportunity to indulge in dance and song activities which would not have existed otherwise. The Society has provided recordings and dance instruction manuals to countless schoolteachers and other bodies and has thus helped to provide the materials and foundations of each new revival, and a small but respectable catalogue of books and sound recordings of traditional song has been issued over the years. Without its continued work little would have survived to be revived. The Society's journal, the *Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (1932-64), continued as the *Folk MusicJournal (1965 to date), is a major repository of material in its own right, and has developed into an internationally-respected scholarly publication; and the magazine, *English Dance and Song (1936 to date) also provides an essential outlet for less formal articles, reviews, and notes. The *Vaughan Williams Memorial Library has the best collection of song and dance material in the country, and has developed into an essential information resource for scholars, with a deservedly high reputation for the support it gives to research. The EFDSS is based at *Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regents Park Road, London NW1 7AY (Tel.: (0207) 485 2206).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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