The Potential for an Organised European Folk Network

Guest blog by Nod Knowles

When Burnsong commissioned me to research the possibility of bringing a Folk Alliance International (FAI) event from North America to Europe – and specifically to Scotland – I talked to a lot of trad music people in Scotland and the UK about the idea.

Initially I’d assumed that there would be a Europe-wide network of trad and folk organisations that I could just plug into and get some quick anwers. What I found, to my surprise given the strength of the national networks like TMF, EFDSS in England and Wales’ trac-cymru, was that there wasn’t one.

Although it soon became clear that the FAI idea wasn’t sufficiently feasible – at least for the time being – it was obvious that talk of a European network – or lack of it – had struck a chord with a lot of people. It was Dave Francis and Simon Thoumire who gave me the prompt – such a network would be very welcome. Why not see if it might be possible?

I reported back to Burnsong as follows:

There is no formal, structured Europe-wide folk music network (such as, for instance, the Europe Jazz Network has developed for jazz) nor a European equivalent of FAI’s annual conference (or even, a folk equivalent of the annual jazzahead! or WOMEX expos). In Europe there are a variety of national or regional folk music organisations (or organisations with an interest in folk music) – each with a different structure and genesis. There are are some other relevant organisations – e.g. the Nordic countries’ Nortrad network of folk music educators and conservatoires.

There are of course informal personal networks that have grown through people meeting one another at national showcases or industry events – e.g. at Showcase Scotland or WOMEX. Coming together socially at those events – some of which may be organised for specific national showcasing purposes – may be a good enough form of networking for some people.

But others are looking for something more…..There are gaps that are not covered by any other organisation and there are opportunities for all kinds of collective actions.

Burnsong took up the baton enthusiastically. We held some initial discussions with various UK and European colleagues in Bury (at the English Folk Expo) in October 2014 and continued in Glasgow at Showcase Scotland in January this year. The response so far has been terrific. From those discussions alone we’ve got interest and commitment to take the idea forward from folk/traditional organisers from 18 European nations stretching from Iceland to Belgium, Ireland to Portugal.

The update/circular I sent out recently (click here to download) after Glasgow meetings indicates what things an organised network might want to do – and it gives a list of simple next steps, which are already underway. If you want to get involved – contact me at my personal email address which we’re using until we set one up for the project.

Nod Knowles, formerly Head of Music at Scottish Arts Council and CEO of Bath Festivals, is a freelance arts and music consultant working across the UK.