English folk and traditional music on the Internet

A guide to resources

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This is a guide to Internet resources relating to English folk music. A fuller statement of the aims and scope of these pages is on another page. Comments and suggestions -- especially about useful resources I have overlooked -- to me (Martin Nail), please.


General guides

Two wiki-based encyclopaedias, both very much works in progress, are:

There are a number of UK-based magazine-like sites, with information about the folk scene in the UK: news, reviews, tours, artists, folk clubs, etc, and links to other sites. These include:

A comparable site based in Germany is FolkWorld.

There are a number of discussion fora which cover the English folk scene, including the fRoots Forum and The Mudcat Café (which though American has many English contributors and has many threads of purely English interest such as discussion about English licensing laws). The main Internet newsgroup is uk.music.folk, though most discussion which used to take place there has now migrated to the forums just described; as with other Usenet newsgroups, there is an archive of the group in Google Groups. There is a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for the group.

I have a listing of Music subject search tools: a guide to link lists, search engines, and subject gateways, concentrating on those covering folk music and ethnomusicology. You can also of course use general search engines like Google, but for general queries they are likely to overload you with results of little relevance. They can however be useful for some sorts of specific queries, such as bands with distinctive names.


There are interesting discussions on the tradition, and the meaningfulness of terms such as 'folk' and 'traditional' on the Musical Traditions magazine Enthusiasms and Letters pages. Bill Markwick's somewhat idiosyncratic The Folk File: a folkie's dictionary describes itself as 'A collection of terms related to folk music, plus some mini-biographies, musicology terms, trivia, and miscellaneous facts and figures'.


The main national organisations with websites are:

My Folk and traditional music in specific areas of England page on this site lists folk song clubs and other local organisations with web pages. Martin Kiff's Webfeet pages contain lists of English ceilidh and English Folk Dance series and dance clubs.

Libraries, archives and museums

The major specialist collection of printed material and sound recordings of all sorts is the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library of the English Folk Dance and Song Society. The Library now has an Online Catalogue, currently containing the Leslie Shepard Collection and a large proportion of the books in the library, including new acquisitions and records from the previous in-house electronic database. The Library plans to finish converting the card catalogue and to add records for its holdings of periodicals. The VWML Online site contains a number of indexes etc which are described in the Discographies, bibliographies and indexes and Song, tune and dance collections sections below.

The national collection of sound recordings of folk and traditional musics is the World and Traditional Music collection of the British Library Sound Archive. Items in it are listed in the British Library Sound Archive Catalogue, available online. The Archive's Traditional Music in England Project digitised, catalogued and has made available a number of important collections of English songs and music from the second half of the twentieth century.

The University Library of the University of Sheffield includes Archives of Cultural Tradition, a collection of archives from the former National Centre for English Cultural Tradition (NATCECT), covering the subject areas of folklore, dialect and cultural tradition. Individual collections include The Russell Wortley Collection of Traditional Dance, Music and Custom, and The Dave Bathe Collection of Derbyshire Traditional Dance and Drama.

Many other libraries in England such as the Bodleian Library have substantial printed and manuscript collections of English folk music material. Cecilia is an on-line guide to music collections in archives, libraries and museums in the UK and Ireland.

The most comprehensive collection of folk and traditional musical instruments is in the Horniman Museum in London. Other museums in the UK with musical instrument collections are listed in the CIMCIM International Directory of Musical Instrument Collections: UK.

Research and education


Folk music -- and folklore generally -- barely exists as a academic study in England, especially since the demise of the National Centre for English Cultural Tradition. We have no organisation equivalent to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in the USA, or even the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. The Open University's Musics and Cultures Research Group is no more, but its web page has details of past activities.


The University of Newcastle upon Tyne offers an undergraduate degree course in Folk and Traditional Music.

The EFDSS Education Department runs educational and participatory arts projects, classes, workshops, seminars and other events.

I list a few Tutors and courses on my folk music businesses page.


The Traditional Song Forum is an association of people interested in research, collection and performance of traditional song, principally of the British Isles. There is an associated Yahoo! discussion list called Tradsong. The Doc Rowe Archive and Collection is a major contemporary collection of material relating to traditional seasonal customs.

Collections of recordings made in England now in the British Library Sound Archive are listed in a Guide to European ethnographic sound recordings collections in PDF format (77.46 KB).

