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English Vernacular Performing Arts in the Late Twentieth Century

Brown, T. (2000). English Vernacular Performing Arts in the Late Twentieth Century. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This study uses questionnaires, interviews, information from the historical record and other research to examine the conduct of vernacular dance and theatre groups in England and Wales in the later Twentieth Century. It analyses questionnaire returns from 332 groups performing various types of morris, sword, social and step dancing, traditional mumming plays or maintaining annual calendar customs, and reports 12 major case studies on organisations ranging in age from 25 to, reputedly, over 400 years old.

It investigates how these groups are organised and managed, the structures, motivations and dynamics within the groups and the influences within which they operate. In doing so it challenges many misconceptions and presents revised ways of considering the subject activities. Comparisons with classic management paradigms indicate that the groups, however unconsciously, have some dynamic and structural similarities to more conventional organisations although their power structure is effectively inverted.

The thesis concludes that although these folk forms tend to regard themselves as all part of one movement, the Folk Revival, there are four distinct kinds of group operation and approach. The groups use methods of organisation which enable them constantly to adapt and recreate their art, allowing them to survive sometimes radical changes in the social milieu. It shows how the apparently opposing drives of creative imperative, contemporary relevance and preservation of the past co-exist within the Folk Revival and produce performances adapted to self-satisfaction, community self-celebration or the commercial markets of festival stages and the heritage industry.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
P Language and Literature
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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