With tongue in cheek I define myself as a contemporary folk artist. ‘Folk’ is a slippery and divisive term, with some uncomfortable associations, however for me it doesn’t represent a specific vernacular or style, nor set of rustic artefacts once gathered by Victorian collectors and promptly preserved in aspic. Instead, it’s what can happen when people come together, regardless of anything, to share in cultural practices they create for themselves. My practice aims to draw out this kind of ‘folk’ via contemporary re-workings of ‘traditional’ performances and skills, and in the creation of hybrid forms, showcasing the ‘folk’ arts of the 21st century.
Identifying primarily as a dialogical or ‘socially engaged’ artist, my practice involves improvised processes including performance, making and curation. I work closely with communities, sometimes collaborating over long periods (for example, my ongoing creative partnership with Orcadia Morris Dancers from West Lancashire) and other times working in short bursts to explore an idea (such as my 4-week residency, ‘Make Your Own Entertainment’ in Stoke-on-Trent in 2015, and ‘Rose Queen Re-imagined’ project in 2013).
Building on my background as a folk musician (touring with the BBC Folk Award nominated act, Pilgrims’ Way), my work challenges narrow portrayals of the ‘traditional arts’—typically associated with historical depth, rurality and masculinity— through emphasis on the dynamic cultural contributions of working class communities, particularly women.