The EFDSS Take Six website contains a searchable database of the archives of seven of the UK's most prominent folksong collectors (Sabine Baring-Gould, Janet Blunt, George Butterworth, Frances Collinson, George Gardiner, Anne G Gilchrist and the Hammond Brothers). A catalogue of the archives can be browsed and searched and over twenty-two thousand digitised images can be viewed.

The Society has now been awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a follow-up project, the Full English, which will archive, conserve and digitise materials from six archives containing additional important folk song collections -- those of Harry Albino, Lucy Broadwood, Clive Carey, Percy Grainger, Maud Karpeles, Frank Kidson, Thomas Fairman Ordish, Cecil Sharp, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Alfred Williams -- and allow free public access to 58,400 digitised collection items through a new web portal. when combined with the Take 6 material it will form most comprehensive searchable database of British folk songs, tunes, dances and customs in the world.

Other sites relating to collectors from previous generations include the catalogue of the James Madison Carpenter Collection, (a major collection of traditional song and drama, from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the USA) now online. Martin Graebe's Songs of the West site "describes the life and work of Sabine Baring-Gould and the collection of songs that he made at the end of the nineteenth century".

Print and broadcast media

Magazines and journals

Jacey Bedford maintains a list Folk magazines in the UK and the South Riding Folk Arts Network site has a list of Internet Resources: Directories and Magazines.


BBC Radio 2 a site for the Mike Harding Show.

Jacey Bedford maintains Folk on the Radio - UK, a list of folk music radio programmes. Some Internet radio stations which feature English music (as part of wider programming) are The Music Well (formerly RadioBritfolk), FolkCast, and Fred McCormick's Worlds of Trad.

Discographies, bibliographies and indexes


Rod Stradling is compiling a Discography of Recorded Traditional Music on the Musical Traditions site. This site also contains The Complete Topic Records Discography by Mike Brocken, Alistair Banfield & Rod Stradling. David Atkinson's English Folk Song: an introductory bibliography: Discography (PDF file) is part of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library series of study guides. Jane Keefer's Folk Music: an Index to Recorded Resources contains over 63,580 songs and tunes from about 4,400 recordings (November 2008). Coverage is largely American, but British and Irish records are included; it is indexed by title and performer. Selected English Folk Singers contains discographies (including track listings) for about twenty English revival performers. Many of the artists' pages mentioned below contain individual discographies.

An important resource - though not of course limited to folk music - is the British Library Sound Archive Catalogue.


The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library has started publishing its series of study guides. Those available so far are:

The South Riding Folk Arts Network site has a list of Song collections: online books and Song collections: websites. It also has an extensive bibliography of Folk song studies, in five sections: online books and journals, journal articles, websites, Indexes, bibliographies and finding aids, and related material.

Although their focus is on American and Scottish folk music, the listings at Ed Cray's Folk Ballad Bibliography contain much material of interest.



VWML Online contains a number of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library's indexes to manuscript collections (Cecil Sharp, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Maud Karpeles, Lucy Broadwood, the Hammond bothers, Francis Collinson, George Gardiner, and Percy Grainger). Also on this site is the Roud Folk Song Index, which is Steve Roud's indispensable database of over 191,000 references to songs that have been collected from oral tradition in the English language from all over the world. Likewise available is the Roud Broadside Index. The Roud indexes now have an associated discussion list RoudIndexes.

Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle of California State University, Fresno have compiled The Traditional Ballad Index: An Annotated Bibliography of the Folk Songs of the English-Speaking World. Bruce Olson's Roots of Folk: Old English, Scots, and Irish Songs and Tunes has links to collections of tunes and of texts of broadside ballads. Cathy Lynn Preston has a "Working" KWIC Concordance to Francis James Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882-1898)

The Plymouth Library Service's Plymouth Song Index -- an "index of over 60,000 song titles in nearly 2,000 songbooks" -- is not restricted to folksong, but includes many folksong collections (the Library houses a Baring-Gould collection). The index is no longer accessible directly but the contents can be found by searching the library's online catalogue.

The Folk Song Index: An Oberlin College Libraries & Sing Out! Collaboration indexes over 2,400 anthologies in the college library and the Sing Out! Resource Center. It is an "index to traditional folk songs of the world with an emphasis on English-language songs", with predominance of American publications.

