Bournemouth University

School of Conservation Sciences

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Expert’s New Search for Singing Landscapes

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Yvette Staelens Senior Lecturer Yvette Staelens  

Our Museum Studies expert is going deep into the heart of the countryside to map the singing landscapes of Gloucestershire and Hampshire.

A major funding award worth over £200,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) will assist Yvette Staelens in linking people from the two counties with their hidden folk heritage.

Over the next two years Staelens, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader for Masters Degree in Museum Studies, will work closely with Hampshire County Museums, the Somerset County Museum and the Gloucester Folk Museum.

The project parallel’s the work of Cecil Sharp, considered to be the ‘founding father’ of the folklore revival in England. His travels throughout Somerset a century ago helped to build a vast collection of singer profiles and songs.

In 2006, Staelens and researcher C J Bearman re-traced Sharp’s path to complete Britain’s first ever map of folk customs, singers and traditions for Somerset. The new ‘Singing Landscapes’ project will build on that model, with Stealens developing similar folk maps for Hampshire and Gloucestershire.

A key activity will be a travelling folk history exhibition that Staelens will be taking to a number of Somerset communities. She is also seeking descendants of Sharp’s singers and re-connecting them to the songs of their singing ancestors through live performance.

“One of the attractions of this project is the opportunity to inspire the public to take part in this research themselves,” says Staelens, an accomplished singer in her own right. “We want to delve deep into community history to tell the story of the singers and the songs they sang, which say so much about their lives.

“Over the years people from all over the world emigrated to Hampshire and the West Country, giving this project global implications, “ Staelens continues. “It’s potentially the biggest distribution of folk song research ever and that makes it very exciting.”