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 socially engaged—or dialogical artist—my practice involves making, performance and research. I work closely with communities, sometimes collaborating over long periods (for example, my ongoing work with carnival troupe dancers, since 2013) and at 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 South Manchester, 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.