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Doc Rowe Folklore Talk

Fri 9 June 2023, 2.30pm4.00pm

Doc Rowe Folklore Talk

This illustrated talk will look briefly at historical attitudes to seasonal events in the British folklore calendar – but foremost will be a celebration of the variety and richness of a contemporary living culture rather than just an interpretation or exploration of the past. Remarkably, many events are unknown, overlooked or otherwise treated trivially as “quaint, bizarre and outmoded”. A current interest and fascination in folklore means we are now seeing ancient – or not so ancient – beliefs being adapted, reconstructed or created anew. This interest in “our national heritage” and tradition does however, often find genuine local material supplanted by a synthetic or nostalgic product that more readily suits commercial interests of the heritage industry, tourism or fashion.

Described by The Guardian as “Britain’s greatest folklorist”, over a 60-year period Doc Rowe has been documenting folklore, song, dance and cultural traditions and has amassed an archive of material on both past and contemporary popular culture in Britain. Consistently focusing on annual seasonal events, his collection comprises video, film, photography and audio recording that has been created over half-a-century, cited by the British Library as an “internationally significant archive of British folk life, lore and cultural tradition.”

As a researcher, consultant and writer, he regularly broadcasts on various aspects of folklore and tradition and his photographs are widely published as well as shown in exhibitions of his work. A long standing council member of the Folklore Society, his experience and knowledge of seasonal events is unequalled and this is continually updated by his ongoing ‘serial’ fieldwork. He also collaborates generously with artists and curators on associated activities – such as this current exhibition by the Museum of British Folklore at Compton Verney.


This event accompanies the exhibition Making Mischief: Folk Costume in Britain.

Lead image: © Compton Verney, Photo by Jamie Woodley