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Reflections on the Folklore Society 2011 Conference
April 18th 2011 | 7 comment(s)

The second big conference this week is now out of the way! Attended the Folklore Society 2011 conference at the University of Worcester which this year had Childlore as its theme. And a good event it was too. Interestingly, Confucius received no mention at the Philosophy at Play conference the other day ... but he did here! The two and a half days (in an at times very hot venue) was packed full of interesting papers so difficult to pick out highlights, however ...

Two papers delivered on the opening evening by Susan Brumfield of Texas Tech University, ‘Father Damien Webb: A song of childhood’; and Julia Bishop of the University of Aberdeen, ‘‘Docky’ Ritchie & ‘The Bumble Bee’: James T R Richie as a collector of children’s folklore’, put the collections of two of the twentieth century heroes of childlore in a new light and gave a fascinating insight to some personal aspects of their lives. Hearing the recorded voice of both these men was particularly memorable.

James H Grayson of Sheffield University’s paper, ‘Korean folktales as a means of social education’, applied William Bascom’s functional methodology for analysing folktales (as either for amusement/entertainment; validation of cultural values; education of the hearer; or confirmation of cultural norms/behaviour) to a number of Korean folktales with a Confucian influence.

Geoff Holder, an independent author, gave a paper on ‘A cannibal child, just like her dear old dad’, which explored the tale of a family of cannibals seemingly executed at Dundee in the fifteenth century, linking it with the more recent legend of Sawney Bean and discussed the difficulty of using historical sources in researching folktales.

Mikel J Koven of the University of Worcester gave a paper on, ‘A fairy? How lame is that?!’ HBO’s True Blood as Fairytale’ which opened my eyes to the US TV series about vampire acceptance into the ‘real’ human world following the invention of synthetic blood (I know, I’m uncultured) but the folkloric similarities between vampires and fairies is much closer than I had realised.

Helen Frisby of the University of the West of England’s paper, ‘Ring-o-Roses, Green Gavel and the Lyke Wyke: death, funerals and childlore in Victorian England’ described children’s involvement in death and funeral rites in the past. Two things particularly stuck in my mind ... the number of stories around plants, usually known as ‘mother-die’, that if picked would result in your mother dying; and the simple fact that a child of the 1880s would have experienced the death of a child friend or sibling at least once by the age of ten.

It was a very good few days and, again, some nice people to meet and network with. The conference ended with some game playing from me and my paper on the game of Block so its fair to say that the closing session went with a bang! And watch out for news of a play specific folklore event towards the end of the year.



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Marc Armitage



Marc is an independent consultant, researcher and writer in playworking and the wider social world of children and young people.

He is a regular speaker at conferences and seminars around the European Union and beyond engaging with practitioners, educators and policy makers.


This website is a collection of writings and news, published pieces, conference papers, discussions, thoughts, ideas, Blog pieces .. and general ramblings.

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