Tunes and dances

Two useful indexes to printed collections of English, American and Celtic tunes are James Stewart's TuneIndex (55,000 entries), and Andrew Kuntz's The Fiddler's Companion (over 30,000 entries as at November 2000, including some actual tunes in abc notation), both on the Ceolas Celtic music site. The TuneIndex Introduction has a good discussion of tune types.

The VWML Dance and Tunes Index is an index to dances and tunes in material held by the library. The Village Music Project has a list of manuscript collections and publications of English country dance tunes.

Song, tune and dance collections

There are a number of online songbooks, tunebooks and dance collections, few restricted to English music. Most have been compiled as practical tools and often give little indication of the provenance of their contents.



Over 20,000 archival recordings of English traditional songs and music are available online on the Traditional music in England page on the British Library website. Collections include those made by Bob and Jacqueline Patten Collection, Desmond and Shelagh Herring, John Howson, Keith Summers, Nick and Mally Dow, Reg Hall, Roy Palmer, Steve Gardham and Terry Yarnell. They can be browsed by map, county, performer, recordist, Sound Archive collection, or title.

Texts and notation

The biggest online collection of Anglo-American folk song texts is the Digital Tradition database; the latest (Spring 2002) version contains 8981 texts, some with music: there are fewer distinct songs as some variants have separate entries (eg there are five versions of Barbara Allen). Entries vary in accuracy and extent of specified provenance. It can be searched online, or downloaded for use offline. Searching is possible using words from titles or texts, assigned keywords, and various other ways including Child and Laws numbers. The Digital Tradition also has an active online forum which is a useful place to post requests for words of songs. Previous discussions in the Forum archive are searchable, and the user can find some texts of songs not in the main database in this way (the default is to search both the database and the forum).

A much smaller (about 1000 songs) but better documented collection is at Folkinfo; this too has an accompanying discussion forum.

The EFDSS Take Six website contains a searchable database of the archives of several folksong collectors (Sabine Baring-Gould, Janet Blunt, George Butterworth, Frances Collinson, George Gardiner, Anne G Gilchrist and the Hammond Brothers). Digitised copies of the collectors' field notebooks and fair copies can be viewed.

The Index of Songs and Tunes on Reinhard Zierke's Mainly Norfolk site provides access to pages for songs sung by various (mainly revival) singers. Each page gives Roud, Child and Laws numbers, discusses the various recordings and gives transcription of texts (often several versions).

Another American resource is Lesley Nelson-Burns's Folk Music of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and America which contains texts and tunes (in midi format) including Child ballads. Richard Kopp has a similar site which includes Songs of England.

The Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads site contains indexes to, and facsimiles of, over 30,000 broadside ballads. The English Broadside Ballad Archive at the University of California at Santa Barbara contains detailed cataloguing, images, transcriptions, and in some cases recordings, of English black-letter broadside ballads of the 17th century. The site currently contains the Pepys Collection from Magdalene College, Cambridge, and the team are working on the Roxburghe Ballads from the British Library.

For those who cannot find the words they want in any of the above, there is a large number of more general sites on the web containing words of songs: a good list of these is on Yahoo! at: Entertainment/Music/Lyrics/. Otherwise, using a general search engine -- such as Goggle -- may come up with the answer, especially if there are unusual words in the text.


Many tune collections use Chris Walshaw's abc musical notation language, described on the abc music notation site. the site contains a list of abc collections and an abc tune search which covers around 275,000 tunes in 120,000 files from British, Irish, American and European collections. Another index to abc collections (and some in other formats) is JC's ABC tune finder. Folk Tune Finder is a search engine for traditional tunes which indexes many ABC collections on the Internet.

The Round English Country Dance Club have a Folk Music Index which is an index to dance tunes on the Web in various formats. Though neither is restricted to English tunes, two good sources of English dance tunes are Richard Robinson's TuneBook Live! (in abc format) and Eric Foxley's Music Database (Nottingham ASCII format). Steve Allen has an ABC library of morris tunes.

The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library has started making available facsimiles of Historic Dance and Tune Books in its collections. The Village Music Project aims to locate original manuscript material and recordings of traditional social dance music of England and make them available for research and performance; tradtunes is an associated discussion list.


