I recently took part in an online study day on Ballad and Song in the History of North West England run by the Regional Heritage Centre at Lancaster University. Although I’ve taken part in a lot of online activities over the last 12 months, this was a little bit different. Back in April we speakers went up to Lancaster Castle to record our papers, in pairs, meaning that the audience was made up of two or maybe three people – the organiser, the cameraman and, possibly, the other speaker. I went up in the morning, and listened to Jennifer Reid talk about the similarities between Mancunian songs from the Industrial Revolution and those she had collected on her recent trips to Bangladesh. I can’t help but think that there’s the potential for some really interesting work in this area…

I then talked about John Balshaw’s Jig, in a paper heavily based on the work I did for it’s upcoming publication (it’s gone off to the printers, by the way, and I’m just waiting for the proofs to come through – exciting times!). I talked about the manuscript itself and the plot of the jigg, giving a few sung examples from each section of the script, as wel as how it related to the Civil War and who John Balshaw might have been. Having done a several recordings for Sovereign Education prior to this, I’m beginning to get used to talking to a camera!

The other two speakers recorded their lectures during the afternoon, so like all the participants in the study day, I caught up with those papers on Moodle in the week running up to the live event. Dr Martin Purdy described what he saw as Industrial Bias and North West Song from the Victorians to the Modern Age, and why he believes the few north west folk bands who are active on the national scene explicitly engage with their northern roots by singing some of this repetoire. Finally, I listened to Dr Sue Allan’s paper, Folk Song in Cumbria – a distinctive regional repertoire? She talked about how she discovered that Cumbrian folk songs tended to be made up of dialect songs and poems as well as hunting songs.

Then on the Saturday afternoon, we joined a Teams call with the study day participants where we gave a quick precis of our talk, and then discussed some wide ranging questions from the audience. It was certainly an interesting afternoon, and I’m pleased to have got a few emails with useful pointers in them since the live event itself.