Traditional Drama 1979, Sheffield, 20 October 1979


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None of the papers were tape recorded.
Eight of the abstracts were published in Lore & Language, Jan. 1980, Vol.3 No.2B, pp.76-79.

  • Introduction to Conference
    Paul Smith

  • Urban Folk Drama
    Peter Stevenson

    Abstract: Past scholarship in folk drama has tended to concentrate its attention on plays performed mainly in rural areas. However, there are many instances in the last 150 years of plays being performed not only in villages and small towns, but also in cities and large industrial towns. This paper intends to examine these urban plays and attempts to show that both urban and rural plays are of equal importance in folk drama scholarship.

    This will involve, for example, studying the relationship between urban folk drama and chapbooks containing traditional play texts. These chapbooks were published predominantly in towns and cities and they are generally thought to have had a considerable influence on the play traditions in such areas. This study attempts to determine exactly how influential these chapbooks have been. Specific reference will be made throughout to the play traditions in two of our largest cities London and Manchester.

    [Published:

    Peter Stevenson (1996), Urban Folk Drama
    Traditional Drama Studies, 1996, Vol.4, pp.1-42]

  • Some Recently Collected Reminiscences of Scottish Traditional Drama
    Emily Lyle

    Abstract: This is an account of recordings made by the writer within the last few years for the archive of the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University. They are in the nature of a small preliminary survey that suggests how much can still be recovered from the memory of participants and onlookers.

    [Published:

    Emily B.Lyle (1988) Some Recently Collected Reminiscences of Scottish Traditional Drama
    Traditional Drama Studies, 1988, Vol.2, pp.19-29]

  • Whither the Micro Study: Some Dilemmas of a Researcher in Rochdale
    Geoff Buckley *

    Abstract: Research into folk drama has tended to neglect the rich forms and traditions of the play in the northern industrial towns. This paper will examine the unique history of the play in Rochdale and pose some problems for the future, chief of which is, 'Why bother?' The writer hopes that the ensuing discussion will resolve some of his dilemmas!

    [Paper available?]

  • The Ripon Plough Stots
    Peter Harrop

    Abstract: An examination will be made of the structure and function of an extant tradition of folk drama. Special consideration will also be made of the problems encountered by the fieldworker, in particular the effect of the fieldworker on the tradition and the difficulty of establishing a historical perspective.

    [Published:

    Peter Harrop (1988) The Ripon Plough Stots
    Traditional Drama Studies, 1988, Vol.2, pp.1-18]

  • Co-operative Indexing Scheme. (Discussion session)
    Peter Millington & Paul Smith

    Abstract: Cawte, Helm and Peacock's English Ritual Drama has been one of the most influential books dealing with traditional plays to appear in recent years, if only for its extensive bibliography and geographical index. Since its publication in 1967 however, much more material has come to light, and unfortunately, this has not yet been covered by a comparable work. As a result it is now becoming increasingly difficult to discover just what material other people have located, and no doubt there has been much duplication of effort in searching through publications and collections. In addition, researchers now find they require much more detailed information than is given in English Ritual Drama. In the hope of improving this situation, we therefore propose a co-operative indexing scheme.

    This scheme, which we have been developing for several years, is based on three work sheets, dealing with the following:

    1. Unpublished collections
    2. Published works
    3. Analyses of the individual traditions described in a and b

    The initial proposal is to circulate periodically photocopies of all completed work sheets to participants in the scheme. Then, if this proves successful, the next stage would be to produce a regular publication which would also include indexes to locations, authors, collectors, characters, dates, etc. Ultimately, as the amount of material increases, we envisage using computers to speed processing and index compilation. We would also like to see a parallel collection of the indexed source material, housed in a suitably central location, and available to all participants.

    [Ron Shuttleworth Collection holds typescript.]

  • In Comes I, Brut King: A Discussion of Modernity in Traditional Drama with Reference to Recently Recorded Versions of a Hero-Combat Play from Nottinghamshire
    Ian Russell

    Abstract: The speaker considers the significance of topicality and change to the tradition of the mummers' play with reference to text characters, performance and meaning. He shows how a group of 'bullguisers' successfully reworked their traditional play in a modern idiom without the oversight of prompting of folklorists, teachers or the like. He demonstrates the importance of the comic focus to the workings of their play as well as the sense of occasion. Alex Helm wrote in his Eight Mummers' Plays that:

    ...had the flow of tradition continued into the 1950s, it is likely that the champions would have been renamed Churchill, Hitler or Mussolini.

    In the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire borders, the tradition is unbroken, but the 'new national heroes and enemies' to which Helm refers, are overlooked in favour of the products of the mass media culture, absorbed and caricatured in much the same way as Shirley Temple and Charlie Chaplin have become part of children's playground games.

    [Published as:

    Ian Russell (1981a) In Comes I, Brut King : Tradition and Modernity in the Drama of the Jacksdale Bullguisers
    Journal of American Folklore, Oct.1981, Vol.94, No.374, pp.456-485]

  • The Nonsense of the Text: A Study of Variation in the Texts of the Ampleforth Play
    Georgina Smith *

    Abstract: In their writings and theory, researchers in traditional drama have tended to represent plays from particular communities in concrete terms as 'the Antrobus play' or 'the Ampleforth text'. This paper is an attempt to assess the value of such terminology in the light of a case study of the recorded tradition at Ampleforth and more recent fieldwork at Antrobus.

    [Paper available?]

  • Putting Across the Message: The Folk Theatre and its Methods of Presentation
    Elizabeth Warner

    Abstract: Both the folk actor and his counterpart in the literary theatre try to present their material, their 'plot' and 'characters' in the most meaningful way. But their respective use of costume, gesture, declamation, the scenic arena, etc., are often quite different. Similarly, the criteria of these actors and the ways in which audiences react to their performances may differ widely. This paper, using examples from the Russian and English folk theatre, looks at some of these differences and the reasons behind them.

    [Published as:

    Elizabeth Warner (1988) Putting Across the Message: Some Acting Methods of the Folk Theatre in Russia
    Traditional Drama Studies, 1994, Vol.3, pp.45-60]

  • The Origins of Plough Monday
    Peter Millington

    Abstract: This paper is divided into three parts. The first part reviews the work of the folk play and folk dance specialists that are of major relevance to Plough Monday, and puts the case that Plough Monday customs need to be examined afresh. The second part presents a preliminary survey of Plough Monday customs, producing a table of the relative frequency of the various features of the customs, and a distribution map. It goes on to detail various points which need to be taken into consideration during a systematic survey of Plough Monday customs. Thirdly, it examines possible origins, on the basis of this preliminary survey.

    [Published (and updated) at:

    Peter Millington (2004) The Origins of Plough Monday
    http://freespace.virgin.net/peter.millington1/PloughMonday/Origins.htm, 13th Feb.2004

    Also as a booklet by the Author, Long Eaton. (n.d.)]

  • Closing Discussion
    Tony Green (Chair)


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