The Museum of British Folklore
Here is a fabulous short film about the work of The Museum of British Folklore and some information from Simon Costin, the Museum’s director, about his vision for its future. Do please take a look at the Museum of British Folkore’s website and discover more about this fascinating and invaluable resource.
Folklore is a vibrant element of ‘Britishness’ and a living cultural heritage; these beliefs, customs and expressions link the past to the present and help us understand our specific communities and cultures, as well as our shared humanity. Far from being static or an ageing genre, it remains relevant by adapting to new circumstances, with the ‘Folk’ (people), and the ‘lore’ (stories) continually informing and influencing each other.
There are many hundreds of recorded events, rites and customs practiced in the UK each year, but folklore is reflected in everything from the names we bear from birth, to the names of our local pub. Folklore is the slang we use, the secret languages of groups, from school children to guilds and masonic groups. It is the shaping of everyday experiences in stories swapped around the kitchen table, or told on blog sites.
Folklore can be a roadside shrine to commemorate a killed pedestrian, or the massive public outpouring of grief when a celebrity or public figure dies. It is scrawled on urban landscapes by graffiti artists or woven into the fabric of churches, mosques and temples. Folklore is community, life and values, artfully expressed in myriad forms and interactions. Universal, diverse and enduring, it enriches the country and makes us a commonwealth of cultures.
Folklore is not only important from a cultural heritage perspective, but also brings real and tangible benefits to communities, including social cohesion, economic regeneration and both intercultural and intergenerational understanding. In decades past, folkloric traditions have often been overlooked, as we instead imported and embraced popular culture from around the world. We are now witnessing a renaissance however, an upsurge of interest in folklore through music, art and dance, and a growing trend and desire for people to reconnect with their communities, heritage and their environment at large.
At the moment there is no dedicated institution within the UK that specifically explores and celebrates our folkloric culture and heritage in its full richness, including all of our annual customs and traditions. I feel this is a sad state of affairs and points towards a yawning gap within the cultural landscape of Britain. It is my aim that within a few years, this situation will be examined and resolved and there will exist a properly funded new national establishment which will not only impart knowledge and stimulate inquiry, but will also provide aesthetic experiences and kindle individual ambition by strengthening community ties and making visitors aware of the richness of our shared folk-culture in all its manifold forms. At the present time we are in the process of deciding the best way for us to operate and we do not have a building which the public can visit. We are however involved in a series of exhibitions within the UK where visitors can come to gain an appreciation of what will eventually be on offer once we are established. Notice of these will be displayed in the ‘News’ and ‘Events & Exhibitions’ sections of this website.
Simon Costin (Director, Museum of British Folklore)