A small number of callers have started to put collections of dances up on the Web, but there is nothing very comprehensive. Martin Kiff has a list of these on his English Folk dance index page.

Robert M. Keller's The Dancing Master, 1651-1728: An Illustrated Compendium contains a database of all the dances from all the editions of John Playford's Dancing Master.


There are quite a few websites and newsgroups devoted to specific musical instruments. Obviously, most instruments are used to play many different types of music, so it is easier to find folk-related resources for those (such as free-reeds, dulcimers and bagpipes) which are primarily folk instruments. The Roots.net collection of instrument links has disappeared again.

Although not exclusively English in scope, the following resources certainly include English folk music and contain links to further resources. Although there are dozens of fiddle and guitar sites, I have only found a couple which are particularly relevant to players of English music. Further recommendations welcome. There are various instrument makers listed on my folk music businesses page.






Jew's harps


Pipe and Tabor

Specific genres

Starting points for some specific types of English folk music are as follows; each of these sites contains links to further resources.




English country dancing

Folk plays

Morris dancing

Rapper sword dancing

Sea shanties

Step dancing

West gallery music


Song, music and dance

A new listing site for folk events in Britain is Simply What's On.

For comprehensive information on dance events see Martin Kiff's excellent Webfeet pages. An alternative listings site is Set and Turn Single.

There is no central source of information about folk song events in England. My Folk and traditional music in specific areas of England page includes links to web resources for folk song and music events and/or venues in England including both regional/county/local listings and individual folk clubs. Forthcoming artists' tours can also be found on many of the artists' pages mentioned below.

A new list of sessions in Britain is UKSessions which has a useful facility to search for sessions within a chosen distance of any postcode. There is a list of sessions in England and further afield on the Musical Traditions site, and a Session index for the UK and Ireland on the Living Tradition site.

The Spiral Earth Festival Directory is a guide to folk, roots, blues, Americana and alternative music festivals in the UK and Ireland.

Many of the pages for Specific genres (above) have lists of relevant events.

Conferences, lectures, etc

The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library has organised series of lectures in the past but none are currently being advertised.

Calendar customs and other traditional events

Averil Shepherd's Calendar Customs: a guide to British Calendar Customs and local traditions gives details of the location and timing of a large number of customs in the UK. The Morris Ring list of Traditional Morris Events is mainly revival morris.

Dates of traditional carol performances can be found at the Local Carols site. Forthcoming performances of folk plays are listed in Forthcoming Folk Play Performances.

Some traditional customs such as Bampton Traditional Morris Men, Abbots Bromley Horn Dance and Abingdon Traditional Morris Dancers, and revived customs such as Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green and Whittlesea Straw Bear have their own websites.


A specifically English site is Rufus Sargent's Selected English Folk Singers which contains information and discographies for a number of revival performers. A similar site is Reinhard Zierke's Mainly Norfolk: English Folk and Other Good Music. This contains discographies and song texts for over forty revival singers. Bright Young Folk contains record and gig reviews and interviews with (mainly) younger performers. The Folk Music Artists site allows performers to post promotional information.

Local printed and online folk magazines often contain information about local performers. I list these in the Regional/county/local event listings or Other resources headings for each region on my Folk and traditional music in the specific areas of England page

An increasing number of English folk music performers have web pages, created by themselves, their agents and record companies, or by fans. I have page listing English folk music performers with websites. There is a world-wide listing of Lists of Artist Home Pages in Doug Wenkle's FolkLib Index.


I have put together a short list of English solo singers and instrumentalists with websites.

Bands and groups

I have put together a short list of English bands and groups with websites. English ceilidh bands and English folk dance bands are listed in Martin Kiff's Webfeet pages. West gallery quires are listed on the West Gallery Music Association site.

Dance groups

John Maher's Mainly Morris Dancing page has a list of morris sides in England with web pages, together with many other morris links.

Folk music businesses

Jacey Bedford's Jacey's Help Files is a collection of useful information for artists and agencies.

My Folk music businesses page has listings of websites for:

Regional resources

The Folk and Roots Venues page leads to county or regional listings of folk clubs and other venues in Britain. This is probably the most comprehensive national listing on the web.

Another page of my site lists web resources for Folk and traditional music in specific areas of England. To go straight to regional listings use the following links:

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