The English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) has announced a new exhibition and associated series of special events at its north London centre as part of its first ever commission to marry contemporary crafts with traditional folk arts, music and dance.
Sonic visual artist David Littler will curate Yan Tan Tethera, a season of performances, events, workshops and an exhibition at and around Cecil Sharp House from May to September.
Yan Tan Tethera – which is a traditional sheep counting rhyme used predominantly in the north of England as well as a way to count stitches in knitting – will explore the rich vein of folk songs and dances that have emanated from, and been inspired by, England’s textiles industry and explores the connection between the making of textiles and song.
Yan Tan Tethera features a family focused and textile themed May in a Day! afternoon family festival on Saturday 10 May, a making and singing event on Thursday 15 May (part of Culture24’s Museums at Night programme), an exhibition (15 May – 25 September) and an evening of performances from adult learning participants at Cecil Sharp House on Saturday 5 July.
“My two passions in life are music and textiles. The collaboration with the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) is a wonderful opportunity for me to really explore the relationship between textile making and song. To see whether we still sing while we make? It’s fantastic to be working with other artists, singers and musicians and the wider local community to celebrate that relationship. I’m particularly curious to see how people respond to and transform the graffiti stitch chairs as they appear around Camden.”
David Littler, curator of Yan Tan Tethera
Graffiti Textile Song Chairs will be located in cafes, shops and community centres throughout Camden. People will be able to pick up a needle and embroider their favourite textiles song lyric into the upholstery and the chairs will feature in the project’s culminating event, Spin Cycle in September.
“The English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) is very excited to be working with David Littler on this unique project. As an organisation, we are always looking for ways to explore traditional folk music and dance through different mediums and Yan Tan Tethera offers us that opportunity.
The graffiti textile song chairs will be popping up all over Camden over the next few months and we are really looking forward to seeing how inventive and creative people are.”
Katy Spicer, Chief Executive (EFDSS)
May to September
Yan Tan Tethera is not just confined to Cecil Sharp House – graffiti textile song chairs will be placed in cafes, shops and community centres around Camden. People are invited to pick up a needle and embroider their favourite textiles songs lyrics into the upholstery. The chairs will feature in the project’s culminating event, Spin Cycle.
Saturday 10 May, 2pm to 5pm
The annual afternoon festival will have a textiles theme this year. People will be able to stitch and spin around the maypole with Liam Robinson and his band, makes arts and crafts inspired by textures old and new with Yan Tan Tethera project artists, and enjoy other folk fun including barn and morris dancing, stories, songs, live music and more.
15 May to 25 September
Available to view during building opening hours
Artists Freddie Robins, Shane Waltener, Stewart Easton and the McGrath Makers’ Group showcase new work inspired by the connection between textiles and folk song. They will dig into the Vaughan William’s Memorial Library’s archive to connect with, build upon and share the wonderful work of collectors, researchers, writers, singers and groups already exploring local and regional songs connected with textile production. Expect influences from the laments of Coventry ribbon weavers, protests of Preston steam-loom strikers and Huddersfield loom breakers, as well as the processes and sounds of making; strutching and hackling to the rhythms of the spinning wheel, the din of the weaving shed, the punching of digital embroidery machines and the hum of the 3D printer.
Free (no booking required)
Thursday 15 May, from 7pm (drop-in)
A making and singing event focusing on wool and led by Prick Your Finger, Aimée Leonard and The Dulwich Folk Choir, Shane Waltener’s dance weavers, and members of Cecil Sharp House Choir. Come along to sing and stitch. Bring your needles and favourite textiles inspired song with you! This event is part of Museums at Night, Culture24’s festival of after-hours cultural events.
Tickets Free (advance booking recommended)
Saturday 5 July, 7pm
Join in the annual celebration of adult music-making at Cecil Sharp House. Experience music, song and dance inspired by the rhythms, activities and traditions of textile making and the work of artist in residence David Littler. Featuring the Cecil Sharp House Choir, Camden Clog, London Fiddle School, participants from the Saturday Folk Music Workshops, and other guests to be announced.
Thursday 25 September 7.30pm
David Littler’s sampler cultureclash collective’s multi-media performance cook up a storm of sampling shenanigans. Textile-makers, singers and musicians Anne Martin and Hector MacInnes, along with Aimee Leonard and Jason Singh, collaborate to present a unique sonic visual performance exploring all things that spin.
The project is being supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.